chinese shrimp and sizzling rice neva: backcountry buddies dog training strawberries and cream malasadas morel asparagus prosciutto lemon pasta


copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2017 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

archive for tofu

april is a lion

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Recipe: spicy tuna inari

The other day while we were skinning uphill on a ski tour, Jeremy asked me what “in like a lion, out like a lamb” referred to. I speculated that it had to do with March starting like a lion because it was still winter, and exiting like a lamb, because it became spring in mid-late March. Jeremy wasn’t convinced, because in Colorado, the weather in March is pretty much psycho. Turns out April is too. Hot and sunny days. Cold and windy days. Snow. Thunder. RAIN. The r-word is the greatest offender, simultaneously killing off the snow pack and backcountry skier dreams. We struggle with this in-between period when the trails aren’t fully covered with snow but they aren’t completely clear either. This results in hybrid excursions like the bike-hike-ski or the ski-hike or the hike-ski or the bike-ski. We can’t let go of ski season but we don’t want to miss the arrival of summer in the high country.


jeremy ducks trees and dirt blowouts on the way up

niwot mountain summit (we stashed the skis where the snow ended and hiked)

removing climbing skins, getting ready to ski out

catching turns on the way down



I’m not sure what Neva thinks of the change in the seasons now that she has experienced all of them once. I mean, no one really knows what Neva thinks, period. At first, we figured she was smarter than Kaweah was – by a very little bit. Lately though, with more observational data to consider, we suspect that we were mistaken. That’s okay. We’re not trying to send her Caltech or anything. We just want her to heel and not jump on people and maybe stop licking everyone’s pants. As far as we can tell, Neva loves all of the seasons. She is just as energized plunging into deep powder as she is scrambling up boulders or diving into alpine lakes. I think she’s going to love this summer. We have big plans for her. I spent half of my REI dividend on a new 3-person (it’s more like a 2+) backpacking tent so we’ll have room enough for Neva to not kick our faces in the night. More little dog adventures! What’s not to love?

puppy treats to fuel puppy activities

trying on kaweah’s old dog pack

our local trails are melting out

neva loves the outdoors, just like her humans



As our outdoor pursuits change with the seasons, so too does our menu. Sure, seasonal foods make their way into our meals, but it’s temperature that has a bigger effect on my cooking. 50°F doesn’t sound very warm to most people, but it is quite warm up here in the mountains where a high of 20°F felt like a heat wave just a few months ago. Walking around in shorts I wonder how I survive summer each year if I feel like I’m melting in April? But we do adjust eventually and part of that adjustment involves making sushi. As far as I’m concerned, sushi is welcome in my pie hole any time of year. It is especially delightful when I deem it too hot (relatively speaking) to cook, like this past weekend. We didn’t want to bother with rolling sushi, so I opted for something even easier but just as tasty – if not tastier! Spicy tuna inari.

inari, sriracha, shiso, green onions, avocado, mayonnaise, seasoned sushi rice, sashimi-grade tuna



If you aren’t familiar with inari, it is tofu skin that is deep fried and seasoned in a sweet sauce. They typically come in pockets that are stuffed with seasoned sushi rice and served as inarizushi. The combination of the flavors is quite pleasing. I’ve never made inari myself, but we occasionally buy a can of it at the Asian grocery store for a quick and easy addition to our sushi nights.

the brand i buy which contains about 20 inari

gently pull open the pocket



**Jump for more butter**

i can’t wait

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Recipe: braised napa cabbage with bean curd sheets

How has the start of your new year been? You can sum ours up in one word – COLD. I mean, we expect it to be cold in January around Colorado, but the first of the year put us in the deep freeze. We actually had to wait until afternoon before we could ski in temperatures above zero.


the nest thermostat reported -32°f outside

frosty branches as the sun rose over the mountain



But don’t cry for us! Cold in Crested Butte is not the same as cold in places like… the Midwest. These frigid temperatures occur when the skies are clear overnight, allowing any heat to radiate straight up toward the stars. That also means the sun is out full and bright in the morning, doing its job of warming us up into the single digits, providing happy rays, and basically making Colorado the awesome winter wonderland that it most definitely is.

we took neva on the nordic trails – she was a happy nutjob

racing the sun as it drops behind whetstone mountain for the day



On the drive home to Nederland, Jeremy and I observed how Neva is improving (i.e. calming down) each day with house guests, ski touring, walks, and general every day behavior. She’s less of a spaz, although she is still very much a spaz. Our hope is if she can learn to stay with us on skis while leashed, she’ll naturally transition to trail running in the summer. “I can’t wait for summer,” I whispered. Jeremy gave me a look – the look that wonders “What have you done with Jen?” Oh sure, I love winter and I will relish every last snowflake this season! But last summer was ALL ABOUT PUPPY and itty bitty hikes. This next summer will be great big hikes, long trail runs, multi-day backpacks, and a very happy Neva.

