Vegetarian Bulgogi Rice Bowl

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Bulgogi is traditionally made with beef, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be a delicious and nutritious vegetarian dish. I cooked mine very mildly spicy because the girls and Peter don’t like their food too hot.  Add chili flakes if you like more heat in the dish as I do.

This is a simple dish to make but very satisfying to eat. I used firm tofu, but extra firm will work well too. I used light soy sauce, but if you want the color of your tofu to be darker to resemble the real bulgogi, use 2 tablespoons light soy sauce and 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce. Go Chu Jang is a very sweet chili sauce. If you don’t like your dish too sweet, you can replace with other mild chili sauce. 

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Vegetarian Bulgogi Rice Bowl

Ingredients:

1 box 14 oz firm tofu, water drained and finely diced

3 stocks green onion, chopped

1 to 1 1/2  teaspoon grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg + more if serving with sunny side up (Skip if vegan)

1 1/2 teaspoon tapioca, or corn starch

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons pure dark sesame oil

1 to 2 teaspoons Korean sweet & spicy sauce called Go Chu Jang (replace with other mild chili sauce and add a little more sugar if you don’t have Go Chu Jang)

1 to 2 teaspoons xylitol or brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoon cooking oil

1/2 carrot, thinly sliced or julienned

1 teaspoon sesame seeds for garnish

Sliced cucumber and/or Kimchi for serving

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Preparation:

Open the tofu package. If the tofu is soaked in water, drain all the water and let it sit on a plate with another plate on top to press more water out.

In a large bowl, mix together tofu, 5 tablespoons chopped green onion, grated ginger, minced garlic, egg, soy sauce, Go Chu Jang, tapioca or corn starch, sesame oil and sugar with your hand. Let marinate for about 10 minutes.

Heat cooking oil in a wok or pan on medium high heat, stir fry the tofu mixture for 3 to 4 minutes until aromatic. Add thinly sliced carrots and stir to mix.

Serve on top of cooked rice, garnish with green onion and more Go Chu Jang if desired. Top with a sunny side up egg to make it a more fulfilling meal.

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Coconut black Rice Pudding with Fresh Mangos

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I went to a Vietnamese Chinese market yesterday and bought some beautiful and delicious tropical fruits.  The mangos reminded me of the ones that I used to buy in Malaysia when I was filming Marco Polo.  This morning, I made a coconut black rice pudding with fresh mangos for breakfast. Rice with crushed peanuts is a usual staple for breakfast in Southeast Asia. It is as ordinary as oatmeal in the West.  Of course you can also serve this rice pudding as a dessert.  For me, coconut and mango is a perfect combination, like peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and chocolate.

I made my rice in the automatic rice cooker as I sliced the fruits. It’s simple and easy. I used the coconut milk beverage from the carton to cook the rice. And I drizzled about 2 to 3 tablespoons full fat coconut milk from the can on top of the pudding before serving. 

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Coconut Black Rice Pudding with Fresh Mangos

Ingredients:

1 cup of Thai black sweet rice or Forbidden Rice

2 cups coconut milk, beverage from the carton

1/4 cup or more xylitol or sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 to 3 tablespoons full fat coconut milk, can

2 tablespoon crushed peanuts, optional

2 ripe yellow mangos, peeled, pitted and sliced (small, flattened oval shape mangos)

Preparation:

Pour the rice, coconut milk beverage, xylitol or sugar, vanilla in the rice cooker and let soak for 30 minutes before pushing the on button.

When the rice cooker turns to warm, let rice sit for 5 minutes. Scoop rice into serving bowls and top with fresh mango slices, coconut milk from the can and crushed peanuts if using.

If you like your pudding wetter and creamier, you can also pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of coconut milk from the can into the rice cooker after rice has been cooked. Mix with a non-scratch spatula before scooping into serving bowls.  If you use forbidden rice instead of sticky rice, it tastes better in the creamier version.

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I used the left-over coconut milk from the can and the mango to make coconut mango panna cotta. I will share the recipe another time. 

