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chinese new year recipe round up

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Chinese New Year (or the Lunar New Year) is a week away! It will be the Year of the Horse, which is special because my sister was born in the Year of the Horse and would have been 48 this year. I’m busy cleaning the house, prepping special foods, and doing those things that are supposed to bring luck in the new year. Maybe you are a traditionalist or perhaps the lunar new year doesn’t have any significance to you, but you want to make a celebratory meal or throw a Chinese-themed party. Either way, I’ve got a recipe round up for you!


traditional dishes



These are the dishes I make year after year. They symbolize luck, fortune, health, happiness, promotion.

Cellophane noodle soup: It’s a big pot of goodies – sort of a catchall for lucky things. The cellophane noodles (bean thread noodles or glass noodles) represent long life – so for goodness’ sake, DON’T CUT THE NOODLES. Meatballs and fish balls are round, which the Chinese like and their meaning is reunion.

Chinese dumplings and potstickers: Theoretically you are supposed to make dumplings (boiled or steamed), but I always make potstickers because I’m a crunch-junkie. My mom always told us that eating dumplings meant more money in the new year because they are shaped like gold ingots. Then I found out later that dumplings also symbolize having sons. I’m sticking with the money story.

Chinese egg dumplings: The Chinese have a thing for dumplings, because they are like purses, and purses hold money. These egg dumplings typically go in the cellophane noodle soup, but they are wonderful eaten on their own too.

Lucky ten ingredient vegetables: Lucky lucky lucky! Ten is a lucky number. Don’t make this with nine or eleven ingredients – you’ll screw up the new year! Also, don’t use hollow vegetables (green onions, water spinach – these are hollow and bad luck). Tofu is okay, but no meat is allowed in the dish.

Stir-fried rice cakes: These rice cakes are sticky, chewy disks of rice flour. The name of the rice cake, nian gao, sounds like “higher year”. Eating the rice cakes is good luck for a promotion or toward greater prosperity.

Stir-fried soybean sprouts: These are my favorite and plentiful in most Asian markets this time of year (because everyone wants luck!). Eating soybean sprouts (or bean sprouts in general) ensures a good start to the new year.


appetizers



There’s something you should know about tofu. It’s a big deal. Fu is “luck” in Chinese. So tofu is pretty popular in the new year festivities because everyone wants lots of luck. The thing is, you shouldn’t eat white tofu because white is bad – it’s the color of mourning/death. That’s bad luck. But don’t fret, there are a bazillion ways to eat tofu: fried, dried, marinated, sheets, pressed.

Bean curd rolls: You can find bean curd sheets or tofu skin in Asian grocery stores. They are either dried or frozen. This tofu skin roll is filled with savory pork and vegetables, and then braised til soft. I order it at dim sum all the time.

Chinese tea eggs: Eggs represent fertility, but I just love the subtle flavor of the tea infusion as well as the delicate crackle pattern on the peeled egg.

Fried shrimp wontons: Terrific nibbles with the added bonus that shrimp symbolize happiness and good fortune.

Pickled Chinese cabbage: Served cold, this sweet, salty, sour, spicy, crunchy pickled cabbage wakes your mouth up in the best way possible. I could snack on a bowl of this all by myself. Cabbage means money, prosperity.

Scallion pancakes: One of the best savory snacks, ever. I’m not sure if it has any symbolism, but it’s delicious!

Shrimp toast: More shrimp goodness (happiness and fortune).

**Jump for more butter**

time to hatch a plan of action

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Recipe: green chile sauce

Spring cleaning never happens as it should in the springtime, because I’m busy skiing. Neglected sections of the house are taken care of in fits and spurts of inspiration or at the breaking point of tolerance. Our microwave handle broke off last winter, so we’ve managed by pushing the door up and out without a handle. The gutters need cleaning. Obsolete electronics, #6 styrofoam pieces, and used cooking oil all await the day they will be driven to Boulder to be responsibly recycled. Oh, but I cleaned my refrigerator and freezer this week. That is like a Christmas horror movie of sorts… finding forgotten gems and then finding the REALLY forgotten gems that have evolved hair and legs and personalities of their own. All this to tell you that I unearthed a jar of matcha green tea powder in the freezer. It’s a lovely shade of green and has a wonderfully nutty herbal aroma. It was buried behind the frozen passion fruit pulp and hunks of frozen Virginia ham. I intended to use this instead of the old, tired, faded matcha that was in the cupboards – the one that I used in the green tea crème brûlée recipe. So, sorry about that.

In other news, Kaweah is back to her quirky self aside from what I call her random hot flashes. I think one of the meds gets her pretty hopped up such that she experiences panting episodes from time to time. She behaves the same way when there is raw beef in the kitchen (or anywhere, really).


kaweah checks out the dinner table to see what’s what



Passing storms are a regular occurrence around here in summer and early fall. With our big sky views, we usually see sunshine and rain simultaneously… and that can mean rainbows. I caught this one a couple of weeks ago in Crested Butte that I forgot to share. I swear I’ve seen more rainbows in Crested Butte than anyplace else.

the sky looked like it was glowing



The end of summer becomes of frenzy of favorites. Our local tomatoes are at their peak and the freestone varieties of Colorado peaches arrive at the farmer’s market. I can’t get enough of the sweet corn ears from Olathe, Colorado. For the past few years, Hatch green chiles have found their way from New Mexico into our markets and of course, our hearts (and mouths). It’s to the point where I am turning down offers from various family members to score me several pounds of roasted New Mexico green chiles because I can pick the fresh ones and roast them myself each August. We love them on burgers, in stews, on pizza, and in sandwiches, and so much more.

my first batch of the season

roasting to char the skins



**Jump for more butter**

weekday weekends

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Recipe: drunken noodles (pad kee mao)

Given my druthers, I prefer to work through the weekends to free up time during the week. I’m fortunate to (usually) have that luxury of choice because I want to avoid crowds and traffic and people behaving poorly… which happens most often on weekends. Hitting the slopes or the trails during the week is one of the perks of freelancing.


wildflowers are at peak in the local mountains

paintbrush and showy fleabane

my kind of morning



I spent this weekend working with more chocolate. By the end of 11 straight hours on my feet the last day, my brain was complete mush and I just needed to vegetate. Generally, I don’t watch television – it truly is a brain rot box. We have a television for the occasional DVD rental (I’m waiting for GoT season 3) or someone’s PS3 habit, but until now we have never gotten reception nor subscribed to cable or satellite. I really hate the way one gets sucked into television. A lot of it is pure junk, so we tend to select good series after they’ve been out for a few years.

cakes and pastries all damn day



Jeremy loves this kind of date night. It happens about twice a year that I’m too tired to do any work, but not tired enough to fall asleep – this is when I can watch television. We chill out on the couch, eating dinner, watching a show. The only thing missing is a cuddly Kaweah, because she really dislikes the television. She hides out in the office and emerges again when the sound is turned off. So after my week-long shoot was done, I asked Jeremy to get Netflix so we could have a date night at home and watch Sherlock. Hello. Benedict. Cumberbatch. But what made the date night even awesomer were the Thai drunken noodles we had for dinner. I doode it.

oil, fish sauce, oyster sauce, golden mountain soy sauce, soy sauce, baby corn, vinegar, rice noodles, chicken, basil, thai chiles, pink peppercorns, sugar, garlic, basil

i got fresh rice noodle sheets

and sliced them up myself



**Jump for more butter**