Happy to be Jet Lagged

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I woke up at the crack of dawn because of jet lag, while everyone else in the family slumbered on.  Quietly and methodically, I cleaned up.  Mindless physical labor was a good therapy after two weeks of intensive movie watching and movie debating. 

The Golden Horse Award, for which I served as the jury president, stirred up all sorts of scandal and controversy because a well loved film star from China did not win the Best Actress award.  I was involved in this imbroglio because the media insinuated that I sabotaged her because of professional jealousy. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/gong-li-cries-foul-judging-752683 I usually don’t respond to the media but the backlash went viral and I had to make a statement on Weibo that I actually voted for her and the deliberation and voting process was fair and transparent.  I am so glad the whole thing is now over and I’m home scrubbing the kitchen sink and toilet bowls. I’m not being sarcastic.  Making things clean can be a cathartic exercise.

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I cooked a simple Asian flavored pasta for lunch before heading out to buy outfits for the press junket and the premiere of Marco Polo in New York.  Audrey insisted on going with me to make sure I didn’t buy anything that was “either too young or too revealing” as I always tended to do when I needed to be in front of the camera.  As I picked out clothes to try, Audrey would say I disapprove or I approve or strongly approve.  Audrey has good taste and I followed her directive with conviction.  She was a good little helper zipping and unzipping me as I went through dozens of dresses.  You will probably see some of them next week when I appear in front of the press.

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Before I left for Taiwan, I planted some scallion ends in a flower pot and today I was finally able to use some in the pasta.

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Ingredients:

2 cups Whole grain Kamut Spirals (or any other pasta of your choice)

1/2 onion 

2/3 yellow bell pepper

4 cloves garlic (minced)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon Ponzu sauce

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon chopped scallion

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste

Cook the pasta according to instruction and drain. Sauté minced garlic, onion, bell pepper on high until slightly caramelized.  Turn the fire to low and pour in Ponzu, soy sauce and sugar.  Give it a few good stir and mix in the pasta.  Sprinkle scallion and red pepper flakes before serving.

Guest Post: Healthy Raw Raspberry Cheesecake!

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Hi! I’m Kim, a 23-year-old Biochemist from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for food, fitness, health, and overall happiness. When I am not working, working out, or spending time with friends & family, I spend time sharing my love of healthy food with others! I grew up overweight and ashamed of it. As a young teenager, I began to secretly starve myself in attempts to lose weight. This turned into a very unhealthy relationship with food that lasted over 7 years. At the age of 20, though, something “clicked” and I realized the importance of working out and HEALTHY eating. I finally succeeded in healthy weight loss by throwing myself into the kitchen (& gym!) to learn what truly healthy food is made of; I grew to really enjoy cooking & baking. Every recipe I create is sugar free, nutritious, and fit for a healthy lifestyle. I also have two recipe ebooks available that I have written, full of recipes I personally create and enjoy.
A lot of my recipes are protein-packed desserts, so this recipe is unique in the sense that it does not require protein powder, flour, or a baking step. It is a raw vegan raspberry cheesecake, made with everyday ingredients that are suitable for almost any diet preference one may have. It is comprised of a crust, a raspberry layer, a cheesecake layer, and what I call a “pink” layer; I topped the dish with a cocoa sauce and fresh raspberries. It is absolutely refreshing, while also satisfying to the sweet tooth; it can please anyone. I hope you enjoy!
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Raw Raspberry Cheesecake
 
