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archive for sweet

you bet your boocha

Monday, February 19th, 2018

Recipe: kombucha (plain, ginger, huckleberry ginger)

Happy Chinese New Year! The house has been cleaned, dumplings eaten, luck symbol hung upside down on the front door (translates to “luck arrives”), parents called, and red envelopes delivered to young friends. A low-key lunar new year celebration was just right for me, mostly because my February has been dedicated to fermentation. In addition to making delicious breads from my sourdough starter, I am also brewing kombucha!

Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. My motivation for brewing my own kombucha (booch) was more curiosity than anything else. I like the stuff, but drank it infrequently because it can become a spendy habit. Yet, kombucha is ridiculously easy and inexpensive to make. The only “exotic” component is the scoby, which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Think of it as the equivalent to the mother for making vinegar. You can purchase scobys (try a local homebrew supply store or go online), get one from a friend, or make your own. Once you have a scoby, you’re set (unless you kill it – don’t kill it).

I got my scoby from my buddy, Erin (Canyon Erin), who grew hers from its infancy and split one off for me with some starter tea. I named it Scooby. Scobys are weird, ugly, and a little gross looking – at first. After brewing a few batches, you will come to love your scoby(s) like a pet. It feels rubbery and slippery, and all manner of random things float untidily off of it in the tea. But the scoby is what transforms plain old sweet tea into magical, fizzy, slightly alcoholic (less than 1%), tangy kombucha.


meet scooby, my scoby



Making kombucha is easy. I’m on my fourth batch now. The long instructions look daunting, but that’s only because the instructions are for newbies so they don’t kill their scoby. It basically comes down to: make sweet tea, stir in starter tea, slide the scoby into the tea, cover, ferment, bottle, carbonate, refrigerate. But there are tons of additional notes that go with that list.

I use purified water because our municipal water is chlorinated (I checked the town water quality report online) and chlorine can kill your happy bacteria. I read from a bread baker discussion that you can leave the water out on the counter for a day and the chlorine will evaporate because it’s rather volatile. So there’s that. For my first batches of kombucha, I stuck with organic black tea. Plain black tea works well. You can use other teas like green teas or white teas or a combination of teas, but avoid flavored teas – especially ones with added oils. And I make the sweet tea with organic granulated sugar. Please, people, don’t use artificial sweeteners. You will starve your scoby because it requires real sugar. The sugar is not for you, it is for the fermentation process. The starter tea comes from the previous batch of kombucha. If you bought or were given a scoby, it should have come in some starter tea.


sugar, black tea, scoby, purified water, and starter tea



The first step to making kombucha is to brew sweet tea. Boil your water, stir in the sugar until dissolved, and then drop your tea bags or loose tea in. Let the tea steep until the liquid has come to room temperature because hot tea is going to kill your yeasts and bacteria. If you are in a hurry, you can set your pot of tea in an ice bath to cool it down faster, but I prefer to leave mine in a cool part of the house for a few hours. My climate is quite arid, so while the tea is cooling I cover the scoby with a bowl or slip it into the starter tea to prevent it from drying out.

adding sugar to the boiled water

steep the tea until the water cools to room temperature

remove the tea bags (or strain the loose tea)



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the naming of things

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

Recipe: chocolate grand marnier ice cream

We celebrated a victory of sorts this past week. Neva is now old enough that she can be at home alone for 8 or more hours without having an accident. This is wonderful news. However, Neva has a tendency to throw up if her tummy is empty for more than 4 or 5 hours. It would be an easy enough fix if we could have a dog sitter swing by to take her out to potty and give her treats during our absence, but finding a reliable anything in this town is another matter. A few months ago, I set about researching treat dispenser options. I didn’t find any that met our requirements: dog can’t reach it to break it, dispenser on self-timer. The closest one allowed the owner to dispense treats through an app on their smart phone (for $180). That doesn’t work when we’re in the backcountry with no cell reception. So we fashioned our own for a fraction of the cost and named it Dino.


this is dino

a simple dispenser made of random household items

the lid opens at the set time and drops the treats for neva



Jeremy built and programmed the microcontroller. I designed and built the dispenser, trained Neva, and tweaked the system to eliminate failure modes. We have it on the fireplace mantel so Neva can’t destroy the device. After much testing, we happily have a solid system that works! You can see a video of it operating and Neva getting treats on my Instagram.

We took a last minute trip to Crested Butte this weekend to fix some electronics at the house and figured why not make the most of it? We grabbed skis, the dog, our laptops, and drove west.


isolated storms dotted our route to crested butte

finally enough snow for neva to run on the dog-friendly ski trails



Halfway to Crested Butte, we met up with my good friend and professional pizza slinger in Buena Vista. I had texted her the day before, “Would you mind sharing some of your sourdough starter with me?” She placed the jar in my hand and in return I gave her a bag of cheese, salumi, nuts, fancy salt, Sumo oranges, and dog treats. This is how food people roll. She rattled off feeding instructions which I promptly forgot because it was freezing in the cold wind (but she emailed me detailed instructions). We hugged good-bye and for the next two hours on the road, I worried that I was going to kill my sourdough starter. It just so happened that another good friend had given me a kombucha scoby the week prior. I attempted my first brew the day before I learned we were going to Crested Butte, so there was double anxiety that I might be killing both my scoby AND my sourdough starter. But I’m home now and they are both alive and well. In commemoration of not dying, I named the scoby Scooby, and the sourdough starter Wheatley.

