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Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Recipe: huckleberry pate de fruit

I’m glad the week is over. In addition to prepping our Chinese New Year foods and cleaning the house (because of superstitions), I managed to simultaneously come down with an infection which has left me feeling less than 100%. Next year, I just may allow myself greater leeway when it comes to purchasing rather than making all of the food from scratch.


photo courtesy of jimmy gekas

single digits at devil’s thumb ranch nordic center



But the Lunar New Year and my infection aside, it was politics that made for a pretty craptastic week. It takes an enormous amount of energy to filter out the garbage (both on the left and the right) in order to focus on facts and prioritize actions. I don’t get political in this space because politics are very personal for me, just like I don’t talk about religion here because that, too, is very personal. I discuss these issues with people I respect and care about – reasonable, level-headed, critical thinkers. I have had a handful of people ask me to elaborate on my plan of action. That’s hard to spell out as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of upheaval, not to mention we all have different pressing local matters. However, at the national level, I feel these organizations are effective in supporting the issues and causes of importance to me:

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Common Cause
Nature Conservancy
Planned Parenthood
ProPublica
Southern Poverty Law Center
The Trust for Public Land (TPL)
Union of Concerned Scientists (USA)

I also found this guide to be helpful on how to concentrate my energies when communicating with my elected representatives: Indivisible Guide: Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.


chinese new year’s eve dinner

chinese new year’s breakfast: potstickers, scallion pancakes, azuki sweet rice cake, satsuma mandarin oranges

a brilliant sunset



Now on to a happier topic… like huckleberries. Despite the fact that we are merely a month into winter, it already feels like spring to me with the ever-so-slightly longer days. Of course, spring in our mountains amounts to generous helpings of snow and that signature Colorado sunshine. I won’t be replenishing my huckleberry stash until late summer (if I’m lucky!), but it’s time to stop hoarding the precious berries in the freezer and start using some in recipes. I’ve made blueberry-pear pâte de fruit in the past, but always had the intention to try a huckleberry pâte de fruit. You can use fresh or frozen huckleberries here, and if you don’t have huckleberries, you can swap in blueberries. If you want to order frozen hucks, google around, there are a number of suppliers who sell them online from the Pacific Northwest. If you forage your own hucks, then you and I are kindred spirits.

sugar, huckleberries, applesauce, lemon, liquid pectin

add two tablespoons lemon juice to the berries

boil for 5 minutes



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hey rooster

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Recipe: chinese sesame balls jian diu

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s been nice to have a full week that wasn’t dictated by powder skiing. Not that I would mind doing that again… and again. Still, there was much to be done work-wise, workout-wise, around the house, and socially. The sunny and calm weather made that especially pleasant. Jeremy and I love to get an early morning skate ski to jumpstart the particularly busy days. On the less intense work days, we’ll take Neva with us for a little backcountry touring and to change up the exercise. We invited our neighbors over for wine and appetizers and to chat with their graduating senior about career and school options. We worked through the weekend, taking a break to ski and think in the backcountry and come up with a plan of action for things that are important to us (climate, science, public lands, the environment, social justice, education, equal rights, diversity, to name a few) and meeting up with some old and new friends.


a lovely sun-dappled nordic trail

warm enough to leave the deck door open (which neva loved)

my pack

neva derp face



Chinese New Year is this coming Saturday, which means I have less than a week to clean the house, make tons of traditional Chinese foods, and freak myself out over the superstitions that I know aren’t really real. It’s going to be the Year of the Rooster. My Grandma was a rooster. She would have turned 96 this year. I don’t have anything profound to say. I simply miss her kind and gentle soul, and her wisdom. It feels that we could use all the kindness and wisdom we can muster.

Today’s recipe is another Chinese favorite from my childhood. But it wasn’t my favorite, it was my sister, Kris’, favorite. Whenever we went to dim sum, the sesame balls (jian diu) would catch her eye as the ladies wheeled the carts past. These fried mochi dough balls covered in sesame seeds and filled with a sweet center were crispy outside and chewy and warm inside (when fresh). If I had to choose a filling, it would always be sweet red bean (azuki), but they were filled with sweet date, lotus seed, sesame seed paste, peanut, mung bean. I thought it was time to tackle this recipe – not for me so much as to honor my memory of Kris.


