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Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Recipe: bourbon vanilla bean paste

I’m slurping on a spicy, hot bowl of posole right now while snow goes hurtling past our house on some pretty enthusiastic winds. It is my hope that the soup will do battle with this cold that has settled into my throat and chest. I guess my logic is to burn the heck out of the cold before it progresses. Our Thanksgiving week was free of turkey and pumpkin, but full of long walks and fetch sessions with Neva. Our Crested Butte neighborhood was quiet as many people were traveling for the holiday, which further allowed us to pursue our plans for introversion. Of course, I had to run out to meet my friends’ new puppies – a brother and sister – 15 week old Australian shepherds.


neva waits to indulge in her thanksgiving plate of beef and bacon

meet little abbey exploring the snow (sorry, i didn’t get a photo of blue boy – but he’s cute!)



Snow did arrive mid-week and we were able to get out and reacquaint ourselves with our various skis. That gliding motion is akin to flying – it’s addictive. But timing is everything and sometimes you have to hit the trail or the mountain before the snow gets skied up and/or melted away. We managed to skin uphill on the mountain, skate on the nordic trails, and get a nice ski tour at Lily Lake. A decent jumpstart to our ski season.

after skinning up, jeremy skied out ahead of the first chair on opening day

getting our skate legs (and arms and everything) back into the groove

ski touring the beautiful backcountry

no tinsel here – our icicles are the real deal



Now that Thanksgiving has passed, everything pumpkin is now becoming everything peppermint. Christmas trees are going up and gift shopping has kicked into high gear. If you are looking for a simple, but extra awesome homemade gift for a baker in your life, might I suggest some bourbon vanilla bean paste? I first laid eyes on a bottle of this luxurious wonderfulness at the King Arthur Flour store in Vermont over three years ago while on a press junket but opted to leave it on the shelf when I wondered if the TSA would confiscate it. Then my mother-in-law gave me a bottle during a visit last New Year. She loves the stuff and wanted to spread the gospel. I used it for special recipes and found the vanilla bean paste to be easier than a vanilla bean and a bigger flavor boost than vanilla extract. When I (sadly) ran out last month, I went online looking for more and even contemplated purchasing a gallon of it to get a better price per unit volume.

this stuff… the stuff of vanilla dreams

my last spoonful



But you know me… the wheels turned another 360 degrees and I wondered how hard could it possibly be to make your own? Turns out, it’s not hard at all. This magical potion consists of three ingredients: vanilla beans, sugar (in some form), and booze (optional, but good). That’s it. And there isn’t any waiting around or crazy kitchen ninja stuff going on with the recipe. It’s quite straightforward, which is why it makes such a great gift for the bakers in your life, and for yourself as well!

bourbon, agave nectar, vanilla beans



**Jump for more butter**

hard and easy sells

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Recipe: apple roses and spiced brown butter tart

Daylight Saving may have come to an end, but Neva isn’t buying it. She tucked her furry nose under my chin Sunday morning at 5:30, probably wondering why I was 30 minutes late taking her outside and feeding her dinner (breakfast). By 5:30 in the evening, she was sitting politely in the great room, staring at the empty space next to her water dish where her dinner is typically served 30 minutes later. I’m not sure if Neva cues off the light of day or her little doggy tummy, but Mountain Standard Time apparently has no bearing on her feeding schedule. It sure FEELS like fall with the shortening days, but we aren’t getting the snow necessary for things like skiing, ski season, ski resorts, and did I mention SKIING?! But alas, if I can’t ski, I can most certainly bake. I made the most of our lack of snow when I received two packages in the mail a few weeks ago: a review copy of Irvin Lin’s first book, Marbled, Swirled, and Layered, and two dozen beautiful Pink Lady and PiƱata apples from Stemilt Growers.


