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feels like a new year

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Recipe: japanese spinach salad with sesame (horenso gomaae)

Happy New Year, everyone!

I was convinced that the new year would mean nothing and that nothing would change. I still think that’s true, but my mood is noticeably brighter and I think it has to do with the increase in daylight (even if it is only by a few minutes) and my resumption of daily exercise over the holidays. Or perhaps it is that clean slate feeling when you hang the new calendar on your office wall. I hope you were all able to get some rest the last few weeks. Most of December was a frenzy of deadlines, but once those were met we skied our brains out and holed up with the pups at our place in Crested Butte. We also cranked out our annual Year in Photos (such as it was) which you can find at: http://jenyu.net/newyear/.


heading into the brighter side of the winter solstice



Neva’s surgery to remove a tumor from her foot at the start of December went well. Our vet instructed us to keep her in a cone for two weeks while the wound healed. At first, Neva was paralyzed by this new attachment. Any time she brushed against something she cowered. But after 24 hours, she became used to the appendage and began crashing through doorways, dragging the cone along furniture and walls, and terrorizing Yuki. I think she secretly liked this not-so-secret weapon of hers! Eventually the stitches came out, she healed for another week, and then Neva got the green light to PLAY and RUN and BE A DOGGO AGAIN!

neva and the one cone to rule them all

christmas scooby snacks



And just in case you missed the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on the winter solstice, we had clear skies that evening and I snapped a photo from our deck in the middle of dinner prep. On the left is a 100% crop and on the right I’ve zoomed in a bit and labeled the gas giants and their moons. By my naked eye, it looked like one brilliant star. A little magnification can go a long way to revealing the amazingness of the world(s) around us!

jupiter-saturn conjunction



Colorado is cruising at 79% of the state’s normal snow pack right now. That combined with the pandemic means we’ve only ventured onto the ski resorts a handful of times so far this season, opting for more physically distant endeavors like skating the Nordic trails, backcountry ski touring (conservatively, as the avalanche danger dictates), and uphill skiing the resorts before the lifts start running. All summer and fall I dream of sliding on snow and when the season arrives, I start to panic that it’s going to be over in 6-7 months. But it goes both ways because yesterday I was waxing poetic to Jeremy about foraging summer alpine mushrooms.

feel the burn, earn your turns

grabbing some miles before the storm rolls in

new year’s morning uphill ski



Right! The reason I posted today was not so much to wish you all a happy new year (although that’s part of it), but to document a delightful new-to-me salad that I’ve been making at least once a week for the past couple of months. While we love vegetables and I am in a constant state of casually seeking new vegetable recipes, I decided a few months into the pandemic that I wanted to proactively move us in the direction of consuming less meat without resorting to mounds of pasta, potatoes, and cheese. Meat substitutions don’t interest me and tofu is a right and proper food unto itself. Despite having a decent repertoire of vegetable and vegetarian recipes, I honestly don’t think you can ever have enough. This Japanese spinach salad, with a handful of ingredients and simple preparation, has rekindled my love affair with the leafy green.

spinach, soy sauce, sesame seeds, sugar, salt, sake, mirin



What I’ve shot here is the original recipe for 8 ounces of raw spinach that serves 4 people. The recipe listed at the end of the post is a double batch because Jeremy and I easily polish off 8 ounces in one sitting. It keeps well enough in the refrigerator that we can enjoy the salad again the next day, so now I usually prepare a pound of spinach at a time. I buy those 1 pound cartons of organic baby spinach, but adult spinach leaves work great, too. For the sesame dressing, you can heat the toasted sesame seeds or not. I’ve made the recipe both ways and prefer the more pronounced sesame flavor when the seeds have been warmed.

heat the sesame seeds in a pan

grind them with a mortar and pestle

stir the sugar, soy sauce, mirin, and sake into the sesame seeds



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going back to cauli

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

Recipe: cauliflower karaage

We’re in the middle of our sixth week of self-isolation and no one has gone off the deep end yet. Colorado’s governor recommended wearing face masks in public places a few weeks back, so I consulted with my mother-in-law on patterns (she and her quilting pals have been sewing a bazillion to donate to health care workers!) and sewed a couple for us. Because elastic and other materials for making masks are in short supply right now, I made due with what scraps of elastic and pipe cleaners I had. The Olson mask pattern (https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/) took me forever on the first two, because I’m a shitty sewist and I had to learn what various terms and techniques were, and discover parts of my sewing machine I never knew existed. Jeremy’s mom said sewing in progressive assembly is much faster and my next ten definitely went faster. Then I tried a modified version of a pleated mask (second version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCCtGq6maw8) which I think I like better. I plan to make a mashup of the two designs to optimize fit and fabric use.


my first two olson masks with nose pieces and filter pockets

my next ten to donate or exchange for a donation to the recipient’s local food bank

pleated version (with nose pieces and filter pockets)



