Soy Braised Pork Knuckle

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I went to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco the other day to see the Emperors’ Treasures exhibition.  One of the treasures was called “Meat Shaped Stone.” The director of the museum Jay Xu is from Shanghai as I am and we chatted about how growing up we all loved the braised pork belly that looked exactly like the stone on display. I felt inspired to make a Shanghainese braised pork knuckle after I left the museum.

When Angela and I started this blog nearly two years ago, we had set out to make very healthy food with lots of vegetables and very low fat. Angela has been a vegetarian since she was five or six years old and Audrey became a vegetarian after watching the film Food Inc two summers ago.  Angela, the food police of our family, lost interest in our joint venture a few months after we began as she started writing for her own blogs about topics that interested her more. Without Angela’s scrutiny, I slowly began to use more oil when I stir fried, full fat yogurt instead of fat free yogurt in my desserts and real wheat flour instead of almond flour or coconut flour when I baked.

Now that Angela has left for college and Audrey is taking a break from her vegetarianism, we have pork back in our lives again. I used to eat pork knuckle a couple of times a month in my twenties and thirties, but I hardly cooked any pork since Angela became a vegetarian. 

A Beatles Song Norwegian Wood came to my mind as I cooked this pork knuckle. Yes, this bird has flown. Angela is no longer here to say, oh that smell is disgusting mommy.

How I miss her!

Soy Braised Pork Knuckle

Ingredients:

2 cups Shao Xing Wine

4 cups water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon dark sauce

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn

1 clove anise

1 1/2 inch ginger, sliced

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon rock sugar or brown sugar

1 stick cinnamon

3 dried red chili pepper

1 pork knuckle

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Preparation:

Heat the oil in a medium pot on medium high. When the oil is hot, add ginger, garlic, anise, peppercorn, dried chili and cinnamon stick. Stir until aromatic.

Add the pork knuckle and brown it on all sides.

Turn stove to low and add soy sauce. Turn the pork knuckle a few times in the soy sauce mixture.

Add Shao Xing Wine and water. Turn stove to high and bring the pot to boil. Turn the stove to low and let simmer for 2 hours. 

Turn the stove to high and reduce the liquid to half. Serve on a bed of blanched or stir fried vegetables.

Note: The Shao Xing wine that one buys in the US is salty for tariff reasons. If your Shao Xing wine is not salty you can add more soy sauce. 

Freekeh Tabbouleh: Or, Shout Your Rejection

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When Angela was in third grade, she started going with her classmates to Stanford football games. Although she didn’t understand football, she loved the veggie burgers and tailgate parties, and she quickly became a Stanford fan. When she learned that Stanford was considered by many to be the best university in the world, she decided – at age eight – that she wanted to be a Cardinal someday. She wore Stanford sweatshirts and Stanford sweatpants and we sent her to programs at Stanford over the summer. My friend whose daughter went to Stanford met Angela, recognized her intensity and tenacity, and declared that Angela would go to Stanford someday.

On December 11, 2015, Angela’s world came to an end. She learned that she had been rejected by Stanford despite her 2380 SAT, 5s on all 5 AP exams, stellar GPA, and long list of extracurriculars and community service hours. She was heartbroken, and in the days and nights after she was rejected, she couldn’t stop crying. “Why would they do that to me?” she asked. “What did I do wrong?”

Come March, the next two college decisions she received were both waitlists. Zero for three. We were all in full panic mode. Most of her friends have already committed to their early decision colleges, and she was the only one in her friend group left hanging.

But the world did not end. That was the lesson. Life must go on and you persevere: there were classes to attend, assignments to complete, friendships to be enjoyed, and laughter to be shared. 

On the last day of March, Angela was accepted to Harvard; maybe she can’t be a Cardinal, but she will wear Crimson. To me, it doesn’t matter where she goes to school. I thought about the possibility of her being rejected by all the elite colleges. She’d still be my precious Angela with her intelligence, her perseverance, her achievements, regardless of whether they will shine through the capricious haze of the college admissions process.

