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forever a noodle girl

Monday, March 5th, 2018

Recipe: stir-fried fresh rice noodles with beef

I’m always on the lookout for a good Chinese cookbook, and I tend to make tiny mental notes when my cooking friends rave about the same book. Last month, I got an email asking if I wanted a review copy of Chinese Soul Food by Hsiao-Ching Chou. I usually decline book reviews – it’s not worth my time unless it is something I am personally interested in checking out – but recalled a couple of pals had sung its praises.


chinese soul food by hsiao-ching chou



The good news is that the book is full of accessible and delicious home-style Chinese recipes and good information on ingredients, equipment, and techniques that are commonly utilized in Chinese cooking. The bad news (for me) is that I’ve already made and blogged some version of most of the recipes in the book. Happily, I was able to find a handful of recipes that I haven’t blogged before, and settled on a noodle dish. I will choose noodles over rice any day, but this stir-fried noodles with beef uses fresh rice noodles. A delightful compromise.

you can find fresh rice noodles in the refrigerated section of better stocked asian markets

mung bean sprouts, gai lan (chinese broccoli), water, hoisin sauce, kosher salt, cornstarch, flank steak, soy sauce, vegetable oil, fresh rice noodles



In her notes, Chou says if you cannot find gai lan, you can substitute other leafy greens including Chinese broccoli. Gai lan IS Chinese broccoli, so I think that may have been an editorial oversight. It’s true that you can use other leafy greens, but gai lan has great flavor and texture that pairs well with the chewy, delicate rice noodles. I increased the amounts of greens and sprouts and omitted the carrots because they do absolutely nothing for me. When the rice noodles are cold (they are usually refrigerated at my market), they are quite brittle. Allow them to come to room temperature or gently warm them in the microwave so they are pliable and easily separated. If you try to cook the noodles unseparated, you will have a giant blob of rice noodles with an uncooked center.

washed and chopped chinese broccoli, separated noodles, sliced beef, washed sprouts

mix the beef with soy sauce and cornstarch

stir-fry the beef



**Jump for more butter**

i’ve been doing it wrong

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Recipe: carnitas nachos

I’ve been watching reports of The South receiving snow and frigid temperatures for the past week while the good people of Colorado have been enduring daytime highs nearing 70°F in parts of the state. This kind of slight from Mother Nature hits me squarely in the heart. But she had not forsaken us, the patient (but somewhat depressed) skiers and lovers of mountain snow. On Saturday night, our temperatures dropped into the teens, and beautiful fluffy white snow graced our mountains and forests and trails by daybreak Sunday.


our top priority is that neva is plenty snuggy and warm

skinning up in 10°f and falling snow – perfect

jeremy was equally delighted with the fluffy fluff



As of Monday morning, the storm has (sadly) moved on and we are back to sunshine and wind. It’s always like that here in the Front Range: snow and blow. What used to be a beautiful blanket of snow on my deck has been sculpted into an art installation of sastrugi. At this point in our terribly underperforming winter, we will take any snow we can get. I recently realized that the Super Bowl is on the horizon and checked the date. That’s the day I want to ski, when sportsball fans will empty the slopes to indulge in pre-game festivities, rabid fan chest-thumping, screaming at television screens, and massive consumption of alcohol and appetizers. I am a huge fan of appetizers, the ever-tempting noncommittal meal. But for the longest time, I made nachos the wrong way. I thought they were simply tortilla chips with stuff piled on top. While not technically incorrect, it isn’t exactly right.

corn tortilla chips, shredded carnitas, cilantro, cheddar and jack cheeses, red onions, black beans, pickled jalapeño slices



I was made aware of the discrepancy between my nachos and restaurant nachos when we ordered some at happy hour a few years back. My version was akin to a cold nacho salad – more vegetable matter than anything else. No wonder the restaurant nachos were so addictive! They arrived hot and greasy, dripping with cheese, and with fatty bits of pork piled on top. Things were never the same after that and I figured out how to make my own mountain of crunchy, salty, spicy, cheesy addiction.

