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opposite land

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Recipe: korean barbecue chicken wings

When I left my house early yesterday morning, the predominant color of my neighborhood was white. The snow has steadily deflated and melted, but it’s still there. Within 25 minutes, we were zipping through Boulder’s streets where trees dripped with the confetti of springtime: bright yellow greens, pinks, whites, purples. My head hurt because it was early and because I had gone to bed late. This always happens when I travel – it’s the “wrapping up of things the night before” and the “catching a flight the following morning” head hurting thing.


robin perched in the aspens from the last storm

cute dark-eyed junco on our deck



My noggin did the deep sleep bounce several times during my flight to the East Coast. It woke me with that heart-racing jolt – you know, the one that makes you instinctively touch the corners of your mouth to see if you were drooling in your sleep. Each time I peered out the window to find a sea of clouds stretched out beneath us, like a giant down comforter. I searched for signs of landforms, but the weather prevailed and so did sleep. On my connection to Virginia, our puddle jumper rose above the clouds for a mere three minutes before beginning the descent. Underneath the cloud deck, I marveled at how green the Tidewater area was. Green and flat. Flat such that the only shadows thrown in the setting sun were from the trees and not from the topography of the coastal plain. Dominated by the estuaries that branch into this green and flat land with a million brackish fingers. It’s the opposite of where I make my home. And yet, I was coming home.

mixed weather and sun over the tidewater

dogwood blooms in the backyard



It’s been some time since I have visited Virginia, but we have this short window to travel before The Summer of Puppy commences. Of course, Dad has planned nearly every minute of my stay with activities, meals, and wine. I expressed my doubts that it is humanly possible to consume ALL of the food he has in mind for a long weekend (he just asked me when we’re going to eat soft shell crab). That’s the problem with going back to a place you know – there’s never enough time (or waistband). But you should save some belly room for these Korean barbecue chicken wings I tried from Irvin’s beautiful food blog. They’re baked, which in my opinion is far easier to make and less messy to clean up than frying, and they taste fantastic.

rice vinegar, soy sauce, green onions, garlic, ginger, kiwis, sugar, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, black pepper, chicken wings

chop and mince

ready to make the marinade



**Jump for more butter**

back to soup weather

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Recipe: roasted tomato soup

“Did you finish your taxes?”

I blinked at the nice fellow on the other side of the post office counter as I handed him my yellow pick-up slip. Oh, it’s tax day! Yes, yes we finished those several weeks ago. We smiled at one another and eventually wrapped up the small talk with thank yous and have-a-nice-days. My mind was elsewhere because I had a list of things to get done before our neighbors came over for dinner. Every April, they are bustling with activity doing proper house maintenance on the exterior (something we ought to do, but tell ourselves that we can wait until May when the weather is more reliable), tidying up the yard, packing gear and equipment to take to Canada for the next 6 months where they will run their wilderness camp. And every April, we tell them, “We need to have you over for dinner before you take off!”


we started with some appetizers



These excellent people are the best kind of neighbors: friendly, generous, considerate, fun, reliable, kind, genuine. Instead of our usual quick conversations in the driveway as we’re coming and going, we could relax and enjoy a few hours together over good food and wine. We miss them in summer, when our neck of the woods is at its greatest splendor. “Walk home safely!” I joked after them as they stepped into the night. The snow was just getting started after several warm and sunny days, materializing out of the darkness as it fell into our porch light’s sphere of illumination.

flowering trees on the flats just a few days ago

and now, proper snow



I’ve learned to contain my excitement about the snow until it’s here, on the ground, and accumulating. The skis are ready, but we must be patient and wait for the base to rebuild. It might be a few hours. It might have to be tomorrow. In the meantime, we opt for hot soup over a fresh salad while the world outside turns silent and white. Soup. I love all manner of soup. Digging deep into my childhood, tomato soup was the default on those rare snow days in Virginia. Of course, it came out of a can with a red and white label. It only took me a few decades to realize the beauty of making my own tomato soup, and then a few more years to discover the flavorful roasted version. It’s easy. I’ll show you.

olive oil, pepper, chicken broth, red pepper flakes, garlic, thyme, tomatoes (not pictured: salt)

chop the herbs, pick out the garlic cloves

halve the tomatoes

wrap the unpeeled garlic in foil



**Jump for more butter**

spring things

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Recipe: baingan bharta (indian mashed eggplant)

Year after year, I look forward to those wonderful events that reliably happen in spring. This wackadoo teeter totter between snow storms and sunny days. The planters full of daffodils and tulips on Pearl Street in Boulder. A chorus of red-winged blackbirds by the lake that fills your ears when you run (or walk) by. Just this morning, we watched a yearling moose (following his mama) pass through the neighborhood, stopping to nibble on the young aspens in our yard.


a double daffodil on the flats

snowing and moosing



Spring is also when I have various medical appointments. It’s been seven and a half years since my breast cancer diagnosis. After all of the surgeries, scans, chemo, radiation, blood draws, ER visits, and more surgeries, the aftermath seemed pretty tame. Managing lingering side effects – some temporary, some permanent – and getting on with my life, I felt that returning to normal was like winning the jackpot. And for the most part, life is normal and good. The further in time I drift from my diagnosis, the less cancer nags at the back of my mind. Dad always touts the power of positive thinking, but truth be told, that constant fear hovering over my shoulder for the first few years after treatment made me feel like I had failed. I couldn’t distinguish between my scar tissue and a possible tumor. Was that cough indicative of metastasized cancer? What caused that sharp pain in my side? While the intensity of my worries has faded considerably, it is always there like a low-level noise creeping in the corner of the room, growing louder when the night is still and dark.

the waiting room



I check in with oncology on a regular basis. It used to be every 6 months and has now transitioned to once a year. It’s bittersweet. When I walk in, I’m greeted by familiar smiles – all of the wonderful staff and nurses who cared for me during the infusions, gave me advice over the phone when emergencies arose, and continue to put in orders for my annual mammograms and MRIs. These are some of the nicest people you will ever encounter. This last time – yesterday – I exchanged hugs with each of them. While one asked how long it has been since I finished chemo, another was smiling and touching my ponytail. I typically ask local businesses if things have been busy, because busy is good for business. But it’s sad when oncology says they’ve been busy. They’re always busy. Cancer sucks. Eventually my oncologist bustles into the exam room like Santa Claus on Christmas doling out handshakes and hugs. He is the very best. Behind the closed door, Jeremy and I can update him with observations and questions interspersed with genuinely friendly conversation and laughs. He allays most of my concerns and follows up on the rest.

MRI in a week. Let’s get an X-ray while you’re here for the MRI and do blood labs after you’re done here today. How was that colonoscopy?

The colonoscopy was fine because I don’t remember any of it. The prep beforehand was unpleasant, but nothing compared to chemo. My instruction sheet said to stop eating all seeds, nuts, whole grains, and beans five days prior to the procedure. I thought that would be easy, but it was harder than I had anticipated. Everything in our kitchen seemed to have nuts, seeds, whole grains, or beans. The bummer was that I had made baingan bharta, a lovely Indian mashed eggplant dish, the day before. I could only stare at the leftovers in the refrigerator since the tomatoes and eggplants had loads of seeds.


onion, tomatoes, jalapeƱo, eggplant, lime, cilantro, vegetable oil, turmeric, salt, garlic, garam masala

prick the eggplants with a sharp knife

char the eggplants

let cool



**Jump for more butter**