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archive for January 2016

pow pow pow!

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Recipe: sweet and sour chinese mushrooms

Timing can be everything when it comes to winter storms. You certainly want to avoid driving in one around these parts of Colorado. And if everything works out, you’ll get to your destination BEFORE the storm hits, then hunker down and wait for the powder day. We are not always so lucky nor do we always have the flexibility to chase storms, but we hit the jackpot for the second time in a row this weekend. Crested Butte began to see some flurries on Saturday, and by Sunday morning we went in search of the powder on the mountain. More snow (a lot more) is forecast for the next couple of days, which is great if you can stay put and enjoy it. We’ve already got a wall of snow 6 feet high adjacent to the driveway and it is not going away anytime soon. Neva likes standing on it because… she’s a crazy little girl.

it just keeps snowing

telemark skiing powder is possibly the best thing ever

jeremy agrees

Chinese New Year is coming up in a week and I’ve already got the grocery list for all of the ingredients I’ll need to make our little feast on Sunday, New Year’s Eve. For several years now, my minimum menu has included Chinese potstickers, cellophane noodle soup with dan jiao (egg dumplings), and rui tsai (lucky ten ingredient vegetables). Before I settled into my Chinese New Year cooking groove, I’d often call up my mom or grandmother to ask what I should make. They would always reply with a casual, “Oh, any Chinese dish is fine.” But then I’d get warnings not to eat squid (bad luck), or white tofu (death?), and not to buy salt for a month after New Year’s Day – oh heck, just to be safe, don’t buy salt for the month prior! That’s why I’ve settled on my SAFE list. Barring a few specific ingredients, I think most dishes should be fine. If you’re looking for ideas, you can always visit this recipe round up I posted a couple of years ago. Or perhaps you’d want to try these sweet and sour mushrooms?

Back in our Southern California days, we would occasionally meet up with friends at a Buddhist vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Monterey Park: Happy Family Restaurant. It may not sound very interesting or exciting, but everyone we took there (even the carnivores) loved it. Every dish on the menu was plant-based and absolutely delicious. Chinese Buddhists have a culinary tradition of making vegetarian “meat” from vegetables or tofu. One of our favorites was the vegetarian chicken, which was essentially deep fried mushrooms tossed in a wonderful sauce. My version of it is close, but… I use egg whites which is a big no-no in Buddhist cooking. It’s still vegetarian, but it isn’t vegan. If you want to go full Buddhist vegetarian, omit the egg whites in the batter and you’ll probably have to omit some of the sauce ingredients like Worcestershire sauce. I’m pretty sure there is no Worcestershire sauce in any Buddhist cooking – vegetarian or not. It’s just a hunch.

mushrooms, flour, cornstarch, egg whites, baking soda, salt, celery, vegetable oil, water

whisk the egg whites until frothy

combine the batter ingredients (except for the egg whites)

fold the egg whites into the batter

**Jump for more butter**

travel: steamboat springs, colorado

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

Anyone who has happened upon this blog between October and May (sometimes June!) will have probably noticed that we like to ski around here. It’s hard to avoid when Colorado boasts about thirty ski resorts (give or take a few). Multi-mountain ski passes are popular because a single pass offers unlimited access to a handful of mountains plus a few free days at a sampling of other mountains. This year we have the Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus which allows unlimited skiing at Copper Mountain, Winter Park, and Eldora (our local hill), as well as some bonus lift tickets at other mountains including six days at Steamboat Ski Resort. Jeremy and I had only ever visited Steamboat Springs in summer, and briefly… but Steamboat always gets the goods when snow falls in Northern Colorado. The resort has even trademarked “Champagne Powder”. We had to see what all the fuss was about.

elevation map of colorado (warmer colors correspond to higher elevations)

Nestled in the upper valley of the Yampa River, Steamboat Springs rests at the base of the Park Range. As ski towns go, Steamboat is an actual town with services, a bustling pedestrian-friendly main street, cheerful residents (numbering around 12,000), and more terrific restaurants than you could shake a stick at. While the town has spendy options, folks aren’t there “to be seen” so much as to simply enjoy mountain living. It’s a good vibe.

The day we arrived, Steamboat was reporting seven inches of fresh powder overnight and continued snowfall throughout the day. We parked in the Meadows Lot (free) and caught one of the frequent (and clean) shuttles to the base area. From there, we hopped the gondola to mid-mountain and a lift to the summit where we began exploring a foot of untracked new snow in the trees. This was some of the fluffiest fluffy fluff I’ve ever had the pleasure to ski. Okay, Steamboat – you get to keep “Champagne Powder”.

from the lift – all that new snow

jeremy bounces his way through the aspens

We skied until our legs were jelly and took the gondola back down to the base area, not wanting to waste our energy on blue and green groomers as we had already scoped out more potential powder stashes for the following day. Once in town, we checked into the Rabbit Ears Motel – a good option for folks who are budget travelers. We got an especially good mid-week rate and AAA discount. While the lodging was decent, I think it may have been a little too budget for our tastes as we had almost no room for the both of us to sit down and work. Neva’s doggy daycare person suggested The Nordic Inn, which is a little nicer for a little more coin. From the motel, we walked several blocks to Sake2U – a popular spot right on the Yampa River – for a fantastic sushi dinner. Any day you can ski and sushi is a GOOD day.

sake2u under pillows of snow

hamachi (yellowtail) poke over seaweed salad with enoki mushrooms

kombat roll: spicy tuna, spicy salmon, spicy hamachi, with three tobiko and house fire sauce

ama ebi (sweet shrimp)

hamachi sashimi

**Jump for more butter**

like apples and monkeys

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Recipe: apple cinnamon caramel monkey bread

After 48 hours of a funtastic trip (more on that in a later post), I am back in the saddle – or rather, I am sitting in front of my computer. Neva is curled up in her doggy bed, exhausted from 48 hours of non-stop playtime with several other puppies (dog camp). She wanted to go straight to bed the moment we brought her home, but she had enough of a stink on her that we insisted on giving her a bath. Since the sun was already down and the winds were blowing, we put her in the tub for a rub-a-dub-dub. Neva jumped out of the tub, twice. But after a few minutes under the warm water, she resigned herself to her fate, quietly whining as streams of dirty brown water swirled at her feet and on down toward the drain. Now she’s a fluffy fuzzball, all clean and cuddly and cute.

neva feels a treat is the least she deserves after the indignity of her bath

This recipe is a longish one, so it’s best to dive into it now. A (complimentary) box of beautiful Piñata apples from Stemilt Growers arrived on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago. The last time they sent me a shipment of fruit (pears), we ate them straight up because they were so sweet and juicy. This time, I actually held out and saved some of the apples for baking. Piñatas are excellent for snacking as they deliver a nice balance of tang and sweetness, but they are also great for baking. You can easily substitute Granny Smith or Fuji apples for this monkey bread – anything with a little tartness to it.

Let’s start with the filling. The recipe I followed called for three apples. My Piñata apples were on the large side, so I suspect I had a lot more apple than the recipe anticipated. The good news is that the end result is great despite the extra wrangling of apple pieces in the dough. Make your apple filling first. It will need time to cool after you sauté it because it gets added to the bread dough.

apples, sugar, butter, cinnamon, lemon (juice)

peel, core, and dice the apples

toss the apples, cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice together

add the apples to melted butter in a sauté pan

when the liquid has simmered away, let the apples cool

**Jump for more butter**