Start with a good tortilla chip. Thick and sturdy chips give you the structural advantage of loading each bite with as much stuff as you can fit, but I have to say that I like the delicate snap of a thinner chip (my current favorite is Trader Joe’s organic corn tortilla chips). It’s a matter of personal preference. You can choose whatever protein you like: chicken, beef, ground beef, pork, shrimp, tofu. Shredded, seasoned, grilled, fried. There is enormous flexibility, so customize away! I love shredded carnitas (sous vide carnitas), but you can skip the protein altogether to make it vegetarian friendly. Probably the most essential component of nachos, aside from the chips, is the cheese. I should say cheeses. First off, you need to use more cheese than you might assume, as it serves to bind everything together. Second, while cheddar brings great flavor to the nachos, jack cheese produces the creamy meltiness that I find so desirable. A combination of the two is the ticket.


shredding sharp white cheddar

cheddar and jack



**Jump for more butter**

another year

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Recipe: roasted broccoli

Welcome to a new year! I hope you had a good winter holiday. While my own pack passed an uneventful end of 2017 and start of 2018, some of the people in our lives suffered unexpected losses, got bad news, or have been dealt some tough circumstances. Let’s face it, Life doesn’t care about arbitrary calendar boundaries. Whether you are or are not the type of person who makes resolutions with the new year (I am not), I think it’s fair to say that the world can always use more compassion and kindness starting any time, but especially starting now. Maybe it means donating to charities that matter to you, or offering to help someone who is struggling, or volunteering your time. Whatever it is you do, I hope you do it with an open heart. And I thank you.


neva wishes you a happy new year

torchlight parade and fireworks on new year’s eve under a nearly full moon (composite)

more pretty fireworks

new year’s eve dinner: potstickers and chinese cellophane noodle soup



Santa Ullr brought a nice dump of snow on Christmas Day, and we’ve been trying to squeeze as much as we can from it because we have returned to the sunny and dry weather which has dominated much of the early season. The lack of snow meant that we hadn’t been logging many ski days until we got to Crested Butte. It also meant our bodies were not as ski-ready as they would normally be by this time on any given winter. We’ve been rotating through telemark skiing the mountain, uphill skiing, and skate skiing. And when the snow gets old and tired, I tell myself that this is still better than living almost anyplace else (except those mountains with more snow right now!).

jeremy is about to dive in on christmas day

early morning colors on our way to the mountain to uphill ski

skating the handful of open trails



There was a full (super) moon on New Year’s Day, so we thought it would be neat to skin (ski uphill) up the mountain to a good location and capture moonrise. When we left the house, the eastern horizon was clear of clouds. Of course, by the time we climbed to the top and unpacked and assembled all of my photo equipment, weather started spilling over the mountains where the moon was supposed to be. That was a bummer, but the mountains were still beautiful and the sunset in the opposite direction did not disappoint and it’s kind of amazing to be able to do this at all, right?

no moonrise, but such pretty alpenglow on the elk mountains

here’s the sunset opposite the clouded out moonrise

meta: my camera pointed at sunset while the groomer works the snow

skiing out by headlamp in the dark



I think my past self might have been super bummed over missing out on moonrise, but my present self didn’t miss a beat and captured the other magic going on around us. When we realized the cloud bank was too thick, Jeremy said he was sorry about that. I told him not to be sorry. I said it was fun to go on an uphill ski at sunset with him even if we had schlepped the gear up for nothing. Am I mellowing with age? Probably. I think more importantly, I have learned to savor the ordinary for being anything but.

That includes broccoli. What are your feelings about broccoli? I mean your true feelings? I grew up eating bright green, crunchy broccoli sautéed Chinese-style with garlic at home. I never understood the ubiquitous sad, boiled florets slapped onto cafeteria trays as the token green in restaurants or in the lunch room. If you wanted to dishonor a vegetable, that was certainly the way to do it. Lately, one of my favorite ways to serve broccoli is by simply roasting it.


broccoli, salt, pepper, olive oil



**Jump for more butter**