chow mein bakery-style butter cookies roasted carrots crumbled tofu stir fry


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solving mysteries

Thursday, March 17th, 2022

Recipe: chow mein

How can so much time have passed so quickly? Jeremy and I puzzled over this on our 25th wedding anniversary earlier this month. We celebrated with a low-key home-cooked meal. My parents congratulated us. The pups were business as usual.

The past several weeks have been busy and roller coaster-y (and that’s without considering the insanity of the world). I switched to a new primary care physician who helped me untangle some nuisance ailments. I’ve changed my diet and exercise patterns to fast track myself to a healthier me in the last month. It’s a lot of work, but I’m here for it.


chinese new year’s eve dinner: potstickers, mochi rice, stem and leaf mandarin oranges, cellophane noodles soup, lucky ten vegetables

chinese new year breakfast: sweet red bean rice balls, sesame balls, oranges, steamed barbecue pork buns, moon cakes, peanuts

neva and yuki couldn’t be happier

a tired dog is a good dog

the powder, it is fun

yuki test drives her warm coat on a frigid day



At the end of last year, I finally tackled my decades-long mystery of how to make chow mein. I know there are many interpretations of chow mein out there because I have ordered them at various restaurants throughout my adult years. The soft, barely seasoned noodles or crunchy pre-fried crisps from a bag tossed with gloppy sauce were not what I had in mind. I wanted that plate piled high with savory thin noodles lightly adorned with slivers of green onion and stray bean sprouts, trundling past on a dim sum cart.

dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, chow mein (hong kong style noodles)



Turns out, chow mein is rather simple to make once you procure the right noodles. And look, chow mein literally translates to fried noodles, so it could be and sometimes is, ANY noodle that is stir fried, deep fried, or pan fried. If you are like me, you’ve scrutinized the dozens of packaged fresh noodles in the refrigerated section of the Asian market, scanning for recognizable English words on the labels while remaining skeptical of the original translator’s qualifications, and wound up making your best guess. A little time spent on the internets guided me to the right noodles. In this case, Hong Kong-style or chow mein is what you seek, but take care because I’ve seen chow mein labels on all manner of noodles. We want thin egg noodles (thin like angel hair pasta). You can also purchase them dried, but I have yet to try those.

And while you are at the Asian market to get your Hong Kong-style noodles, you might as well pick up a bottle of dark soy sauce and a bottle of light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is thicker with more soy flavor and deep caramel color. Light soy sauce is thinner and closer to regular soy sauce. Does combining light and dark soy sauce equal regular soy sauce? No. If you had to sub regular soy sauce for light soy sauce, okay – but the dark soy sauce is what gives the noodles that special umaminess.


sesame oil, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, vegetable oil, mung bean sprouts, chow mein, green onions, chinese broccoli (gai lan), shiitake mushrooms

always prep your ingredients before you start cooking

mix the soy sauces and sesame oil together



**Jump for more butter**

less stick, more carrot

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Recipe: roasted carrots

It’s been a rather productive fall for us, which may have a lot to do with the lack of snow. November provided few flakes for the ski resorts and the backcountry. But the high, dry winds delivered some outstanding sunsets and sunrises. Rather than gripe (too much) about the delay in the ski season, I redirected my energies to those long-neglected tasks in dire need of attention. As a small reward for getting so much done this autumn, I signed up for an online bookbinding class and learned how to transform fabric into bookcloth.


stacked lenticulars are so otherworldly

a feather dance at sunset

my two notebooks from class



Many Colorado ski hills open Thanksgiving week, even if it is a single run of man-made snow. We opted not to ski opening day at either of our local resorts and instead headed to the backcountry for a quiet ski tour. It happened to be the right decision because we were greeted with fresh snow and free refills all day. Yuki had a tummy bug the whole week, so we kept her on a mild diet and low activity. Jeremy snuck Neva out for bike rides to get her some exercise and wear down her rake-claws. It was a pleasant and low-key holiday week for our house. Well, not as pleasant as Yuki would have liked, but after a week of sad puppy eyes she’s back to normal and had a wonderful romp around the soccer field with some doggie friends this weekend.

real snow in the snow globe

neva wouldn’t budge, so yuki accepted sharing the bed



Now that Thanksgiving has passed, Holiday Madness Mode begins. There is nothing like holiday food to make me crave vegetables. The carrot is the one vegetable I often forget I love. We regularly buy carrots (adult, not baby) for raw snacking. And then a few times each winter I make roasted carrot soup. I will find myself noshing on several cubes of the sweet roasted carrots before the rest go into the stock pot and make some vague mental note that these are super addictive. I’m ashamed it has taken me this long to make roasted carrots as a dish unto itself, but I’m also glad I finally did it.

olive oil, pepper, mint, carrots, thyme, cumin seeds, chile powder, salt, turmeric, coriander seeds



The recipe comes from The New York Times Cooking archives and the only change I made was to omit the butter. I’ve cooked this successfully with both ground spices (cumin and coriander) and seeds (cumin and coriander), although I do prefer the seeds version. And while it is great without the mint, I think the mint lends a bright herbal finish. The preparation is simple and requires little effort for the payoff.

toss cut carrots with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme

spread on a hot baking sheet



**Jump for more butter**

incremental steps

Monday, October 25th, 2021

Recipe: crumbled tofu stir fry

Thanks to some technologistical hiccups, my last post was published before email subscribers were migrated to a new service, so I apologize if you didn’t receive a notification. But email subscription limbo has now been resolved, and hopefully this is the last we’ll talk about that.

Most of our aspens have been stripped bare by intermittent winter storms and winds, but we find the delicate rattles of the remaining dried leaves soothing when we take the pups on leisurely hikes. I rather like the quiet time in the mountains between the leaf peepers and the ski crowds, when locals are left to their own shenanigans. The diurnal swings in temperature fooled Jeremy into thinking it was too early to switch to flannel sheets despite his complaints about sleeping cold overnight. Once we made the switch, his outlook on life flipped 180°. It will probably flip back after Daylight Saving ends and the sun drops behind the mountains at 4:30.


the local stand had a good run this year

cool air and hot sun, everyone finds their sweet spot

yuki and the charlie brown aspen tree

those autumn sunsets are something else



We’ve been making the most of this lull before ski season, cramming in medical and dental appointments, fixing and organizing house things, voting (have you voted? local elections are important, so please read up on the issues/candidates and vote!)… you know, adulting. I’ve also carved out some time to do a little recipe testing – especially vegetarian recipes. It can be hit or miss and the misses will require additional work, but I’m sharing a real winner today. My aunt recommended this tofu stir-fry from Melissa Clark on New York Times Cooking which I admittedly skipped when I first saw it in my subscription, but gave it a try on her suggestion. I’ve incorporated my aunt’s tweaks as they improve upon the dish.

cilantro, chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, sesame oil, canola oil, lime, edamame, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, salt, tofu, ginger, garlic



It all starts with a block of firm tofu. Firm is important or else you will wind up with a mushy mess and many tears. Look for firm or extra firm on the packaging. Melissa Clark shreds her tofu and drains the shreds on a towel, but I prefer to freeze, thaw, squeeze, and crumble my tofu. Freezing tofu results in a spongier, more chewy texture, and the tofu absorbs marinades better and fries up crisper. This requires a smidge of extra planning: Freeze the tofu in its packaging overnight or for 12 hours, then thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. When thawed, press the tofu between your palms, squeezing out a good bit of the water. From here you can crumble the tofu by hand. I pull chunks off the tofu block and squeeze out more liquid before crumbling the tofu into a bowl.

crumbled tofu



**Jump for more butter**