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archive for December 2011

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Monday, December 19th, 2011

Recipe: pumpkin tea cake

In December, I go through the process of reviewing my photographs from the entire year. I do this to gather a compilation for our New Year’s greeting card, but the exercise is a great way to take a jog down (short-term) memory lane. I’ve been cranking out a digital photo card for the past seven years such that I don’t feel I’m ready for the new year until I’ve summarized the one that is coming to a close. Reflection is good and this time spent pondering the last twelve months means I am psyched and ready for 2012. Please visit our Year in Photos for 2011.

happy new year from me to you

Back in October, Celia, who runs Star Acre Farms had come to the Denver Botanic Gardens cooking workshop that I taught with Manisha, Todd, and Diane. She gifted us several gorgeous heirloom squashes from her farm after the class had ended. One of the pumpkins I chose was this beauty:

a winter luxury pumpkin

Thoughts of what to make with this special pumpkin ran in the background of my mind for several weeks. It wasn’t until I was in California, meeting up with Lisa, when she put the idea in my head. We were talking about Tartine and how we love the bakery and how we both have the cookbook. Lisa asked if I had tried their pumpkin tea cake before. No. Her eyes rolled up into the back of her head and she ordered me to make this pumpkin tea cake. There is a reason her blog is called Lisa Is Bossy (I love her!).

flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, pumpkin, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, eggs

mix the dry ingredients

I was mentally ready to use the heirloom pumpkin for this tea cake when I read that pumpkin purée from scratch tends to be watery and not as good as canned pumpkin. Huh… Luckily, I had some canned organic pumpkin purée in the cupboard. I guess it’s good that I buy groceries at random for no reason – at least it was this time.

combine the pumpkin, oil, sugar, salt

beat the eggs in one at a time

**Jump for more butter**

love those buns

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Recipe: chinese char siu bao (barbecue pork buns)

Fork. Stick it to me. I am done. Done with the frenzied holiday baking schedule! And just in case you might be racking your brain for a few ideas, I wanted to share some of the other items we tucked into the gift bags for Jeremy’s wonderful staff. Supporting local businesses is pretty easy if you live in Boulder. We make a point of going to Savory Spice Shop on Pearl Street for creative and beautiful gifts. This store is perfect if you are looking for a variety of little items which you can taste to help you decide. They have something to suit cooks, non-cooks, and unknowns. You can also mail-order from them.

cute little jars of two kinds of cheese sprinkles

Just a few blocks east, we stopped by Atlas Purveyors so Jeremy could grab a latte (shopping makes him drowsy like… instantly) and pick a loose tea from their impressive selection. He went with the Carrington Blend of black tea, lemongrass, orange peel, eucalyptus, and wildflowers.

citrus and floral

Of course, we had to drop a mini bar of Chocolove into each bag. They’re local, make terrific chocolates, have love poems inside the wrappers, and are all around Boulderlicious.

A few weeks ago I made a double batch of char siu pork and I’m sure some of you knew where that double batch was headed (I mean, besides mah belleh). I love char siu pork, but what I really, truly, deeply love are the steamed Chinese barbecue pork buns, char siu bao.

the revered bao

I made one filling, but tried two different doughs because I didn’t care for the first dough. The first dough was cakey and sweeter than I’m used to, although it could very well be my elevation. The second dough was spot on to what I was looking for – a yeast-based dough that is delicate, elastic, fluffy, and less sweet. Let’s start with the filling.

it’s a lot of stuff, but comes together lickity split

dice the char siu pork

everything diced, measured, and ready to go

**Jump for more butter**

our birthday girl

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

The first-born of the litter was willful and a little aggressive. The second-born was less so and seemed better suited for a pet. Jeremy’s mom chose carefully, administering all of the puppy personality tests. She took the second-born home and in one week’s time had her potty-trained, started her socialization, and had gotten all of her required shots. Mom said this was an anniversary gift from her and Pop.

welcome home

I felt like my nerves would reduce me to a heap on the floor: the drive from Ithaca to Syracuse, the wait for her flight to land, watching everyone on the flight pick up their luggage and then finally seeing the oversized luggage doors open. Skis, some large boxes, and then a large blue kennel rolled out. It was all a flurry of activity. Jeremy calmly, yet quickly walked up to the kennel and took a quick peek through the holes. Blackness inside. We could barely see a thing. He picked up the kennel and we walked outside to a patch of green lawn.

first visit to the cornell plantations

My hands were shaking. I had wanted a dog for so long and here she was. We opened the door and waited. Jeremy and I strained to see until two big eyes began to materialize deep in the kennel, catching the light of the February winter skies. This chunky, fluffy black puppy ambled out clumsily onto the grass. She heard my squeal and bounded toward me, hopping onto my lap, licking my hands, turning in little circles over and over. Soft. She was sooooo soft and wiggly. Jeremy laughed and she stopped in her tracks, spun around and bounced over to him. Our puppy.

jeremy taking kaweah for a walk

“What do we name her?” we asked each other on the drive home. She was asleep in my arms and then at some point, stretched across the emergency brake to settle her chin on Jeremy’s forearm before falling back asleep. He looked down at her then at me with the “I’m hopelessly smitten!” look. Scout? Bonkers? After a few days, Bonkers seemed more appropriate. It still seems appropriate today, but we decided on Kaweah, after the Kaweah Ridge Range in the Sierra Nevada of California.

out in the snow

She was on track to be a good-sized Labrador Retriever growing 1-2 pounds a week, giant paws, a 90-pound field champion for a father. After her spaying, she just stopped growing – frozen at 6 months with giant paws that she never grew into. And because Kaweah is over the moon with excitement and energy when she meets ANYONE, people always asked if she was a puppy… even when she was ten years old.

along for the fall shoot – and happy, always happy

Kaweah has been a healthy pup for all of her thirteen years. She doesn’t care for being petted, although she loves nothing more than to cuddle up with you on the couch, bed, floor. She’s a cuddler. She LOVES the vet (any vet, but especially her current awesome vet). She thinks drive-thrus are the best thing ever, especially when the bank teller has dog treats. She’s a quiet dog although her bark sounds like it should be coming from a dog twice her size.

a fan of flannel quilts

This pup will scavenge for garbage the moment she is out the door, but will leave any food in the house alone unless you tell her she can have it – even when we are gone for the whole day. For over a decade, she thoroughly enjoyed hiking mountain trails and running leaps into icy cold alpine lakes. She really loves kitty cats, though they aren’t so keen on her. Kaweah is not an aggressive dog, she just wants to play, take naps, eat (anything), and be with others.

playing gently with a puppy

During the bad nights of my chemotherapy when I was sick in the bathroom, she’d come and quietly sit by me for hours, gently leaning against me. Whenever I coughed, she would rest her paw on me. She watched over me when I slept or put her chin on my lap and softly sighed when I cried. Woman’s best friend.

birthday plate

These days Kaweah can’t hike or walk more than four miles on a good day. Her back legs are arthritic, her trachea is slowly collapsing, and her kidneys are starting to decline. It’s old age. A couple of white whiskers have replaced the black ones and her chin is turning white. We don’t let her go up or down the stairs without an escort anymore. She’s still in pretty good shape for a senior citizen. What matters most is that she is happy and comfortable, which she seems to be.

waiting for her release word

Happy birthday, my sweet little ‘weah. May your day be filled with romps in the snow, a special birthday plate with APPLES and CARROTS, naps on soft and fluffy blankies, belly rubs, squeaky hedgehogs, and dreams of chasing bunnies and squirrels.

make a wish, kaweah!

happy birthday, silly pup