Serves: 8
 
Crust
1/2 cup pitted dates (80 g)
3/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup coconut butter
Raspberry Layer
1 cup frozen raspberries
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
Cheesecake Layer
2 cups raw cashews (soaked in water)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup maple syrup (or sugar free syrup as I use, or agave, or honey)
juice from 1/2 lemon (2 TBSP)
2 TBSP coconut butter
1 TBSP vanilla extract
You will need a food processor to make this. First, add the dates and almonds in the processor to make the crust. Process it down until it becomes fine grits, then add the coconut butter. Continue to blend it until it is malleable and thick.
Now, you have two options. You can make 3 mini 4″ cheesecakes or 1 full size cheesecake. I made mini cheesecakes with 4″ springform pans, but this is also a recipe fitting for 1 full-sized springform pan. Spread your crust on the base of the springform, pressing down firmly with the backside of a spoon or knife.
Next, make your raspberry layer by blending frozen raspberries and water. It will be thick like a sorbet. Spread this evenly on top of your crust, (saving approx 1/4 of it for later)! Place the 1/2 cup fresh raspberries on this layer as well.
Next, make the cheesecake layer. You want to strain your soaked cashews first. Then add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and blend it all. I often stop the processor to scrape down the edges, and blend more. Pour this layer on top of your raspberry layer (saving approx 1/4 of it for later)!
Now, place your cheesecake in the freezer! While that’s freezing, combine the remaining 1/4 of both the raspberry and cheesecake layers that you saved earlier. After the cheesecake has frozen for 45-60 minutes, pour the “pink” layer on top! Freeze again for at least 2-3 hours. It is best if you go ahead and let it freeze overnight. Once ready, slice into 8 servings and let it thaw approximately 10 minutes before serving. I also added a cocoa layer on top right before serving, made from unsweetened cocoa powder, water, and stevia. Enjoy!
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Nutritional Information for 1 slice: 357 calories; 27 g fat, 27 g carbs (6 g fiber), and 8 g protein

Looking for more?

Guest Post: Lynn Chen

What an honor to be guest posting for Joan!  I’ve often said that Joan’s performance in “The Last Emperor” was my inspiration for becoming a film actor; I’d like to think that my sites “The Actor’s Diet” and “Thick Dumpling Skin” influenced her starting Hungry Empress…

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…it’s been almost a decade since Joan and I worked together on Saving Face.  Even though we only had a few scenes together, we became a family on set – and that often meant sneaking away to the crafts services table together.  Weight gain was inevitable; our director Alice has joked that she had the snacks moved further and further away from set so her cast wouldn’t mindlessly munch between takes and cause costume issues.

These days it’s important to me to be very conscious of the power food has over my mind, and my body.  In the last 10 years, I’ve overcome eating disorder struggles, and make a daily effort to be kind when I talk about not only about how I look, but how others do, as well.  It can be a challenge to acknowledge that what we eat can change how we feel – mentally and physically – but also learn how to enjoy/celebrate without indulging in guilt/obsessive control.  To learn not to equate fat = bad, skinny = good.  Health is a lot more than a number on a scale (which, by the way, I’ve thrown out since 2006).  The most important thing I’ve learned – after 5 years straight of writing about food daily – is that nobody has it all figured out.  Not chefs, not nutritionists, not food scientists, not even doctors.  So the best diet for you, is literally trusting your own gut.

Lynn Chen
lynnchen.com

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Guest Post: Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies!

Today our mom flew off to Taiwan, so for dinner I’m having steamed cauliflower, brown rice, and a healthy protein “milkshake.” Not exactly what you’d call gourmet. So instead of boring you with all the stuff I’ve been putting together in the microwave, I’d like to introduce you to today’s guest blogger, Kim Hoeltje:

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I am 29 years young and live in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania with my husband, two kittens, and one snuggly Puggle.
I love baking. My parents own a cookie bakery so I learned how mix, scoop, and taste test at an early age. I like to experiment with different recipes, make changes, add different ingredients, and just have fun with it. I love using protein powder in place of flour and sugar.
My protein-packed dessert recipes come from my love of sweet treats, healthy alternatives, and kid-friendly taste buds. I am a full-time nanny, fitness enthusiast, and recent lover of food blogging. My focus is creating good for you foods that make you feel good too!
One of my all time favorite recipes is my Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies!
These may look like they are packed full of sugar, flour, and butter, but they actually contain none of those ingredients!! They are low fat, low carb, and packed full of protein!
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
  • 1 scoop Chocolate Protein Powder (30g)
  • 2 T PB2 or other powdered peanut butter (14g) (can sub any nut butter)
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin (60g)
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas or any white bean (130g)
  • 3 T egg substitute (46g)
  • 3 T unsweetened almond milk (46ml)
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • sweetener to taste (4 packets)
  1. Drain and rinse beans
  2. Puree beans, pumpkin, egg, milk, and vanilla
  3. Stir in everything else except the peanut butter
  4. If using PB2, add water til you get a peanut butter consistency
  5. Coat 5×7 baking dish with nonstick spray
  6. Pour brownie batter in dish
  7. Swirl peanut butter on top
  8. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes

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You could just eat one or two brownies, but why stop there?! You can have all six for only 315 calories!! Only 5 grams of fat and 34 grams of carbs. They make a great breakfast because they are packed with 37 grams of protein!
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Brownies for breakfast!? Yes please!
Original recipe link –
Follow me on all your favorite social media sites!