We feel extremely grateful for how things have turned out for Angela. We realize that there will be many more new challenges and new setbacks in her life. We hope that she will always bravely carry on no matter what happens. Ultimately, life obliges us only one thing: to carry on.

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Anyway, you’re probably tired of my humble-bragging about Angela so here’s some food. This is a really simple, but very delicious and satisfying vegan recipe. Well, it can be vegan, but I cheated today. I cooked the freekeh with chicken broth. No one in the household is religiously vegetarian. Angela cannot stand the taste and smell of meat or seafood.  Audrey became vegetarian after she saw the film Food Inc.. Peter loves all meats and seafood, but is cutting back because I make him. I used to be a shameless pork lover, but find myself eating less and less meat as I age.

I have shared a Mediterranean Freekeh Salad and a Freekeh Pilaf with Beets in previous blogs and talked about what a great grain it is in terms of both nutrition and taste. An ancient grain from a distant land, it was food fit for the Pharaohs. If you haven’t yet tried it, you are in for a treat. 

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Tabbouleh with Freekeh and Walnuts

Ingredients:

1 1/2 heaping cup cooked fresh (I cooked mine in the rice cooker)

1 1/2 heaping cup chopped parsley

1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes

1 cup seeded diced cucumber

1/4 cup thinly sliced radishes

20 black olives, chopped

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 cup toasted walnuts

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Preparation:

Cook freekeh according to package direction. It is about 1 cup freekeh to 2 cups liquid.

Prepare the vegetables while the freekeh cooks.

Mix the cooked and cooled freekeh with the vegetables, olives, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Mix in the walnuts right before serving.

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Almond Flour Carrot Cake with Greek Yogurt Frosting

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Angela was supposed to find out about the Harvard admission decision at 2pm.  It was 2:20 when I received a distorted selfie of her with tears and snots running down her face; the caption read “I’m crying real Jesus tears.” My heart sank. Then I realized that there was another photo of her computer screen before the selfie. I could see her caption, “You can hear my sharp intake of breath,” but I couldn’t read the tiny words on the photo with the red Harvard emblem. I called her cell as I ran around the house looking for a pair of reading glasses; she didn’t pick up — probably still crying. When I finally put my reading glasses on and read the tiny words my heart skipped a beat: She got in! However, I still couldn’t believe my eyes and gave the phone to my younger daughter Audrey, “Does it say Congratulations on your admission to Harvard?” She was sick at home, but her eyes lit up when she saw the acceptance letter for Angela.

The first people I called were Peter’s parents, who were overjoyed. I told them that Angela would call them a little later. Then I waited for an hour and half to call my parents in Shanghai. My mother answered the phone and I told her that Angela got into Harvard.  My mother said, “Yes, I know. Your friend Shelley came to visit me yesterday and I told her Angela got into Harvard.” My mother suffers from dementia. I told her yesterday that Angela would hear from Harvard today, but she remembered it wrong and told my friend that Angela was already accepted. Or perhaps she is simply prescient.

After all the excitement was over, I immediately began to bake a cake for the celebration. This carrot cake is gluten free, packed with nutrients and guiltless to enjoy. it is a dessert that you can have for breakfast the next day with a cup of coffee. Almond flour contains enough fat that you may not need to add any other. I used a tablespoon of coconut oil, but could probably have omitted it.

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Almond Flour Carrot Cake with Greek Yogurt Frosting

Ingredients for Carrot Cake:

1 3/4 cup almond flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup brown sugar or xylitol

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

4 eggs, beaten

4 oz apple sauce

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

1 heaping packed cup shredded carrots

Ingredients for Frosting:

1/2 cup cream cheese

1/2 cup fat free Fage or other Greek Yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup sugar or xylitol

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Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8 inch cake pan with coconut oil

In a mixing bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. In another bowl, mixing all the wet ingredients except for the shredded carrots. Slowly pour the wet into the dry ingredients as you stir and mix.