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Vegan Creamy Cauliflower Soup

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Kale and beans give the creamy soup texture

I love cauliflower for its great versatility, superb nutritional value, low calorie count and its fresh, neutral taste. This seemingly bland vegetable yields to your wishes and can become so many different things in a wide variety of dishes. Mark Twain called it cabbage with a college degree for a good reason. Some of my favorite ways to enjoy cauliflower is Cauliflower Mac & Cheese, Cauliflower Steak, Cauliflower Fried Rice, Venetian Cauliflower and simply Roasted Cauliflower.

Today, I made a deliciously creamy cauliflower soup that does not require any cream. The girls had the Kale and bean version while Peter, who doesn’t like kale had the red pepper swirl version. We have a couple of house guests from LA; the three of us tried and loved both varieties. The recipe makes a huge pot of soup that is enough for 8 to 10 people. If you are a cauliflower fan like I am, give this a try. If you are not a strict vegetarian or vegan, you should try it with chicken broth and Better Than Bouillon. It’s even more flavorful this way.

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Red pepper sauce gives it a kick and a vibrant splash of color

Ingredients:

1 large Onion (chopped)

5 cloves garlic (chopped)

1 1/2 cauliflower, chopped

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon coriander

8 cups Vegetable Stock, or chicken broth if not vegetarian

2 to 3 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil for sautéing

1 tablespoon organic reduced sodium Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

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For the Kale and Bean Version:

1 bunch Kale, stemmed and cut into thin ribbons

1 15 .5-ounce kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for sautéing

Salt and pepper to taste

For the Red Pepper Swirl Version:

2 red bell peppers

2 red jalapeno peppers, seeded

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon Cayenne

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil for sautéing

Salt and Pepper to taste

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Preparation:

Place a heavy bottomed soup pot over medium-high to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then toss in the garlic, stir for 1 minute, then add onion. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until aromatic. Add the cauliflower, the Better Than Bouillon (if using), coriander and oregano, stir for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour the vegetable stock or chicken broth over the cauliflower and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 8 minutes or so, or until the cauliflower is fork tender.

Let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a blender and working in batches until the content is creamy and smooth. I used Vitamix.

Pour the blended cauliflower into another heavy bottomed soup pot. Taste to adjust saltiness and flavor.

For the Kale & Bean Version:

Over medium high, sauté the kale with a tablespoon of olive oil in a wok or pan for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the beans and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Add sautéd kale and beans into the cauliflower soup.

Heat 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a wok or pan on medium high. Add paprika, cayenne and Sriracha; stir for a minute. Add in chopped peppers and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until soft.

Let cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to the blender and blend until smooth and creamy.

Scoop 2 tablespoons of the red pepper sauce on top of the cauliflower soup and use a chopstick or the butt end of the fork to make pattern.

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Asian Flavored Pork Chops with Sautéd Vegetables

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Lately, I have been trying to feed Peter less meat. I either use small portions of sliced meat in vegetable stir-fries to enhance the flavor or I serve him the same vegetarian meals the girls have. I know he misses meat when he tells me to relax and not worry about cooking dinner. “I’ll order from Green Island tonight,” he’d say. Green Island is his favorite take-out place, where you can get three dishes of tasty Chinese food for $27. Peter usually orders the stir fried beef with vegetables, curry beef brisket and rock cod in garlic black bean sauce.  That’s how he gets his weekly fix of greasy, salty Cantonese provision. When I got a midday call from Peter asking if there would be meat for dinner tonight. I knew that it was time for me to cook a serious meat dish.

I had opened a bottle of good brandy some time ago to make desserts and there was still 1/3 of a bottle left.  I decided to use it in the marinade, but if you don’t have brandy handy, Shao Xing cooking wine will probably work fine, too.  The key is to marinate the meat for at least two hours, ideally 4 to 8 hours. The pork chops that I bought today were about 1/2 to 2/3 inch thick. If your chops are 1 inch thick, you will need to use 1 1/2 portion of the marinade. The pork chops will absorb and lock in every last drop of the marinade and turn out tender, juicy and absolutely delicious.

