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archive for January 2014

up, down, all around

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Recipe: chinese egg custard tarts

Last week was a roller coaster of sorts. It began with a dry cough which led to various cold symptoms including me sounding like Kathleen Turner. As my cold progressed from my throat to my nose, we noticed that Kaweah was limping again. She seemed quite down and depressed, so we made a followup appointment with the vet. Then on Wednesday, Boulder Glass came up to replace our cracked window. That’s when things went to hell in a big ass hand basket.

The individual who came up to replace the window dropped the cracked 3×6 foot double pane window from 8 feet up in our great room when a gust of wind blew. There was glass EVERYWHERE and dozens of deep gouges in our floors (because why would any professional think to lay protective covering under scaffolding when doing work like this? He was rather cavalier about everything…). Winter was blowing into our house for an hour until the majority of the big pieces could be cleared away and the replacement window was installed. The fellow kept offering to pick up a replacement blind for us, to come and fix our floors, on and on. No. Please, JUST GO AWAY. I never want to see you (Boulder Glass) again. EVER.

We’ve been spending the last four days clearing out slivers and specks of glass from every possible corner, rugs, book cases, couch cushions, to make it safe enough for Kaweah. We were both feeling very low Wednesday night because Kaweah wanted to come out of the office (the only place that was guaranteed free of glass on the main floor), but had to remain there all night while her nemesis, the vacuum, did its job.

Thursday, we took Kaweah to the vet who looked at her still-swollen toe. I try to be realistic, so I was bracing myself for the worst-case scenario at the vet. He carried her to the back for an x-ray to see if the bone was spongy or broken. We waited in the room while we heard him tell her, “Well, you’re being such a good girl. Just hold still for one second while we take your picture.” In five minutes, he brought us back to see the x-ray. It was neither broken nor cancer! Doc Newton prescribed a round of beef-flavored chewable antibiotics to help Kaweah’s toe heal and he gave her several extra treats.

kaweah’s pawpaws

Kaweah has been quite spunky ever since Thursday, with more energy and mobility than she’s had in a month. Sometimes I’m convinced that it’s not medications she needs, but a visit with Doc Newton and a handful of generic dog biscuits to buoy her health and well-being. Whatever it is, I’ll take it.

As my cold and the week wound down, I attempted a recipe that I wanted to test drive before Chinese New Year. The lunar new year falls on January 31st, which means a lot of celebratory dishes will be prepared and consumed on the 30th (the eve) and the 31st (the new year) in our house. If you’ve ever been to dim sum, you’ve likely encountered the Chinese egg custard tarts next to the mango jello and fried sweet sesame balls. These are a childhood favorite and an occasional adulthood indulgence for me. Egg custard tarts come in two forms – the first has a short crust pastry and the second has a flaky layered pastry. I like both, but I prefer the flaky pastry, so that’s what I set out to make.

water dough: water, salt, shortening, flour

fat dough: shortening and flour

custard: hot water, sugar, salt, evaporated milk, vanilla, eggs

Making the flaky pastry is a little like making puff pastry from scratch, except shortening or lard are used instead of butter and the process involves two doughs rather than the détrempe (water dough) and fat (butter). And instead of creating a large sheet of puff pastry, here we roll out each individual tart pastry.

make the fat dough: cut the shortening into the flour

the blended fat dough

mix the water dough ingredients

knead until smooth

**Jump for more butter**

something cheery

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Recipe: blueberry pear pâte de fruits

Today was a crazy day, but I don’t want to go into detail now other than to say that (thankfully) everyone in our house is alright. So I’m going to delve into the recipe because it’s something utterly wonderful to look forward to and it will take my mind off of the clusterfuck that was today.