Perfect Lunch with a Friend

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A friend of mine visited me today from the East Bay.  He is an artist and he also loves to cook.  We talked about how we both needed to make things with our hands or we’d go crazy.  When I feel antsy I reupholster my chairs. Or I cook.  When I was living in LA, my brother and I made most of our own furniture — dining table, bar stools, beds… That was how antsy we were.  Or perhaps that was how inspired and creative we felt.  I suppose sometimes feeling antsy is the precursor of creativity.  I remember being happy when we were making the furniture.  We were creating something while learning how to do it.  There was no deadline and no one judging us.  Even mistakes that we made became part of the beauty of our work.  I would get up in the morning with my eyes barely open and stumble to the table or the stool that we were making and begin hand sanding the wood before I was fully awake.  When my arms became tired, I would make my morning tea.  Not at all a bad way to start the day.  It’s a luxury and a therapy to invest wholeheartedly in building something one doesn’t need to sell.

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Chase and I designed and made this dining table together.

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My friend and I chatted as we prepared a very simple but absolutely delicious lunch together. 

Basil Minced Turkey in Lettuce Cup & in Rice Paper

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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 green onion

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 tablespoon cooking wine

1 tablespoon corn starch

10 oz lean ground turkey (you can also use minced chicken breast)

1 red chili pepper, seeded and minced (adjust according to how spicy you want the dish to be)

1/4 red sweet pepper chopped

1 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 big bunch Thai basil leaves, lower stems removed

2 – 4 lettuce cups

2 – 4 Vietnamese spring rolls skin (rice paper)

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Method:

Mix ground turkey with wine, soy sauce and corn starch. Let it marinade for 10 minutes.

Add the oil into a heated wok, follow by the chopped garlic and green onion. Sauté the garlic and green onion until aromatic, then add the ground turkey into the wok.

When the meat turns opaque, add the chili pepper, sweet pepper, hoisin sauce, vinegar and sugar. Stir to combine well. Toss in the basil leaves and do a few quick stirs until the basil leaves wilted and you smell the exotic fragrance of the basil leaves.  Mix in pine nuts before serving in lettuce cups or wrap in the rice paper.

Put a piece of dry rice paper or spring roll skin on a dinner plate or other clean flat surface, pour a small amount of boiling water over it to soften it before wrapping.

Tabouleh Duty

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I was in London filming Judge Dredd when I first tasted the refreshing lemony flavor of tabbouleh.  I took the part of the villain in Judge Dredd because it was a paying job and because it filmed in London.  What’s great about making films is that something wonderful always happens even when the film is not worthy.

Before I went to London, I was on a flight from Singapore to Shanghai.  For some reason, I got to talk to the passenger next to me, which was something I almost never did or do.  Samuel was his name and he worked for Pfizer in Asia.  I remember talking to him about my mother’s interest in flax seed that grew in the Northwestern part of China and if Samuel thought Pfizer would be interested in collaborating with my mother on making the gel capsules.  Samuel was not interested in flax seed, but he chatted with me for the rest of the trip.  He told me that he had a girlfriend in London.  I said that I would be going to London in a couple of weeks and he insisted on giving me his girlfriend’s contact in London.  Her name was Hanan Kattan.

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Hanan and her family

I thought to myself, I’d be crazy to call someone whose contact was given to me by a total stranger sitting next to me on the plane.

Two weeks after the encounter with Samuel, I arrived in London.  It was late autumn and rainy.  I spent a couple of wet days in the the hotel room, with occasional sessions of physical training and costume fitting.  Perhaps I was lonely or perhaps I felt adventurous.  I took out Hanan’s number and called her.  I’ve always been socially awkward and fearful of meeting new people. But I met Hanan on a wet and cold autumn day and we ate tabbouleh and a dozen other dishes in a Lebanese restaurant, and the next day I moved into her family’s swanky apartment in Mayfair London.  This whole thing was entirely and utterly out of character for me.  I don’t even know why I kept Samuel’s card with Hanan’s number on it.  Fate is mysterious.  We have been friends for 20 years.