Fold in the shredded carrots and mix until even.

Pour batter into the greased pan. Smooth the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool on a rack for 20 to 30 minutes before frosting. The cake tastes better after leaving in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

Roast Eggplant & Spiced Chicken with Yogurt Tahini Dressing

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Angela has been selected as a winner of the National Merit Scholarship — one of the most prestigious awards for a high school senior. It’s a great encouragement and affirmation for her especially during this anxious time of waiting. The last of the college admission announcements will be sent out in two days. Every aspiring applicant, no matter how excellent his or her resume is, will get rejection letters — probably one of the very few true disappointments in their young lives. I suppose the randomness of life, and the inherent unfairness of it will be a significant lesson for them. On the last day of March there will be tears for these kids — tears of joy or tears of despair. Wherever there is hope, there is inevitably despair. In her book And The Pursuit of Happiness, artist Maira Kalman observed: “We hope. We despair. We hope. We despair. That is what governs us.” Life is the axis between these two opposite poles. 

What can I do for Angela? Not much, other than what I have always done and always will — love her, be there for her at her beck and call. And of course, I can cook yummy food for her. Angela loves eggplant and this roast eggplant with yogurt tahini dressing is one of the best eggplant dishes I have ever made. It is a simple vegetarian dish that is extremely satisfying.

The spiced rubbed roast chicken was so delicious that tonight Audrey decided to forgo her vegetarianism for it. The meat is slightly spicy so she drank two glasses of milk to quell the heat. That was a major coup for me. I’ve always been a little worried about Audrey’s protein intake ever since she became a vegetarian about two years ago. 

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Roast Eggplant & Spiced Rubbed Chicken with Yogurt Tahini Dressing

Ingredients for Yogurt Tahini Dressing:

1 cup Greek Yogurt (I used Fage)

2 heaping tablespoons Tahini

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (Add a teaspoon or so if you like yours more lemony)

1 heaping cup peeled, seeded and diced English cucumber

1/4 cup chopped parsley, or cilantro, or mint (whichever is your favorite)

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

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Ingredients for Spice Rubbed Chicken:

4 skinless chicken thighs

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon cayenne, more if you like it more spicy

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

A few dashes of cinnamon

A few dashes of pepper

Serve with sliced cucumber and radishes

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Ingredients for Roast Eggplant:

1 eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick (choose long rather than fat eggplant)

2 to 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

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Preparation:

Mix all the dry spices and salt in a bowl.

Preheat oven to 425.

Sprinkle salt on both sides of the sliced eggplant. Wait for the eggplant pieces to “sweat” (about 30 minutes) and press dry with paper towel. Rub olive oil on both sides of the eggplant and leave in single layer on parchment paper lined baking dish. If you use foil to line the baking pan, make sure you spray oil on it.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Rub with olive oil and then the spice mixture. Leave on parchment paper lined baking pan.

Roast the eggplant and the chicken in preheated oven for  22 to 25 minutes.

Mix all ingredients for dressing. Serve with the eggplant and the chicken. Garnish with chopped green herb and lemon zest.

Healthy Banana Bread with Cranberries & Walnuts

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The last two weeks of March is a nerve wrecking time for a lot of high school seniors. This is when college acceptance decisions are sent out to aspiring applicants. Angela has already been accepted to a number of great schools, but she won’t hear from her dream school until the last day of March. While outwardly she doesn’t appear to be too stressed, I’m sure the big unknown is not an easy place to be in. Children nowadays don’t wait for much. Everything is instant (the instagram culture.) I suppose this period of waiting is a good exercise in patience for them. But the uncertainty is turning out to be just as excruciating for Peter and me. Peter is usually a sound sleeper. He can fall back asleep pretty quickly even after being called by the hospital in the middle of the night. But he kept waking up last night; the anxiety of waiting has finally gotten to him. It’s not that we think Angela must go to her dream school to have a fulfilling life. It’s that we’d hate to see our child’s dream crushed. Sometimes, Peter and I fear that it’s risky for her to set her heart on a school that is so difficult to get into, but we also know that if you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve.