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Asian Flavored Pork Chops with Sautéd Vegetables

Ingredients:

4 pork chops

1 green bell pepper, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 red jalapeno pepper, seed and sliced

1 small yellow onion, sliced

2 to 3 slices of ginger, thinly slivered

3 tablespoons cooking oil, separated

2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon dark rice vinegar or rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for Marinade:

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons brandy

1 tablespoon molasses or honey

2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon minced ginger

1 teaspoon sriracha sauce

1 teaspoon tapioca flour, or corn starch

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Preparation:

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Pound the pork chops and poke holes on the meat with ice pick or the tip of the knife. Use your hand to mix the chops with the marinade and transfer to a large ziplock bag. Leave in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight. All the liquid will be absorbed into the chops as they marinate.

Cut a slit on the pork chop at the opposite side of the bone to prevent curling during cooking.

Heat 1/2 of the oil in a large cast iron skillet on medium. Pan fried the pork chops about 4 to 5 minuets on either side or until cooked through. You will need to cook longer with the lid on if your chops are thicker. The chops brown easily because of the sugar in the marinade. Lower the heat a little if necessary.

When the chops are done. Take them out of the skillet and set aside.

Heat the rest of the oil in the same skillet on medium high and sauté the vegetables. Stir for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Give it a few swirls with the spatula and turn off the stove. Cook the vegetables in two batches if your skillet is small.

Separate the sautéd vegetables into four plates and top with the pork chop. 

Or slice the chops before serving with rice and saluted vegetables.

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Osso Buco Style Ling Cod with Gremolata

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This morning, Peter and I wanted to take a walk but it was drizzling.  So we instead took a walk in the isles of Costco and came home with loads of food. For lunch, I made this hearty, soothing and yummy dish that was perfect for a rainy spring day. Peter and I loved it, and ended up having it for both lunch and dinner without even changing the plates or the utensils. Lazy Sunday indeed.

You can enjoy the fish “osso buco” over polenta or creamed potato, but I simply added the potatoes into the dish and made it a one pot meal. Very satisfying.

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Osso Buco Style Ling Cod with Gremolata

Ingredients:

2 6 oz ling cod fillets or other white fish fillets

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, separated

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cups chopped tomatoes

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped carrots

1 1/2 cup halved or quartered red skin potatoes

1/4 cup marinara sauce

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup white wine

1 1/2 tablespoon tapioca flour or corn starch, I used tapioca flour

1 1/2 tablespoon corn flour or wheat flour, I used corn flour

A few dashes of cayenne, smoked paprika, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder and basil

Salt and pepper to taste

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Preparation:

In a large bowl, mix the tapioca flour, corn flour, the dried spices and a generous pinch of salt.

Wash and dry the fish. Rub with a little olive oil. Dredge the fish pieces one by one in the flour mixture.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and a large skillet or a pan on high and brown the fish on all sides. Set aside.

On medium high, heat the rest of the oil in a wok, sauté the garlic and onion until aromatic. Add the tomato, celery, carrots and potatoes and stir for about 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the marinara sauce and stir for another minute or two.  Pour the chicken broth into the wok and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Salt to taste.

Pour the cooked vegetables and all the juice into the skillet with the browned fish and return to stove on medium high. Pour in 1 cup of white wine.  Cook until fish is done, about 10 minutes.  (My fish is thick. If your fish is smaller, cook for less time.) 

Mix a little water into the bowl with the left-over flour mixture for dredging, and use it to thicken the broth if desired. The spices in the flour mixture also add extra flavor to the dish.

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Ingredients for Gremolata:

1/3 cup minced parsley

1 loosely packed teaspoon minced lemon zest

1 loosely packed teaspoon minced orange zest

2 clove garlic, minced

Preparation:

Use a grater or a vegetable peeling to get the outer most layer of the lemon and orange skin.  Mince the zest with a knife.

