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archive for February 2012

raise that bar

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Recipe: homemade cherry pie lärabar

Rather than being dismayed at how quickly February has disappeared, I’m actually excited for March. March is when the big storm tracks blow into Colorado. March is the transition to spring skiing. March is when I start hitting the road to shoot. March is longer daylight hours. It’s a month chock full of goodness.

That’s not to say February wasn’t good. I mean, February is…

sushi with my sweetie

splashes of color after sunset

sleeping in the sun after a much-needed bath

jupiter, venus, mercury, and the moon having a little party in the night sky

I made that last one extra big so you could actually see Mercury. Neat, huh? SCIENCE!! February has also been some good skiing around these parts with a foot of fresh snow last Thursday at our local hill. More snow also makes for more enjoyable backcountry ski tours. Whenever I hit a trail, I always pack something to eat – even if I don’t plan to eat it. It’s one of those items you should always have with you in case of an emergency. But barring an emergency, when you are suddenly low on energy, a snack is a great way to put yourself back in the driver’s seat. I’ve tried all manner of those energy bars and have found that most of them make me want to puke. Or they just sit in my stomach like a rock. Or they dry me out. My issue with trail mix is that 1) there are too many pieces and 2) the guy I usually hike with likes chocolate (which I don’t like). I want something easily digestible, natural, and good for me. Luckily, such a thing exists.

lärabar – cherry pie

My girlfriend, Marianne, introduced us to LÄRABAR a few years ago on a summer hike. I was reluctant, but she gave me a piece and… I really liked it. Just dried fruits and nuts. It tasted a million times better than all of those other complicated and barely palatable bars on the market. We were sold. They aren’t just for outdoor activities, but make a great snack to tide you over or to avert a meltdown when your blood sugar is running low. There is no sugar high and no sugar crash. We tried several of the flavors and then one day I looked at the ingredients on my favorite flavor (cherry pie) and said aloud, “I could totally make this.”

dried cherries, dried medjool dates, almonds

pit the dates

roast the almonds

At nearly $1.50 each LÄRABAR, I had a lot of incentive to attempt making my own version at home. It’s not hard to do, you can customize it, and I can make mine organic. I recommend using Medjool dates over Deglet dates. In my experience, Medjools tend to be more gooey than Deglets and you really need that as the dates are the main binding ingredient. I also roasted my almonds because I love that added depth of flavor. The one thing that makes this whole project super easy is a food processor.

process the dates and cherries into a semi-paste

chop the almonds

**Jump for more butter**

i’m not white

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Recipe: chinese xo sauce

I sometimes forget that I’m Chinese. It sounds crazy, but it is true. I don’t look in the mirror often (this you can probably tell if you have ever encountered me in real life), there aren’t many pictures of me since I’m usually the one behind the camera, and I live with a white guy and a black dog in Colorado. So it startles me at times when I do take a picture of myself and I think, “Oh yeah… I’m Chinese.”

after a happy day of skiing

And then there are times when I really feel it.

There is a young woman, Janet Liang, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 22 in 2009. She underwent some nasty chemotherapy treatments and was declared in full remission in 2010. Except she relapsed at the end of 2011. She’s undergoing more chemo now, but her best chance to beat this cancer is to find a bone marrow match and the chances for finding a match are higher within her own ethnic group. She has until April of 2012 to find the perfect match, so time is short. And you know, there are a lot of people out there waiting for a bone marrow match. If we all registered, we might save that many more lives. I tweeted and Facebooked the link to spread the word, and then I went to register online.

I know that fear of wondering if cancer will snuff you out. I knew it at age 36 and it scared the shit out of me. Janet is only 25 years old. She is so young. I was a complete moron at age 25, I can’t even imagine how I would have felt or reacted. I knew the chances of me being a match were slim, but I hoped I could help. When I read the instructions on how to join the bone marrow registry, my heart sank. My history of cancer precludes me from being a donor. I read the guidelines over and over again and the tears spilled down my face. Damn cancer. But my pity party was only a few seconds. If I couldn’t register, I would at least let everyone in my circles know and perhaps get a fraction of them to register. It’s so simple, and yet it’s huge. It is life. Not just for Janet, for many others.