Instead of tossing and turning in bed, Peter and I decided to get up at the crack of dawn. We gave each other talk therapy as we pigged out. We both felt much better after our lavish and drawn out breakfast.

This banana bread is made with no added sugar, 100% whole wheat flour and coconut oil. (I used xylitol instead of sugar.)

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Healthy Banana Bread with Cranberries & Walnuts

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cup mashed bananas

1/4 cup +1 teaspoons milk of choice (I used buttermilk) 

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

3 medium eggs, beaten

1/2 cup xylitol or brown sugar

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

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Preparation:

Pre-heat oven at 350. Grease a bread baking dish.

Mix all dry ingredients except for walnuts and cranberries in a mixing bowl.

Mix all wet ingredients in another mixing bowl. You can use a hand mixer on low to mix the wet ingredients or mix them by hand. I used a mixer.

Pour wet into dry as you slowly stir until well mixed.  Add walnuts and cranberries and stir to mix.

Pour the mixture into the bread pan and bake for 55 to 60 minuets, or until a toothpick inserted to the center comes out clean.

Let the bread cool on the rack for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Put the left-over bread in a large ziplock bag to prevent it from drying.  This banana bread is low-fat and will dry if it is not sealed.

Alternatively, you can also pour the mixture into lined muffin pan and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Coconut Cheesecake Ice Cream Pie

24up-healthyholidays-jumboI was in front of my computer trying to catch up on news when my attention was drawn to this photo on the New York Times website.  I was caught in a wave of nostalgia as I gawked at the picture and remembered the yearly Thanksgiving dinner at my friends Dave and Jan People’s house.  We have been going to their house for our now favorite holiday since Angela was three years old. 

When she was two, Angela read a picture book about Thanksgiving in pre-school. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, the school principal asked her about her holiday.  Angela told the principal that Mommy did not roast a turkey, that we went to a Chinese restaurant for the celebration.  When I picked her up, the school principal gently reminded me that perhaps Angela should have the opportunity to experience this wonderful American tradition. 

The following Thanksgiving, we celebrated with David and Jan along with their extended family. Angela had her first taste of the proverbial roast turkey. A few years later she would become a vegetarian and would no longer eat the turkey. But the annual ritual of dinner at the Peoples’ has become the highlight that marks the passage of another year for our family.  It is always the morning after Thanksgiving, when we finally wake up from the turkey induced slumber, that Peter and I will go and get our Christmas tree.

This year, I will miss the feast at Dave and Jan’s house, but as I sit in my bed typing, I can see in my mind’s eye the golden roast turkey, which Peter is usually responsible for slicing because of his presumed surgical skills. I can also see Jan’s mushroom gravy, buttered carrots, pear salad, her daughter Risa’s mac and cheese, Dave’s mashed potatoes, our friend Nashama’s braised cabbage and my roasted bell pepper, eggplants and fennel in olive oil and balsamic glaze.  At the end of the sumptuous meal, there are always at least five different desserts, all of which I dutifully try one by one.  The desserts change from year to year, but there is always a cheesecake.

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In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I made a coconut cheesecake ice cream pie with whatever that’s left on my shelves and in my fridge.  There is no oven in this apartment, but there is a blender and a freezer.  That’s all you need to make this simple and delicious dessert.  If your oven is occupied by the turkey and you want to make a dessert, you can try this easy no-bake pie.

Usually, I would use dates and walnuts and shredded coconut for the crust, but I used prunes and almonds instead because that’s what I had in the kitchen.  I chopped the almonds instead of grinding them and I loved the crunchiness they added to the crust.

