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feels like a new year

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Recipe: japanese spinach salad with sesame (horenso gomaae)

Happy New Year, everyone!

I was convinced that the new year would mean nothing and that nothing would change. I still think that’s true, but my mood is noticeably brighter and I think it has to do with the increase in daylight (even if it is only by a few minutes) and my resumption of daily exercise over the holidays. Or perhaps it is that clean slate feeling when you hang the new calendar on your office wall. I hope you were all able to get some rest the last few weeks. Most of December was a frenzy of deadlines, but once those were met we skied our brains out and holed up with the pups at our place in Crested Butte. We also cranked out our annual Year in Photos (such as it was) which you can find at: http://jenyu.net/newyear/.


heading into the brighter side of the winter solstice



Neva’s surgery to remove a tumor from her foot at the start of December went well. Our vet instructed us to keep her in a cone for two weeks while the wound healed. At first, Neva was paralyzed by this new attachment. Any time she brushed against something she cowered. But after 24 hours, she became used to the appendage and began crashing through doorways, dragging the cone along furniture and walls, and terrorizing Yuki. I think she secretly liked this not-so-secret weapon of hers! Eventually the stitches came out, she healed for another week, and then Neva got the green light to PLAY and RUN and BE A DOGGO AGAIN!

neva and the one cone to rule them all

christmas scooby snacks



And just in case you missed the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on the winter solstice, we had clear skies that evening and I snapped a photo from our deck in the middle of dinner prep. On the left is a 100% crop and on the right I’ve zoomed in a bit and labeled the gas giants and their moons. By my naked eye, it looked like one brilliant star. A little magnification can go a long way to revealing the amazingness of the world(s) around us!

jupiter-saturn conjunction



Colorado is cruising at 79% of the state’s normal snow pack right now. That combined with the pandemic means we’ve only ventured onto the ski resorts a handful of times so far this season, opting for more physically distant endeavors like skating the Nordic trails, backcountry ski touring (conservatively, as the avalanche danger dictates), and uphill skiing the resorts before the lifts start running. All summer and fall I dream of sliding on snow and when the season arrives, I start to panic that it’s going to be over in 6-7 months. But it goes both ways because yesterday I was waxing poetic to Jeremy about foraging summer alpine mushrooms.

feel the burn, earn your turns

grabbing some miles before the storm rolls in

new year’s morning uphill ski



Right! The reason I posted today was not so much to wish you all a happy new year (although that’s part of it), but to document a delightful new-to-me salad that I’ve been making at least once a week for the past couple of months. While we love vegetables and I am in a constant state of casually seeking new vegetable recipes, I decided a few months into the pandemic that I wanted to proactively move us in the direction of consuming less meat without resorting to mounds of pasta, potatoes, and cheese. Meat substitutions don’t interest me and tofu is a right and proper food unto itself. Despite having a decent repertoire of vegetable and vegetarian recipes, I honestly don’t think you can ever have enough. This Japanese spinach salad, with a handful of ingredients and simple preparation, has rekindled my love affair with the leafy green.

spinach, soy sauce, sesame seeds, sugar, salt, sake, mirin



What I’ve shot here is the original recipe for 8 ounces of raw spinach that serves 4 people. The recipe listed at the end of the post is a double batch because Jeremy and I easily polish off 8 ounces in one sitting. It keeps well enough in the refrigerator that we can enjoy the salad again the next day, so now I usually prepare a pound of spinach at a time. I buy those 1 pound cartons of organic baby spinach, but adult spinach leaves work great, too. For the sesame dressing, you can heat the toasted sesame seeds or not. I’ve made the recipe both ways and prefer the more pronounced sesame flavor when the seeds have been warmed.

heat the sesame seeds in a pan

grind them with a mortar and pestle

stir the sugar, soy sauce, mirin, and sake into the sesame seeds



**Jump for more butter**

roller coaster

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Recipe: porcini tagliatelle


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Hello my dearest readers! As many of you know, our lovable goofy Yuki came to us through the good people of Rezdawg Rescue. They are currently holding their Rezdawg Rescue Pawliday Auction through 8 pm MT, December 6, 2020 to raise funds so they may continue to rescue unwanted dogs and cats from the Four Corners region, educate the community, and run spay and neuter clinics. I have donated three fine art photographic prints to the auction. Two have already sold, but there is one still accepting bids: https://www.32auctions.com/organizations/48054/auctions/90182/auction_items/2590041. I encourage you to browse the auction’s selection of artwork, jewelry, services, and other great offerings to help support this wonderful nonprofit organization that saved our sweet Yuki. Thank you! -jen


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In the past three months, the leaves turned green to gold and stayed for a longer than usual season of beautiful fall colors. But a pall of smoke hung over our local mountains as wildlands burned around the state. October was our month of burning despite a summer of fires. Severe drought, warm temperatures, lack of precipitation, and windy conditions drove multiple wildfires to record-breaking sizes in a period of 24 hours. The East Troublesome Fire even jumped the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. Two fires sprang up in our local foothills. Evacuation zones came within a few miles of our home in Nederland. We had our essentials, including our ballots, packed and ready to go for a week while others were forced to evacuate their homes. I wept over photos and web cam footage of wildlife fleeing the flames, homes left in ruins, and the most dedicated fire crews working through a pandemic under apocalyptic red skies.