irvin’s beautiful baking book

pink ladies ready for some dessert-making



Marbled, Swirled, and Layered is packed with gorgeous and exciting recipes. Irvin is a truly skilled baker with a great eye for aesthetics as well as a creative flare for fun and refreshing flavor combinations. He walks you through each baked creation with clear instructions, but all of them involve multiple components made from scratch – an ideal book for people who love to bake and those wanting to take their baking to the next level. It was tough deciding which recipe to make from Irvin’s book. I dog-eared a couple dozen, but I was ultimately drawn to the apple brown butter tart. Believe it or not, I had been recipe testing some apple brown butter tarts when the book and the apples arrived, but Irvin’s version was adorned with lovely apple roses and the brown butter filling was spiced with all manner of warm autumn flavors. Let’s start with the crust.

flour, whole wheat flour, butter, rum, egg yolks, salt, sugar

whisk the dry ingredients together

add the cold butter and toss to coat

squeeze the butter cubes into butter flakes



The crust recipe is pretty straightforward and not terribly messy as long as your work area is cool and your hands are cool or cold. Once things warm up, it’s harder to handle the butter and the dough will become sticky. I found the dough easy to work with and rolled it out between two sheets of plastic wrap. I do this because it’s easy to transfer the dough to the tart pan and because my hands usually warm up after I use the rolling pin, so it keeps the butter in the dough from melting and sticking to me.

whisk egg yolks and rum

drizzle over the flour and butter mixture

fold the dough together

form into a disk and chill



**Jump for more butter**

pick a season

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

Recipe: fennel slaw

If only Colorado could pick a season and stick with it, I’d feel a little less discombobulated as to how to get my daily exercise. For most of the winter, it has toggled between true winter and pseudo spring. We’ll get a nice dump of snow and then Mother Nature cranks up the heat and everyone is wearing shorts for the next week or two. For some, this is merely an issue of donning a jacket versus donning sandals. And you might think that translates into skiing one day and hiking the next. But it doesn’t quite work that way. Yes, we ski the snow when it’s fresh. But if more snow doesn’t come along and our daytime high temperatures are flirting in the 60s, it doesn’t take long to render trails icy slicks, slushy messes, snirt (snow and dirt), or any miserable combination of the three. That’s hard to ski, but it’s also a pain to trail run. While I would like to have winter in winter, I’d be okay with “spring” in winter if it would just stay that way, you know? Okay, I’ll shut up about that… for now. We still know where to go to get our ski fixes.


backcountry ski with my little companion

skating the nordic center trails where the snow keeps well in shade



Jeremy and I spent the weekend working, staying away from the crowds on the slopes and the trails. When we weren’t working, we took Neva to the soccer field to chase tennis balls in the diminishing snow. We also started training Neva to return to the front door on her own after she does her business in the yard. She’s always on leash outside, because she will probably run off after a scent and because she doesn’t understand the dangers that cars can present (other than when she’s IN a car). Right now, Jeremy will take her out on leash and when she’s done doing her thing in the yard, he’ll unleash her and tell her to find me at the front door where I wait with a treat. She caught on quickly, so that’s progress.

i think she thinks these are for her



My appetite follows my cooking which follows the weather. This warmer weather of late has me craving more fruits, salads, and grilled things rather than my typical February fare of stews, soups, and wonderful foods that emerge from the oven. The nice thing about this fennel slaw we’ve been enjoying is that it feels summery while incorporating crunchy winter vegetables.

fennel, cabbage, red onion, lemon, carrot, red wine vinegar, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, fennel seeds, anise seeds



I’ve never been a fan of black licorice, but I do enjoy anise and fennel. These were tastes that I acquired as an adult as I sampled and learned about them over the years. The first step to making the slaw is toasting the anise and fennel seeds. I just popped mine onto a skillet over medium heat and stirred them around until they became fragrant and golden. Let the seeds cool before giving them a quick zip in a spice grinder. Add the spices to the rest of the dressing ingredients and mix it all together. I started with the original recipe’s one-third cup of mayonnaise, and the dressing was just too runny and watery for my purposes, so I doubled it to two-thirds of a cup. This also helps to cut the sharpness of the vinegar. I think you can go anywhere from a half cup to a whole cup of mayonnaise depending on your preferences.

toast the spices

place the toasted seeds in a spice grinder

mix the dressing



**Jump for more butter**