glutinous rice flour, sweet red bean paste, chocolate, sesame seeds, brown sugar, water

dissolve the brown sugar in the water

stir the sugar water into the rice flour



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yes i am home

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Recipe: chinese red-cooked pork

Each day last week listed snow in the weather forecast for Crested Butte. That was mostly a good thing. Mostly. It was time for us to head back home for stuff like work and sanity, although we are only able to be in Crested Butte because of the internet (and the ability to work online). At first we thought we might be able to get home Thursday, then it looked more like Saturday. Well, I’m glad we didn’t plan to leave Thursday because that was (yet another) powder day. Remember how Crested Butte got four feet of snow the first week of January? They received another five feet in the second week of January. Do the math. Four feet plus five feet equals some of the best powder skiing ever.


jeremy drops into one of our stashes

how the snow piled up in our front yard



The plan was to ski Friday morning if the mountain received 6 inches or more overnight or to skin up the mountain if it was less. I awoke at 5 am when Neva kicked me in her sleep (she starts off in her bed, but always winds up on ours in the middle of the night). The mountain reported a few inches. I checked the pow cam, then three different weather forecasts. Our window of least snow had moved up a day. I woke Jeremy and we discussed our options in the dark as Neva began to petition for dinner (breakfast). If we wanted to leave that day, there was much to do in order to button up the place – wash towels and linens, vacuum, sweep, mop, scrub the kitchen, dishes, empty the refrigerator, clean bathrooms, dust, take trash and recycling to the dump, pack up, unplug, clear snow off the middle eaves. Six hours later, we were on the road. Five hours after that, we were home.

We spent a glorious month in Crested Butte, which is the longest we’ve been there in one go. Jeremy didn’t think I could do it because I usually start to lose my marbles after 2+ weeks, but I managed. Barely. As much as I love Crested Butte – and I really do love it – I get more done in Nederland. Thankfully, we were greeted with fresh snow and a calm atmosphere. Positively the best weather the Front Range can offer between November and April. Living in Gale Force Wind Central, you learn not to take days like that for granted. So we got out to enjoy this otherworldly (some might call it the Upside Down) version of home.


sunrise skate ski through the hall of trees

backcountry skiing with neva

hoar frost

close up of the crystals



The first order of business was to ski, because exercise keeps us all nice nice. The second order of business was to cook. Chinese New Year’s Eve is Friday, January 27th. I perused my list of “want to make” Chinese recipes and settled on red-cooked pork (hong shao rou). When I was little, my grandma and parents made it with a bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder cooked super tender and infused with the flavors of the heady, savory braising liquid. If you search online recipes, you will discover that most people are cooking with pork belly these days, which is far more luxurious than a humble pedestrian pork shoulder (but let’s all agree that pork shoulder is a truly wonderful cut). It’s best to get pork belly with the skin on, which my local Whole Foods doesn’t have. As my mom complained this summer, “They trim the skin off the pork belly – that’s the best part!” If your local Asian grocer has a butcher’s counter, then you can probably score skin-on (maybe even bone-in) pork belly. That’s what you want.

Other ingredients you should pick up while you’re at the Asian market are: Shaoxing cooking wine, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Shaoxing is also known as huang jiu (yellow wine), but you can substitute dry sherry in its place. If you can’t find light soy sauce, using your regular soy sauce should work. The dark soy sauce is different though – it’s less salty, has a sweet finish, and adds a deep, rich color to the dish.


green onions, garlic, ginger, sugar, star anise, pork belly, shoaxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce

close up of the bottle labels



While researching recipes, I decided to go with the one that was the most straightforward. But it didn’t include ginger, which was in another recipe I liked. In these instances, the only solution is to consult with Mom. We exchanged a few texts and I was off to the races. Earlier this evening, after I had finished cooking, my dad called me.

“Mommy says you asked her about how to make hong shao rou. You should have asked me. Okay, tell me how you cooked it.” Before I could even describe the process, he interjected, “Now, first you have to cook the pork belly in cold water.” See, my dad gets SO excited about cooking and he is SO certain that his way is the right way, but it’s quite the ordeal to squeeze a reliable recipe out of the guy.

“I did that, Dad.”

“But did you scoop the scum away? You have to boil the yucky stuff off first.”

“DAD! THIS IS WHY I ASKED MOM AND NOT YOU!”


cover the pork belly with cold water

remove the scum from the surface of the liquid

slice the pork belly into 1.5-inch pieces



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