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Coconut Cheesecake Ice Cream Pie

Ingredients for the Crust:

3/4 cup chopped toasted almonds

1 pack Nature Valley crunchy granola bar

1/2 cup Sunsweet Prunes, chopped

2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter

2 tablespoons molasses sugar or brown sugar

Ingredients for the filling:

8 oz Philadelphia 1/3 less fat cream cheese (you can also choose to use full fat cream cheese)

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup full fat coconut milk

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon honey

1/4 cup ground coconut meat (optional)

2 teaspoon vanilla paste, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 to 3 cardamom pods, skin removed and seeds pounded (optional)

Pinch of salt

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Preparation:

Mix all ingredients for the crust in a mixing bowl, kneading it with your hands as you would a piece of dough.  Press it to a saran wrap lined tart dish and leave it in the freezer when you prepare the filling.

Blend all ingredients for the filling in a large blender until completely smooth.  Pour into the prepared crust and leave in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.  If you freeze it overnight, you will need to thaw it for 15 minutes or so before serving.

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If you have space in your oven, I would recommend my Yam Casserole to go with the turkey.  It is relatively easy to prepare and truly yummy.

No-bake Mango Cheesecake & Milk

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My older daughter Angela and I were invited to a tasting party at Namu Gaji organized by the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), creator of the iconic got milk? campaign. The current theme is Food loves Milk, which promotes the pairing of milk with different kinds of food.  I was instantly interested not only because of the novel and intriguing pairing of Korean fusion food with milk, but also because I have always tried hard, and often times without success, to make my vegetarian daughters drink more milk.  Since I’m filming in Malaysia, Angela went to the event with a friend. 

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Don’t know why she sent me a photo with her face covered and her friend’s face half cut off.

Angela hasn’t been communicating with me much lately.  Sometimes when I FaceTime my husband Peter, she would say hi and bye in passing.  So I was really happy to see more than 20 messages with many pictures from her yesterday about the got milk? dinner that she attended.  Apparently she had enjoyed the experience very much. From the menu and the pictures she sent me, Chef Dennis Lee’s food looked amazing.

“You’d be glad because I drank a lot of milk,” she texted me.  Angela doesn’t like milk.  “The Korean food they served was spicy,” she explained.  I laughed, thinking that it was a successful pairing because it got Angela to drink milk with her meal.

Growing up in Communist China in the late 60s, milk was a luxury food.  Each family in Shanghai was rationed to have one small bottle of milk a day.  And during milk shortages, we would not get any milk for days on end. In those years, the first thing I did after I got up was to run to the door and see if there was a bottle of milk waiting for me. I love milk.  My husband, who was also born in China, drinks a glass of milk with his dinner every evening like a growing teenager.  Neither of us drink wine.  I suppose we have been doing the food milk pairing a long time before this campaign. 

It’s mango season here in Malaysia. I made a No-bake Mango Cheese Cake yesterday and had a slice of leftover with a glass of milk for breakfast today.  Delicious.

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No-bake Mango Cheese Cake with Chocolate Granola Crust

Ingredients or the crust:

3 packs Nature Valley crunchy granola bars (crushed into tiny pieces)

2 tablespoon 100% cocoa power

1 tablespoon Molasses Sugar or brown sugar

3 – 4 tablespoon coconut oil (melted)

You can also make this cake with the raw and grain free crust from my earlier post.

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Ingredients for filling:

1 large ripe mango (about 1 1/2 cup diced)

1 tub 60% less fat Philadelphia cream cheese (250g)

2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

45g sugar

2 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoon coconut oil (melted)

1 teaspoon gelatin

1/4 cup milk of choice for the gelatin (I used 2% milk)

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Preparation:

Mix all ingredients for crust and press into an oiled tart dish.  You can break up the granola bars by hand or in a blender.  I blended half and hand crushed the other half to give a varied texture.  Leave the crust in the freezer as you prepare the filling.

Dissolve the gelatin in 1/2 tablespoon of water in a small bowl for 5 minutes.

Blend all ingredients for filling, except for the 1/4 cup of milk.

Heat the 1/4 cup of milk in the microwave 40 to 45 seconds, and mix in with the gelatin until dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the blender and blend until smooth.