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup fine bulgur

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cup boiling-hot water

1 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint

2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 seedless cucumber*, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Boil water with salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pot.  Add bulgur when water is boiling and turn off the fire and let the bulgur sit for 15 minutes.  Discard water and let the bulgur cool.

Mix the cut vegetables, lemon juice and olive oil with bulgur and leave in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.  If you are pressed for time, you can serve the dish right away, but it gets better after sitting in the fridge for an hour.

PS: The saga of the Pumpkin Man, I’m afraid, is never ending.  Day 4.  I have by now completely perfected my creamy pumpkin soup.  I ate the soup with a dash of cinnamon today.  I can’t believe it, but so far I still enjoy it.

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Revenge of the Pumpkin Man

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We have been eating the same pumpkin for a third day now and I don’t think I even made a dent in the pile of pumpkin flesh.  A helpful reader of this blog gave me a recipe for a pumpkin black bean chili and I gratefully tried with a couple of little tweaks on the ingredients.  It was quite delicious.  I especially liked the avocado in the soup.

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Ingredients

  1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

  1/2 medium onion, chopped

  1/2 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped

1/2 medium sweet red pepper, chopped

  3 garlic cloves, minced

  1 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

  1 1/2 cup cubed raw pumpkin

  1 cup diced tomatoes

  3 cups chicken broth

  1 teaspoon Paprika

  1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

  1 teaspoon ground cumin

  1 teaspoon dried oregano

  1/2 teaspoon salt

  Cubed avocado and thinly sliced green onions

Sauté onion, garlic, red and yellow pepper in the pot for 4 minutes.  Add tomato and pumpkin and continue to stir for 4 more minutes.  Add the spices and the chicken broth and let it cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  Add avocado and green onion before serving.

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Since both my children are vegetarians, I don’t cook as much meat as before, but Peter really misses meat and tonight I made one of his favorite meats for him — pork chop.  Peter said that it was one of tastiest pork chop that he had ever had, and it was another of many daily reminders of why he married me.

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon cooking wine

1 tablespoon grated ginger

  Cooking spray

  2 pork chops

  1/2 apple

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Mix all ingredients other than the apple and marinade the pork chops for 2 to 8 hours.           

Preheat and spay the skillet grill.  Grill the pork chops for about 6 – 8 minutes on either side.  Grill apple slices until soft.

Cook the marinade in a sauce pan for about 5 minutes and serve with the chops and apple slices.

Cannibalizing the Pumpkin Man

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Joan the teenage revolutionary in front of Tian An Men Square

There is a famous revolutionary song about Mao’s Long March I used to sing as a child call “Red rice and Pumpkin Soup.”  Pumpkin soup was considered peasant food — the opposite of Bourgeois — therefore revolutionary. Even today pumpkin soup is still emblematic for a plain life style touted by the Party for its officers.

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CCTV posted Xi eating pumpkin soup with the soldiers and the officers and named the event Red Rice and Pumpkin Soup

I of course no longer associate pumpkin soup with revolution. I anticipate Autumn’s abundance when I see pumpkins arriving in the market. Fall is my favorite season.

I sat across from the Pumpkin Man at the breakfast table this morning, drinking my tea and contemplating his fate. In the end, I couldn’t let the Pumpkin Man go.  He’s now been hacked to pieces and occupying both my refrigerators.  I grew up not having enough food and I simply hate to waste anything, let alone a perfectly good pumpkin.

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It is true that the Pumpkin Man was not raised to be yummy; he was raised to look good.  But he turned out to be quite worthy of admiration in the form of an almond flour pumpkin bread.

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Ingredients

2 cups pumpkin puree (roasted at 350F and pureed in Vitamix)

3 large eggs

3 egg whites

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses or honey

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon Xanthan gum (optional)

In a mixing bowl, mix Pumpkin puree, eggs, egg whites, vanilla and molasses.  In another bowl, mix all dry ingredients.  Mix the wet and dry together with a hand mixer.  Move mixed ingredients into two loaf pans and bake at 350F for 40 minutes.

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Since the oven was already on, I decided to make another bread and some muffins in a different flavor:

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1 cup almond flour

1/2 oat bran

1/2 coconut flour

1/2 pumpkin puree

3/4 cup raisins

2 eggs

2 apples

4 tbsp. xylitol

1tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

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