Ever since I successfully tried my hand at making cranberry pâte de fruits, I’ve run up a big list of fruits to transform into these sweet, chewy, tart, colorful jewels. Right before the holidays, I unearthed a bag of frozen blueberries from my freezer and wondered if they could be made into fruit jellies. After some searching, I settled on this lovely recipe that combines pears, blueberries, and lavender. Except I omitted the lavender because you’re not always sure everyone wants to eat something so perfumed, and these were going out as gifts.

liquid pectin, water, anjou pears, lemon, blueberries, sugar

peeling the pears

adding pear quarters to the sugar and blueberries

pour in some water

**Jump for more butter**

things and stuff

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Recipe: chinese stir-fried tofu

In my last post, I talked a little about how we have windstorms on steroids in Nederland. We typically don’t worry until the National Weather Service starts predicting gusts over 70 mph. Two years ago, we experienced gusts as high as 100 mph. That storm ripped a lot of large trees out of the ground and topped several mature conifers – just SNAPPED them off like twigs. We watched the front of our house flex in the storm until the power went out and then went to bed, hoping for the best. The house survived and we gained some confidence in the 110 mph wind build requirement in our town. The sun was out Friday afternoon and I raised the blinds in our great room to let Kaweah bask in the sun (still a favorite activity of hers).

oh shit

Our house has a tall profile, faces southwest, and takes the full brunt of the prevailing winds. We knew something like this could happen, because the previous owners (now our friends) told us they had a window crack during a storm. We were expecting it for years, but let our guard down recently. And it would have been fine, except for wind forecasts of gusts up to 95 mph over the weekend. Images of a window blowing in and snow swirling in our house ran through my mind. I cancelled our dinner date and stress ate barbecue potato chips. Then our super awesome wonderful neighbor popped over and slapped a grid of duct tape over the window and said we should be fine, but to keep the blind down just in case. I uncancelled dinner with nary a minute to spare and we met our very understanding friends at Dae Gee.

chris is psyched for korean bbq, ellen sports a perplexed look between gushings over kimchi

she’s pointing at the kimchi

Dinner with good friends is a great way to forget about other things on your mind. Sure, the window loomed large, but the biggest thing on my mind of late is Kaweah. We came home from Crested Butte mainly to see her vet. He removed (yanked) her bad toenail off. You could tell she didn’t like it, but she was so good with the shot and the yanking and the blood. All she wanted was a treat and Doc Newton made sure to give her a lot of treat love. He told us her toe was a little swollen and that he hoped his prescription of antibiotics would bring that swelling down. But if it didn’t come down, it could be cancer. He raised his eyebrows while handing Kaweah another treat and said, “Normally we would amputate the toe, but she’s not a candidate for surgery at her age.” Understood.

To be honest, even if she has cancer, I wonder if other things won’t bring her down first. While the infected paw has healed and she is able to walk around on it without problems, her hind legs are another story. We watch her closely when she meanders about the house and her rear right leg doesn’t seem to know where it’s supposed to go, doesn’t even know where the floor is. The rear left leg has been swinging wide, catching on furniture, door jams, anything. She falls several times a day, but not the catastrophic spills of her youth. Kaweah doesn’t have the strength to struggle, so she softly slides into a reclining position without injury and looks confused until one of us helps her up or carries her to her bed. But Kaweah is always surprising us and I know she has a few more left in her. I just dread the day when she runs out of surprises. I’ve been crying a lot.

she likes having her schnoz scratched

My folks called this weekend and I had a nice, albeit brief, chat with them. Mom told me the most important thing is to make sure Kaweah is happy and comfortable. Of course. I know this, but somehow it made me feel better to hear it from her. I think when I’m really sad about something, there is no one else whose voice and words can bring me comfort like Mom. Same goes for her cooking. That evening, I set about preparing this terrific tofu dish that she makes for us when they are in town. Jeremy and I both love it.

fried tofu, bamboo shoots, shitake mushrooms, soy sauce, corn starch, pork, vegetable oil, shao xing cooking wine, napa cabbage, ginger, green onions

refrigerated winter bamboo shoots

This is really a stir-fried fried tofu with vegetables and pork. You can fry the tofu yourself or do as I did and purchase fresh fried tofu from the Asian grocery store. Make sure it is fresh and not slimy! Some Asian grocers are really bad about expired products, so check those dates or inspect the product closely if no dates are listed. And I happened upon refrigerated winter bamboo shoots, which have a better flavor and firmer texture compared to canned bamboo shoots. If you can get your hands on fresh bamboo shoots, that is EVEN BETTER. Don’t worry if you can’t find any of those, canned works too. I recommend trying to get whole ones, but sliced is also fine.

slice the fried tofu

slice the bamboo shoots

sliced shitakes

**Jump for more butter**