happy scooby and happy wheatley



It’s always good to know how to do things. When it comes to food and cooking, the opportunities are endless and I am constantly learning something new. The last time I tried my hand at a boozy ice cream, I felt the results weren’t as firm as I would like an ice cream to be. I had been itching to test another recipe to improve on the texture. This chocolate Grand Marnier ice cream looked promising because it had chocolate, less alcohol than the last ice cream (alcohol prevents freezing), and I thickened the custard with more egg yolks.

cream, grand marnier, milk, orange, sugar, gelatin, eggs, water, chocolate (not pictured: vanilla extract, salt)

heat the sugar, salt, milk, and cream

steep the orange zest in the hot cream

chop the chocolate



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food is caring, food is love

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Recipe: chia seed drink

We patiently waited for the snow and got our exercise with the usual uphill skis and laps around the limited Nordic trails this last week. While we might normally bring Neva with us on these activities, the uphill traffic has been rather high and the designated dog-friendly Nordic trails haven’t had enough snow to remain open. So little Neva has been getting her daily fetch sessions or bike rides, which she loves all the same. Still, we can’t help but feel that she has also been skunked on what should have been a snow-filled winter break.


found neva staring at the clock one night – thinking existential thoughts?



But finally, a much-needed storm arrived in Colorado and it delivered nearly double the forecast amount in Crested Butte. We watched the clouds pour into our little valley on Saturday afternoon and soon the white flakes followed. It snowed all night and when we woke up early Sunday morning, the skies were clearing and the mountain had received 11 inches in total from the storm. Time to rev up the snow blower and chuck the powder skis into the car.

this is what we want to see in winter

jeremy floats through the magical, fluffy powder



We drove back home to the Front Range today, ready to resume normal life. And by calling it normal life, I do not mean to imply that Crested Butte is vacation life. Crested Butte is more of a working vacation. The only reason we can spend as much time as we do in Crested Butte is because of the internet. Normal life is non-holiday life. The lead up to the holidays runs us completely ragged and so it’s no wonder that we spend the actual holidays mostly in hermit mode. After baking and shipping or delivering all of those cookies and candies, I thought I never wanted to see another cookie again. I was wrong.

Anita had mailed a box of Totoro linzer cookies and a sweet thank you note from her daughter for the quilt I made. I opened it in the car as we traveled west, deeper into the mountains. Neva’s nose was suddenly at my left ear, sniffing the contents of the box. There is something about homemade food that reminds me of my childhood. It stirs up that warmth in your heart when you feel loved and cared for – like when Grandma gave me a bowl of her Chinese noodle soup after pre-school or when Mom cooked my favorite meal for my birthday. Anita’s cookies were enough to make my day, but as we pulled into our neighborhood in Crested Butte, there was a package waiting in our mailbox from Jennie, filled with delectable spiced treats from her kitchen. I couldn’t stop smiling. My beautiful friends had reached across the country from opposite coasts to wrap me in a hug.


the cutest totoro linzer cookies

a tin filled with love



I don’t typically spend a lot of time cooking or baking in Crested Butte. I do enough of that at home. But lately I’ve been making an exception. Last summer, my friend asked for help with dog walking duties. Not her dogs, but someone else’s dog. Duke is a sweet, gentle ten year old black lab whose person was adjusting to life without legs. OF COURSE I volunteered to walk Duke, but it was infrequent because we don’t live in Crested Butte full-time. Still, I figured any little bit helped. Over Thanksgiving, my friend was away on travel, so she sent me a link to Duke’s schedule. For some reason I had naively assumed it was all about Duke, but what I found was a community of volunteers signing up to walk Duke, bring dinner to Duke’s person, and drive Duke’s person to medical appointments. I had not realized just how much help Duke’s person needed, because he never asked.

So I volunteered to bring dinner, because that seemed to be what most people didn’t sign up for and it’s something I am actually good at. Duke’s person was pretty excited about the meals, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to help. I consider the making of food to be an act of caring and love. We feed people in celebration, we feed the grief-stricken, we feed those in need, we feed to soothe and heal. My dear Tara commented on Instagram “I believe, in the Jewish tradition, we’re supposed to be thankful to those who are in need, because they allow us to experience the joy of giving.” I wasn’t familiar with this, but I liked it very much.


rice, indian lentil soup, thai tofu curry, some sugar plums for christmas

cooking potatoes in spices



I try hard to accommodate dietary restrictions. Several of my friends have Celiac disease, some have nut allergies, others like myself, are lactose intolerant. Duke’s person was easy by comparison: flexitarian (eats chicken and fish) and low sugar. The hard part was sourcing ingredients in a small mountain town, but I’m getting better at it. Now that I’m home, I can plan ahead for the next trip to Crested Butte and bring the hard-to-find ingredients to make more interesting dishes. The other nice thing about being home is resuming a more normal pattern of eating. Earlier last year, I incorporated a new (to me) source of non-dairy calcium in this almond vanilla chia seed pudding. Over the summer, I decided to get my chia seed fix in beverage form.

white and black chia seeds



Some folks have issues with the texture and consistency of chia seed pudding, but they may find it easier to enjoy chia seeds in a more dilute medium. You’ve probably seen some bottled chia seed drinks in grocery stores. I tried my first chia seed kombucha last spring and rather loved it, which got my hamster wheels spinning. It’s easy enough to make your own chia seed gel – just add water and let sit. The gel can store up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

stir water into the seeds

the chia seeds gel in as little as 10 minutes



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