Pour filling mixture into the prepared crust.

Refrigerate for 2 hours or freeze for 40 minutes before serving.

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“My Cool, Grey City of Love”

I had a break in the shooting schedule and decided to come home for a visit.  I talked to Peter everyday when I was away, but Angela was not one to reveal much over the phone.  I needed to come home.  Angela doesn’t believe in vacations.  She would only travel for a “serious purpose” as she puts it — meeting a mentor in New York, going to school in Andover, taking summer courses at Brown, or attending a cousin’s wedding in Los Angeles.  Since she doesn’t have a serious purpose in Budapest, she will not travel there. 

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With Angela in Pompeii when she was nine

I used to lug Angela around the world with me when she was younger, but slowly she stopped wanting to go anywhere.  I found out that the external and physical world has never held as much power for her as the inner and intangible world that exists only in her head.  The vast, fertile and zigzagging interior terrain is where she prefers to explore.

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In an effort to gain insight into her mind and to stay connected when I am not with her, I resort to reading the books that she has read, and carefully considering all the notes scribbled by her on the pages.  Angela often sells the books back to Green Apple Books, a local bookstore, after she’s finished reading them, but the store doesn’t accept the ones with too much doodling.  Those are the ones I inherit my conduit to her world.  I have also begun to follow Angela on Spotify and listen to the songs on her playlists.  In Budapest, I was reading The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz and listening to Troubled Mind by Marina and the Diamonds, imagining what Angela felt about certain metaphors or symbolism.  The longer I didn’t see Angela, the more consumed I became by the incessant wondering about what’s on her mind.  Only coming home and seeing her could relieve me. Nothing is more reassuring than hugging the healthy body of one’s own child.

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It was a glorious day in San Francisco, sunny, warm and with a pleasant sea breeze, not at all our typical foggy cold summer day.  Peter took off from work to spend time with me.  We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito for lunch.  Poggio Trattoria was recommended to us by one of Peter’s patients, who lives in Sausalito.  Everything on the menu looked enticing to me.  Peter ordered grilled octopus for appetizer and seafood fregula pasta as main course.  I ordered burrata to start and grilled salmon with fresh summer corn for the main course. We loved all the dishes.  After a month of rich Hungarian food, the lighter Californian-Italian cooking was a much desired change for me.  A perfect and long overdue date with the man of my life.

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Octopus is one of Peter’s very favorite food

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Burrata is one of my very favorite cheeses

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If you ever visit Sausalito, Poggio is definitely worth your while to dine in.

Living La Dolce Vita, Eat a Frittata

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The world is a good place.

I (Angela) took the SAT last Saturday and accidentally left my beloved TI-84 at Gateway High School, where I took the test. I didn’t realize my calculator was missing until several hours after the test ended, and I figured that by then someone had already taken my lovely away. These calculators are pretty darn expensive. I assumed that if anyone found my TI-84, they would probably take it for themselves or sell it.

My TI-84 has been with me since ninth grade and has absorbed so many tears that I’m surprised it still works. Together, we’ve made it through thick and thin. We’ve graphed limaçons in the dead of night. We’ve taken countless tests and done hours of homework. When I thought I had lost the calculator that is, in the vernacular, “bae,” I was devastated. That night, I went to my very first non-classical music concert but the whole time I was just thinking about my calculator. I threw my right-hand rule in the air to the beat of “Anna Sun” and mourned the loss of my beloved, which I was convinced I would never see again.

Out of all of my friends, I am definitely the most cynical. Last week, we watched the documentary Somewhere in Between on transracial adoption in Chinese class. I was positive that the man claiming to be the biological father of one of the adoptees was just trying to exploit money from an American family, but a DNA test revealed that he really was the father. By the end of the film, everyone in the class, boys and girls, had tears flowing freely down their faces – except for me. I was unamused and unshaken, unfazed by the cruelty of the universe that the film had revealed and skeptical of happy endings.

