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forever a noodle girl

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



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discards for the win

February 25th, 2018

Recipe: sourdough waffles

Our floor lamp in the great room is on an automatic timer. I generally try to have it come on a little after sunset, when the skies give up their light at the end of each day. We’ve been doing this “chasing the sun” schedule for nearly 13 years now, but I still feel a boost of giddiness when I get to start setting the timer for later each day. It’s not that I don’t love winter, because I do love it very much. I just think with a little over 3 weeks left of official winter, I’m looking forward to spring backcountry skiing, longer days, and hopefully some big ass spring storms to replenish that high country snowpack. In the meantime, we are dutifully logging our ski days as best as we can. And Neva is definitely happier for it.


little neva lives for the dog-friendly nordic trails

happiest pup on the planet



When I first read the care and maintenance instructions for my starter, Wheatley, I thought there was a typo. It said to take a small fraction of the starter, feed it, and discard the rest – either in the trash or the compost, but don’t pour it down the sink as it could grow and clog up the pipes. Discard? Food? I soon understood that keeping it all would be an exercise in madness. In an effort to reduce waste, I began to take the very smallest fraction (5 grams) of starter for feedings before bread-making and save the discard in the refrigerator for things like delicious, fluffy waffles.

starter discard

flour, starter discard, eggs, butter, baking soda, salt, sugar, buttermilk



Waffles and pancakes are a great way to use up discard or unfed starter. This recipe uses a cup of discard and easily doubles if you want to freeze waffles or pancakes for quick breakfasts on weekdays. It does require a little planning, which may present difficulty for the non-planners, but the rest of you will be just fine. The night before you make waffles (or pancakes), stir the discard, buttermilk, flour, and sugar together in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter overnight at room temperature. That’s called the sponge.

combine the discard, flour, sugar, and buttermilk

cover with plastic and let sit out overnight



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you bet your boocha

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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