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archive for April 2013

the wash cycle of the brain

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Recipe: chocolate zucchini cake

So much can happen in a few days… or in a matter of moments. I’ve struggled with my feelings since the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this week, just as I do whenever things don’t make sense. In times of crisis, I try to understand what is happening because sorting it out in my head helps me deal with difficult situations. But the truth is, I will never comprehend the motivations of those who willfully do harm to civilians. And while we know that there are always good people who will put their lives on the line to help those in dire need, it makes my heart hurt knowing that someone intentionally set the violence and destruction in motion in the first place.

Upon learning the news on Monday, I scoured around for more information, checking in with friends in the area or those who might have run the marathon. Past the first hour it became apparent that the news was just a cycle of regurgitation, confusion, and sadness. I pushed away from my desk and stepped outside to clear my head and maybe ease some of the sorrow I was feeling. It has been snowing here like gangbusters – all of the snow we should have received in January but will gratefully take now. It’s high enough (about 2 feet) that Kaweah can only go where I break a trail because she’s too weak to bound around me and run off like she did in her prime. I took in the silence of snow falling and muting all sounds. Except there were chirps and flutters that caught my attention.

perched in the aspens

cedar waxwings

many cedar waxwings

I’m no birder, but I enjoy making note of the birds that pass through our woods. Through the falling snow they looked like a dozen or more LBBs (little brown birds) constantly flitting about to find the perfect branch. Only when I examined the photographs could I see the splashes of bright yellow and red in their plumage to determine they were cedar waxwings (thanks Google!). When I went back outside to see if I could get closer (birds are skittish), they had moved on. Still, it was a lovely little gift on such a sad day. Life is fragile, yes. Life is also resilient. Most of all, it is precious.

As you can see, it has been dumping this past week after many ski resorts closed for the season last weekend. Some are re-opening this weekend to take advantage of the 2+ feet of new powder. And while we are always glad to get snow to ski, the mountains and the foothills are breathing a collective sigh of relief because our snowpack is approaching 90% of normal. Hopefully that translates into a less eventful wildfire season, beautiful mountain streams and wildflowers late into summer, and more food for the wildlife. For now though…

we ski

jeremy breaks trail

april in colorado

I’m still in the mood to bake, which will diminish as the sun climbs higher into the sky and dawdles about dragging its bedtime later each day. I was cleaning out a pile of old recipes when I found a chocolate zucchini cake recipe from a friend back in graduate school. The recipe itself didn’t tickle my fancy, but the idea of a chocolate zucchini cake did and so I went searching for a recipe that suited my preferences. I tend to prefer cakes that use sour cream or yogurt or buttermilk because they bake more stably at my elevation.

butter, chocolate, eggs, sugar, oil, flour, cocoa, leavenings and salt, zucchini, buttermilk, espresso powder, and vanilla

shredding the zucchini

**Jump for more butter**

good to the last

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Recipe: chili cheese fries

It’s been a working weekend over here, both of us sitting at our computers processing photos or data, listening to my recent compilation of songs from the 80s and 90s. [I’m realizing that was a really long time ago.] We took a break on Saturday to go over to our favorite neighbors’ house for dinner. They served grouse, which they hunt each year in Canada. We’ve never had grouse before, although we’ve seen and heard a lot of them on mountain trails. The meat is sweet and tender, an absolute treat on top of the wonderful evening spent chatting with people we like. As we walked across the driveway to go back home, their flood light caught snowflakes racing past in night. By morning, our local hill had reported a foot of fresh snow for this, their closing day of the season. Dear snow, where the hell were you in December?! We scarfed down some breakfast while pulling on our ski pants and rushing out the door. This is Colorado. You don’t turn down a foot of freshies!

happy and rosy-cheeked after catching the powder

There is MOAR snow on the way too. Folks on the lift were bemoaning the snow that would come after the end of the ski season. Most of the big mountains have shut down their operations. Heck, I’m just getting started. The backcountry beckons (after the snowpack stabilizes – it has been a horrendous avalanche year). I still reminisce about skiing fresh powder on the first day of summer in 2011. One can always hope.

No matter what is flying through the air – be it snowflakes or hummingbirds, there are some foods that have no season… like chili cheese fries. Oh, I remember the first time I was introduced to chili cheese fries my freshman year in Southern California. What insane deliciousness was this?! I’ll tell you what it was. It was a pile of greasy hot french fries, fake orange cheese, and a glop of chili (I use the term loosely). These days we still indulge in the occasional chili cheese fries, but we tend to opt for a more flavorful and healthy homemade version.

cheddar cheese, potatoes, chili, salt, pepper, cayenne, olive oil

slice the potatoes

place in a pot and cover with cold water

**Jump for more butter**

a tale of two seasons

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Recipe: strawberry vanilla jam

Some people can become really bent out of shape when winter gets all up in their spring. I’m not one of those people. I’m used to straddling two seasons at any given time because I live at the boundary of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. In the mountains, we are usually dawdling behind the flats come springtime with our snows and cold temperatures in contrast to their colorful spring blooms and flowering trees. Then we plunge headfirst into autumn and first snowstorms as their mosquito-bitten legs still strut around in shorts, flip flops, and summer. The great thing is to be able to leave one season and enter another in the span of 30 minutes and the canyon that separates the mountains from the flats.

the morning the storm cleared out

so colorado

A recent storm plastered the whole area with snow. Winter here. Winter there. I haven’t skied it yet as there has been a lot going on lately like routine mammograms and ultrasounds (which came back clear – booyah!), work, friends visiting from out of town, and heaps of paperwork. It’s all good. All good.

working with helliemae’s this week

met up with dear aran for a nice walk and talk around chautauqua park in boulder

It was only two weeks ago that I was complaining about those little liar strawberries in the store – organic, dark red that turned out to be flavorless with the texture of styrofoam. I should have known better, but I am an ever hopeful individual. I bought another quart this week and they were juicy, sweet, perfumey. Local strawberries still have a few months to go in Colorado, but I’m already looking forward to making more jam come June. Strawberries are one of my favorite things to come with the warmer months. Last year I canned several batches of this strawberry vanilla jam to give as gifts since Jeremy and I rarely consume jam. If only I had known.

sugar, vanilla beans, strawberries, lemons, pectin

hull and cut the strawberries

Turns out that Jeremy is a fiend for this jam. This one in particular. I would sometimes have one or two jars that didn’t seal properly during the canning process, so they would go into the refrigerator to serve at breakfast when we had house guests. And I noticed that the peach jams remained untouched (remember, the boy doesn’t eat stone fruits) and the strawberry vanilla jams would empty in no time.

split and gut the vanilla bean

macerate the strawberries in vanilla bean and sugar

stir it all together and let refrigerate overnight

**Jump for more butter**