Later that week, however, I received an email saying that my calculator had been found unscathed and was waiting patiently for me. Elated, I returned to Gateway and reunited with bae. I am incredibly grateful that someone went to the trouble of tracking me down and allowing me to reclaim my darling. Our reunion cracked a hole through my jaded worldview. The world is such a wonderful place. Don’t worry. Be happy. Eat a frittata…

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Kale Potato Frittata

Ingredients:

Cooking spray

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 leek, sliced

1/2 shallot

1/2 yellow or white onion, sliced

2 bunches lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups boiled diced potatoes

4 whole eggs + 4 egg whites, beaten

3 tablespoons water

3 eggs on top of the frittata (optional)

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons shaved parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Note from Chef Chen:   I basically used up what was left in the fridge to make room for my Costco produce purchase.  I think a frittata is perfect for cleaning out the fridge on a weekend.

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Preparation:

Heat oven to 400°F.

In a skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, sauté onion, leak, garlic and over medium heat, stirring, 5 minutes. Add kale, garlic and a pinch of salt; stir 5 minutes. Add potatoes.

Whisk eggs, egg whites, 3 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Stir in kale-potato mixture.

In a large cast-iron skillet coated with cooking spray, cook egg mixture over medium-low heat 1 minute. Sprinkle thyme, oregano and parmesan on top. 

Transfer skillet to oven; bake until eggs are set and center is slightly runny, about  8 minutes. Broil until top is golden, 1 minute.

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Happy Year of the Ram!

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Peter’s mother gave me two porcelain New Year dolls as part of their wedding gift to us. I thought that they looked silly when I first saw them and have grown to love them over the years.

It is rare that the whole family is free for Chinese New Year celebration.  The girls are off from school for President’s Week, and Peter took time off because originally the whole family was traveling to the East Coast this week.  Peter went to play golf and Angela went out with friends (see her account of her little adventure at the end of the post) when Audrey and I stayed at home and cooked our New Year feast.

The first must-eat food for Lunar New Year is dumplings.  Audrey and I had fun making our own 100% whole wheat dumpling wrap today.  This way we don’t feel as guilty pigging out.

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Handmade Dumpling Wraps Ingredients:

4 cups of 100% whole wheat flour

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

water

Preparation:

Pour 3 1/3 cups of flour and eggs in a large mixing bowl and leave it in the sink.  Turn on tap to have a steady drip while using your hand to mix – swirl in one direction – until the dough is firm but can be kneaded.  Turn off tap.  Knead the dough for 5 minutes.  Let it sit for 15 minutes.

In batches, roll the dough into cylinders and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.  Use the remaining dry flour to prevent pieces from sticking together.  Make little dough balls and then use a rolling pin to make the wraps.  The key is to turn the dough with one hand and roll as you turn.

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If this sounds all too labor intensive, there are always the store-bought wraps!

Check out “Chinese New Year Potstickers” for the rest of the dumpling recipe.

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The second must-eat food for Lunar New Year is fish.  Fish sounds the same with the word “abundance” in Chinese.  Usually people buy a live rock cod to steam with ginger and scallion, but I suppose every Chinese family wanted one today and they were all sold out.  I bought a beautiful piece of Chilean Sea Bass and used my favorite marinade.

I also made braised pork for nostalgic reasons.  This was a dish that I looked forward to having at every New Year’s Eve when I was growing up in Shanghai.

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Braised Pork with Fresh Bamboo Shoots and Shiitake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup cooking wine

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup dark soy sauce (or you can use all light soy sauce)

3/4 – 1 cup water (you may not use all of it)

1 1/2 to 2 pounds pork shank

4 boiled eggs

5 large dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked soft, drained and quartered)

2 winter bamboo shoots (peeled and tough part removed)

1 pack stringed tofu (from Chinese market, see photo)

1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

8 cloves garlic, crushed

2 inch cube peeled ginger, crushed or sliced

2 star anise

1 tbsp. brown sugar or molasses

1 tbsp. canola oil

1096362_123006990910_2   donggu

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Preparation:

Heat the oil in a wok on high.