I also couldn’t wait to get home and stuff my face with vegetables. When we are in Crested Butte, the access to vegetables is somewhat limited compared to our usual array on the Front Range. That is especially true of Asian vegetables. I owe my vegetable addiction to my mom, who not only provided at least two vegetables with every dinner, but she prepared them in the most delicious ways possible. These days, Mom and I exchange vegetable recipes when we cook for one another. I usually introduce her to new western-style salads or preparations, and she is constantly surprising me with what she calls “old” Chinese recipes. How many treasures are locked up in her head? I’m doing my best to have her teach me when she’s here in the summers. She taught me this napa cabbage recipe a few years back. Winter is the perfect time for its warm, comforting flavors.


dried bean curd sheets – found in asian grocery stores

bean curd sheets, ginger, salt, chicken (or vegetable) broth, green onions, napa cabbage



**Jump for more butter**

the overstayed welcome

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

Recipe: vegetarian chinese potstickers (dumplings)

Summer, go home already! It was downright hot this weekend in the mountains – as in shorts and t-shirt hot. I’m worried if the temperatures don’t drop soon, my body won’t be ready for winter. And by ready, I mean I won’t have had a chance to adjust to cold temperatures. It’s like dumping a dog into winter who hasn’t had a chance to grow its winter coat. At least the skies have been pretty, but seriously… get on outta here, Summer.


a nice sunset to kick off the weekend, even if it was an oven



Now that Neva has been spayed, we started shopping around for a good doggy daycare and hotel (boarding). The place we took Kaweah was down in Boulder, which I never felt was ideal because it was a long drive, it’s hotter down in Boulder, and their outdoor area was a parking lot cordoned off by chain link fencing. Of course, Kaweah LOVED it. It was all about the doggies for her. There were some locations in the mountains that boasted large acreage for dogs to roam and have fun, but we knew that wouldn’t work for Kaweah who 1) was an incredible escape artist and 2) ate sticks, rocks, and anything disgusting she could get her mouth on outside. Neva, however, chews sticks up, but summarily spits them out (thank goodness!) and she is far more focused on playing with friends than trying to escape. She had a meet and greet with a local Nederland daycare/boarder to make sure she wouldn’t be aggressive or problematic with the other pups. At first she was nervous because they all seemed to pile onto her at once, but as soon as they wandered off, she chased after the group and engaged them for more play. She passed the test.

On Friday, I dropped Neva off for a full day of playtime and she nearly dragged me through the door. Once she entered the playzone with the other pups, she never even noticed I was leaving. No separation anxiety there! Jeremy and I felt that Neva really needed more doggy socialization in a place where she can be supervised and contained (she is still a flight risk, but perhaps less so than Kaweah was – fingers crossed). The nice thing is the proprietor is also a certified dog trainer who follows positive reinforcement training. At the end of the day, we picked Neva up and she was completely exhausted. Happy and exhausted. She plowed through her dinner then fell asleep for the rest of the night. We were told that she played so much, she might still be tired on Saturday, in case we had plans to hike her. She slept or lounged all of Saturday, which made it possible for us to get a lot of work done around the house and yard. I love puppy playtime!


still tuckered on saturday

feeling like her old self by sunday



Over the summer, my mom experimented with various vegetarian potsticker and dumpling recipes because she had made some for a dear friend’s daughter who is vegetarian. Every time I would drop by my parents’ place in Boulder, Mom would shove a vegetarian dumpling into my mouth. “What do you think?” she’d ask, smiling. Was it better than the last one? Should she add more bean thread noodles? Maybe use some egg? The variations are endless. I told her when she settled on a final version, I’d like to have the recipe so I could share it here on the blog. Summer being as busy as it was, I’m not sure she ever decided which one she liked best (they were all quite good). I decided to give it a try recently and discussed some recipe ideas with Mom over the phone. Both of my parents really get into recipe development, so Mom rattled off several suggestions as I jotted them down in my notebook.

Then she said, “If you really want to improve the flavor, add some chicken broth to the filling.” I paused. “Um, Mom, if you add chicken broth, it’s no longer vegetarian.” Oh, then you can add some dried tiny shrimps – makes it taste so good. I informed her that shrimp is also a deal breaker for vegetarians. It’s not that my parents have a poor understanding of what vegetarian means, but that (I think) Chinese people have a misconception of what “meat” means. I can’t tell you how many times we have been at an authentic dim sum restaurant with a vegetarian and I have asked the server if they had any dishes without meat. “Oh yes!” they’d smile, and plop a few tins of steamed shrimp dumplings or stewed chicken feet onto the table explaining that these were not “meat”.

I did a little research and found myself gravitating toward tofu. I know a lot of people are anti-soy, but it is what it is and I for one love tofu. Marc at No Recipes had a great little post on making vegetarian/vegan ground meat from firm tofu by freezing it, then squeezing it dry and crumbling the tofu. I grew up eating tofu like this except Mom didn’t crumble it, but sliced it. It’s a nice spongy texture that is great in hot spicy soups and stews. Sounded like a good solution.


for the filling: firm tofu, baked tofu, vegetable oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, fresh ginger, cornstarch, napa cabbage, green onions

freeze the firm tofu in its liquid, then thaw it completely

squeeze out the liquid and crumble the tofu



**Jump for more butter**