We are not unaccustomed to wildfire threat, but this was surreal.


aspens reflected on the lake

a window of blue sky between periods of hazy smoke

a setting sun paints the underbelly of smoke plumes from the east troublesome fire



We waited impatiently for snow, and not just because we wanted to ski. The two largest wildfires in Colorado recorded history (East Troublesome and Cameron Peak) were separated by a mere 10 miles and on the brink of merging. Relief arrived in late October and we were able to unpack our evacuation bags. [NOTE: We always have an evacuation box ready.]

Meanwhile, Neva had developed an odd growth on the side of her back foot and we asked our vet to check it out. It was melanoma, but not invasive and most likely benign. Because Neva is so active, we agreed it was best to have it removed. As I type, Neva is sleeping off the anesthesia at the vet and we are scheduled to pick her up in an hour. Her procedure went well and she had her teeth cleaned and nails trimmed to boot!


everyone rejoiced in the arrival of snow

a mellow backcountry ski over thanksgiving

thanksgiving plates for the pups



I had grand plans to share a recipe celebrating summer’s last hurrah and maybe a couple of autumny dishes. But now we’re barreling toward winter and it feels like this year is flushing down a whirlpool headed for the sewer, where 2020 belongs. And for those who were concerned over the prolonged silence on the blog, you can always check my Instagram (@jenyuphoto) to see if I am indeed alive.

At the start of the pandemic, a friend inspired me to make porcini pasta. I don’t mean pasta served with porcini mushrooms, but ground up dried porcini or porcini powder mixed into the pasta dough. I may not have foraged many porcini this summer (I think we may have found five in total – a meager showing for what has been a craptastic year), but I do have a solid supply of dried porcini from previous seasons. Even if you don’t have your own private stash of dried porcini, they can be found in grocery stores and gourmet food shops.


olive oil, salt, eggs, dried porcini, flour

a coffee grinder or spice grinder works well to powder dried porcini

blend the flour, porcini powder, and salt together



**Jump for more butter**

outdoor snacks

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Recipe: s’mores rice krispies treats

Goodbye, August. And good riddance. It was brutally hot, dry, and smoky here last month. The mushrooms fizzled. The berries are few and best left for the wildlife who need them. Wildfires sprouted around the state – some caused by lightning, others most likely started by careless or ignorant campers. But as we’ve learned in pandemic life, you make do. Sometimes you can make do pretty well if you’re vigilant. Anyone catch the Perseids meteor shower in mid August? We were at our place in Crested Butte where we managed a couple of clear nights and witnessed a beautiful show.


composite of several meteors dropping behind whetstone mountain

paddling with the dogs before the smoke got bad

back home in nederland, where the smoke got bad



Within the last week, Colorado has received some rain and a cool down – enough to improve our air quality and make temperatures bearable. You don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone, but when it comes back you should definitely make the most of it! We sincerely hope that we have turned the corner from summer and can look forward to a gentle slide into autumn, pandemic notwithstanding.

it’s green chile season!

a successful batch of non-dairy chocolate ice cream using oat milk

i made a sushi bowl to celebrate jeremy’s promotion to full professor



Schools in our area have resumed – mostly online and some hybrid. Jeremy is teaching online this semester and investing the time to create as positive and educational an experience as possible for his students. And the decision to convert our guest room into a second office dovetailed nicely with my yearslong desire to donate or recycle some large pieces of old furniture. That freed up more space which I transformed into an out-of-the-way sewing area where dogs and needles will rarely, if ever, interact. I used it the other night to make myself a pocket apron when running errands in town. A purse is pretty impractical when I need fast access to things with minimal touching, so I designed a pocket apron to accommodate the stuff I use when grocery shopping alone. It’s great!

new office for either of us to use as needed

sewing nook

pocket apron: mini spray bottles of alcohol on either end, iphone, my man wallet, notepad and pen, keys, hand sanitizer



Labor Day weekend is coming up and we are prepared to basically hunker down and avoid the onslaught of people flocking to the mountains. My hope is that no one will burn our neighborhood down, but the public doesn’t have a great track record there. Great fun can be had without giant or even small fires. Grab that extra hat and jacket if it’s going to be chilly and use a camp stove! Better yet, forget about cooking and just make these s’mores rice krispies treats ahead of time.

rice krispies cereal, marshmallows, butter, cinnamon graham crackers, dark chocolate



I am a crazy person for marshmallows, possibly because they are creamy without dairy, but also because they burn so deliciously. The original recipe inspiration uses graham crackers, but I splurged on those cinnamon graham crackers from Trader Joe’s because I knew in my heart that cinnamon and chocolate were meant to be. I opted for chopped dark chocolate here, however the original recipe calls for mini chocolate chips which saves you the trouble of taking a knife to a block of chocolate. If you’ve ever made rice krispies treats, then you’re good to go with this summer’s-last-hurrah-camping version.

add marshmallows into melted butter

combine the marshmallow with the graham crackers and cereal

stir in some chocolate



**Jump for more butter**