Put in peppercorns, garlic, ginger, star anise, sauté until aromatic.

Add cut pork shank to be seared at all sides.

Add bamboo, shiitake and boiled eggs.

Pour in soy sauce, wine, water and sugar and turn the fire to low.

Cover and stew for 2 hours.

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For the two vegetarians in the house, I made a seared tofu with brown rice medley.

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Seared Tofu with Brown Rice Medley

Brown Rice Medley Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice

1 teaspoon sesame oil

A pinch of salt

2 1/2 water

1/2 teaspoon dark rice vinegar

4 teaspoons canola or peanut oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tsp brown sugar

4 large dried shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced

1 cup snap peas

1/2 red pepper (thinly sliced)

1/3 cup sliced scallions, divided

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Preparation:

Soak the dry shiitake mushroom in a bowl in warm water for 1 hour.  Save 1/4 cup of the water but discard the sediment at the bottom of the bowl. 

Cook the brown rice with 2 1/2 cups water, a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.

In a sauce pan heat 2 teaspoons cooking oil on medium high, sauté half of the ginger until aromatic, add the sliced shiitake mushrooms and give it a few good stir.  Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and 1/4 cup reserved mushroom water.  Bring it to boil and lower the heat to let simmer.  The mushrooms are done when sauce is reduced and thickened but not burned.

In the meantime, in a wok or frying pan heat up 2 teaspoons oil on medium high and sauté the remaining ginger until aromatic.  Add snap peas and red pepper and stir for about 1 1/2 minutes.  Pour shiitake mushroom sauce and 1/3 cup of scallion in the pan and stir for 1/2 minutes. 

Mix in the cooked brown rice and turn off the stove.

Miso Tofu Ingredients:

12 oz. firm tofu, sliced

1 tablespoon miso paste

1/4 tsp red chili flakes (optional)

2 tsp canola or peanut oil

Tofu Preparation:

Spread miso paste on the tofu using fingers.  Heat the oil in a nonstick pan and pan sear the tofu on medium high for about 3 minutes on either side or until tofu slices are slightly browned.

Serve tofu on a bed of rice medley.

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Here is Angela’s little adventure:

To celebrate the eve of the Lunar New Year, my friends and I went out for lunch. We normally spend our free time in the Marina. Some may complain about all the yuppies in the area but I see nothing wrong with their presence, especially since I love the restaurants and stores that are targeted toward yuppies. They may be strange and overpriced, but they’re fun for window shopping.

Today we decided to go to the Castro and the Mission, where I normally do not venture. We went to a restaurant called Starbelly and then spent a few hours at Dolores Park, where I witnessed several people ingesting illegal substances and one woman emptying her bladder at the top of a hill. I have lived a rather sheltered childhood, so I was mildly disturbed by what I saw. I suppose it’s always important to be exposed to a diverse range of experiences. I am a very rule-abiding person so it was difficult to watch people violate open container laws and vandalize public transport vehicles without reporting them. At least Starbelly was good. I had a dried pea and quinoa patty and a gingered butternut squash soup with pepitas.

After returning from my little adventure, I came home to find a nice Lunar New Year dinner and some shipments of clothes that I’ll be reviewing in the next few days. Gung hay fat choy!

我今天跟同学们庆祝春节,我们去了卡斯特罗区吃饭。食品很好吃,但是我看到很多人在触犯法律,不好!新年快乐,恭喜发财,年年有余。我朋友姓余。去年,我得考中文AP考试,所以我得背春节传统,比方说喝腊八粥和吃橘子。对不起,我的中文不好。如果你有孩子,你应该让他考中文AP因为连我都考得好,而且AP很好玩儿,有写故事的部分,那是我最喜欢的部分。我为汤姆和玛丽亚写了很多悲惨的背景故事。