If you feel so inclined, please consider registering through Helping Janet which has links on how to join a bone marrow registry. She’s got just over a month and registration takes a little while, so time is of the essence. And if you could spread the word, that would be aces. Thank you so much. xo


I think it is very Chinese to be skeptical of Chinese food you aren’t familiar with. Take XO sauce, for instance. This is a spicy condiment chock full of seafood that we usually eat with dim sum, on noodles, on rice, on vegetables, on tofu – pretty much with anything. I grew up knowing it as a true sauce with bright orange oil, colored from the chile. I found a recipe while flipping through my Momofuku cookbook and was pretty jazzed. Homemade XO sauce, at last!

grapeseed oil, garlic, ginger, country ham, chile pepper, dried shrimp, dried scallop

For the uninitiated, there are some items that may be hard to find. Mainly the dried scallops and the dried shrimp. The dried scallops are expensive, but a little goes a long way. When I told my mom I needed to find dried scallops she nearly screamed, “I have some in the refrigerator in our Boulder condo! Use them!” These were whole scallops, which cost more. I said I might use them if I couldn’t find any at Pacific Ocean Market. The scallops are typically found at the front of the Asian grocery store where they sell medicinal items, teas, and ginseng. I had never shopped for them before, but as soon as Mom described where they would be, suddenly the “front counter” of every Asian market I’d ever seen flashed through my brain. Pieces are the cheapest, then they become progressively more expensive for small, medium, large, and extra large.

the array of scallops

whole and pieces

I decided to buy pieces as they were cheaper and I didn’t want to use up Mom’s scallops. I’m still unclear as to why you would buy whole ones anyway because when you rehydrate them, they fall apart. Can anyone enlighten me on that? Oh, and the dried shrimp will likely be in the refrigerated section (in the main part of the store) where they have fresh noodles and pickled vegetables. I was quite pleased to find this kind with no food coloring because all of the ones with food coloring scare me.

small or medium? who knows – i never claim to understand chinese labeling

soak the scallops and shrimp overnight in water (do this first!)

**Jump for more butter**

smashing good

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Recipe: parmesan gremolata smashed potatoes

What I think I know is inversely proportional to what I actually know.

When I met my mentor, Michael Frye, I had come to a point in photography where I felt I had hit a wall. I had been self-taught to that point. I thought I needed some technical guidance to get me past that wall and specifically asked Michael to address those issues. But we also spent nearly twelve hours shooting together. I was perfectly happy standing in the cold rain or driving in circles around Yosemite Valley trying to second guess the weather, although I wasn’t sure what I was necessarily “learning”. It wasn’t until days, weeks, even months later that I began to process and understand. Michael wasn’t just teaching me the zone system or giving compositional pointers – he was teaching me to see both in time and in space, to feel moods and interpret light in ways that were orthogonal to my previous way of thinking. He challenged me and I think he made me a better photographer.

Michael has released his second ebook Exposure for Outdoor Photography. I received a free copy (under no obligation), because Michael is nice like that. I’m sure many people think “I know about exposure, there probably isn’t anything new in there for me.” Well, I know about exposure and I still read it front to back. Even if Michael didn’t have a sentence of new information for me, his book would inspire, reinforce, and get me thinking.

Michael offers a proper treatment of exposure in terms of the fundamentals of outdoor photography, essentially making this a great basic guide for photography. Michael’s stunning works illustrate key teaching points and case studies. His sage advice is liberally sprinkled throughout the pages along with exercises to drive home important concepts. Even though the book seems to target “beginners”, Michael also touches on some intermediate and advanced techniques. What makes it so appealing to me is how Michael shares his thought process before, during, and after the shoot. So if you are wanting to up your game, this book might be a great place to start. Read Michael’s description on his blog. Unfortunately the discount has expired (sorry, I’ve been super busy!), but $5 is a steal for instruction from this master of nature and landscape photography.


The other day when I was shooting this recipe, we got a phone call from our neighbor. He said there was a black fox hanging out in another neighbor’s yard. We had seen that fox for the first time just a few days earlier. It was indeed black which made it special because ALL of the foxes around here are red. It’s actually a silver fox, but at that moment no one cared, we were all reaching for our cameras before it slipped away into the woods. My preference would have been to photograph the fox someplace other than the junk show that is my neighbor’s yard, but… you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

And then it was back to dinner because our tummies were grumbling after ski touring that afternoon. I was more excited about the side dish than the main, because it was potatoes. And I freaking love me some potatoes.

fingerling potatoes, olive oil, parsley, lemon, parmesan, garlic

boil the potatoes until cooked through

I’ve seen smashed, hot crash, smasher, etc. potatoes all over the interwebs, in magazines, and at restaurants. I really had no excuse for not having made them myself at home. What finally pushed me over the edge was a side of garlic smashers at The Kitchen Next Door. I think those bad boys are deep fried, but I decided to oven roast mine.

place on an oiled baking sheet



**Jump for more butter**