Our neck of the woods has enjoyed a string of cold, snowy storms between stretches of gorgeous sunny days. Instead of wishing for more powder days or wishing for clear trails, we roll with it and try to enjoy whatever the atmosphere has to offer. It’s wonderful. All of our skiing is human-powered these days and I am loving it.

deliciously snowy views under a bright spring sun

skinning up through the trees

neva and yuki love barreling through the deep snow

powder day wrestlemania



Our new backpacking tent arrived in the mail this week and we set it up in the living room for a trial run (to make extra sure we want to hike into the backcountry with Wingus and Dingus and sleep in a confined space with them). It’s spacious enough to fit all of us in theory, but in practice we are going to have to tell the dogs where to sleep. Our overnight resulted in Yuki hogging the center of the tent and Neva restlessly resettling herself all night on our legs because she was too scared to snuggle up against Yuki. We’ll figure it out!

curious pups

they decided they liked it well enough



At the start of the shelter-at-home order, we went to town for groceries once a week. None of the stores had established good protocols yet. We found it quite stressful to wait in crowded lines next to people who were coughing and close-talking and acting like everything was fine. Businesses eventually implemented good practices (some faster than others) to streamline the process while we quickly figured out how to reduce to bi-monthly trips. Aside from planning our menu and having a good inventory of our food, I use the more perishable produce the first week, and prepare produce that has a longer shelf life (in the refrigerator or in the dark, cool basement) for the second week. Sometimes cooking vegetables that are on their way out will buy you a few more days in the refrigerator.

Cauliflower, like most vegetables in the Brassica family, can last in the refrigerator for more than a week. Sometimes it will start to get light brown spots, but those are fine. You can scrape or cut the brown parts off, or eat them. The browning is due to oxidation. If the spots turn dark or black and the flesh becomes soft, you are looking at rot. For small sections, cut them away. If the entire head or floret has succumbed, then it’s time to send the cauliflower into the compost. But let’s say your cauliflower is just fine. There are so many ways to enjoy this nutritious and high-fiber vegetable. I recently tried it as karaage cauliflower.


potato starch, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, sugar, sake, and soy sauce



This is the same recipe that I use for chicken karaage but without the honey sriracha sauce. I really love the subtle nutty-earthy-slightly-bitter-and-sweet flavor of cauliflower and didn’t want to mask or overpower it with sriracha. I wasn’t convinced that the marinade would come through, but it does so nicely. To make the recipe gluten-free, just substitute tamari for the soy sauce.

grate the fresh ginger

stir the soy sauce, sake, and sugar with the ginger

toss with the cauliflower and marinate for 30 minutes



**Jump for more butter**

run me hot and cold

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Recipe: mushroom carnitas with magical green sauce

We’re getting that spring swing already – days of sunshine and warmth interspersed with frigid cold. I have found the best method for enjoying the weather is to roll with it. By now our bodies have grown accustomed to winter conditions such that warm days feel like a beach vacation without the sand getting into your personal spaces. I’m kidding, it’s nothing like the beach! And that’s great because I’m not a huge fan of tropical climates and their sandy associations.


sun and snow is so colorado

pups’ day off means jeremy gets to play

playing in the yard after a storm

getting ready at the trailhead – i feel the same as yuki

the pups love their cold day ski tours

and they really love the sunny day ski tours



I’m getting into the groove of the longer days. Extended hours of winter darkness don’t get me down the way they do other folks (including Jeremy), but I do find my self-motivation increasing with more daylight. I spent much of the long holiday weekend cooking and baking old favorites as well as a few new recipes.

his (chocolate espresso raspberry) and hers (lemon huckleberry) small cheesecakes



One of the new recipes had caught my eye on Instagram the week prior: mushroom carnitas. This stirred triple excitement in me because 1) I was already obsessing about our spring mushroom foraging season, which includes oyster mushrooms that are used in the recipe 2) I love carnitas and 3) I’m always looking for tasty ways to reduce our meat consumption.

a lovely cluster of oysters that erin had found a couple of seasons ago

a haul of spring oyster mushrooms from another season



I could have waited for oyster season to start before testing the recipe, but fresh oyster mushrooms are usually available year round at my local Whole Foods or the bigger Asian markets. I made a half recipe and only grabbed a pound of oysters. Now do you have to use oyster mushrooms? No, you don’t. But I wouldn’t use regular mushrooms because the texture of oysters tends to be stringier which lends well to the mushroom carnitas. Based on my limited knowledge of mushrooms, I’d suggest beech or king trumpets (aka king oysters) for substitutes as they offer a similar texture/structure.

onion, lime, orange, oyster mushrooms, black pepper, cumin, coriander, oregano, garlic powder, salt, worcestershire sauce, olive oil

lime juice, orange juice, sliced onions

shred the mushrooms by pulling them into strips

if the caps are too firm to shred, you can slice them with a knife



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