Mix the zest with chopped parsley and minced garlic. You can make gremolata up to 6 hours ahead and leave in the fridge in a sealed container.

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Empress Dowager’s Crab

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Empress Dowager’s Crab is a Chinese dish that most of you have probably never heard of — a scrambled egg with an unusual but delicious twist. I have mentioned in previous blogs the hairy crab obsession in Shanghai, that has in recent years spread to other major cities in China. People make this scrambled egg to satiate the craving for hairy crabs when crabs are not in season, or not in one’s budget.  Fable had it that the dish was invented one day when the Empress Dowager demanded to eat crab out of a whim. The royal chef had to improvise with eggs because there were no crabs to be found and he didn’t want his head chopped off. 

The egg white is to imitate the taste and texture of crab meat while the yolk the flavor of the crab roe.  Since the steamed hairy crabs are always eaten with a dark sweet rice vinegar and finely minced ginger, this dish uses the same unique combination of ingredients to trick the tastebuds into making the association with crab.  When I was growing up, it was made with only eggs, ginger, vinegar, salt and sugar, but the fancier version nowadays includes diced fish or prawns. I used ling cod today.

I have always loved eggs no matter how they are prepared — soft boiled, hard boiled, over-easy, poached, omelette, braised in soy and tea, steamed egg custard… you name it. Eggs are the most versatile food in the world, and today they are masquerading as crab meat. Traditionally the yolk is cooked slightly runny. Peter doesn’t like his eggs runny and I cooked the yolk a little bit longer, but still very soft. You mix the cooked white and the slightly runny yolk right before serving to let the flavor of the yolk coat the white.

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Empress Dowager’s Crab (Scrambled Egg with Fish)

Ingredients:

4 extra-large eggs, white and yolk separated and beaten

3 to 4 oz white fish or prawns

2 1/2 tablespoons dark sweet rice vinegar (CHINKIANG VINEGAR, Chinese supermarket)

1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 teaspoon sugar, separated

1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 tablespoon Shao Xing cooking wine to marinate the fish

1/4 teaspoon corn starch

2 tablespoons cooking oil, separated

Chives or cilantro leaves for garnish

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Preparation:

In a ziplock bag or a bowl, marinate the fish in the Shao Xing cooking wine and a pinch of salt.  Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to over night.

Beat the egg white and egg yolk separately in two bowls.

Pat dry the fish and dice into 1/3 to 1/2 inch cubes. Mix the corn starch with the diced fish.  Stir the diced fish into the egg white with a teaspoon of the minced ginger and a pinch of the salt.

Beat the yolk with with 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 loosely packed tablespoon minced ginger, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon minced ginger with 1 1/2 tablespoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat. Pour the egg white, fish mixture into the pan and gentle stir until the fish turns opaque. Put the cooked egg white and fish cubes on a serving plate and set aside.

Wash and dry the pan. Heat the rest of the oil in the pan on medium low heat, pour the yolk mixture into the pan and stir until slightly congealed but still a bit runny. Scoop the cooked yolk on top of the egg white and the fish.

Garnish with chives or cilantro leaves.

Mix the white with the yolk before serving.  Pour the vinegar ginger mixture into he dish if desired.  Give it a taste before deciding how much of the ginger vinegar mixture you need.

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Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

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Dessert before dinner is not a problem in this case.

These are absolutely the most delicious little treats made with the simplest and healthiest of ingredients.  When I was in Shanghai earlier this month, I made them for my parents, and they couldn’t believe that the decadent panna cotta was actually good for them.  Whenever I visit my parents, I pack food in my suitcases —  cheeses, extra virgin olive oil, whole grain cereal, decaf coffee beans… you name it.  My suitcases remind me of the ones hauled by the black market merchants during the era of food rationing in China. This time I brought them a bag of xylitol along with other novelty foods.  My dad has a voracious appetite and he loves sweets, but he needs to watch his blood sugar.  So xylitol was a perfect gift for him, and the panna cotta was a perfect dessert to showcase it. 

Looking at my dad chomping on peanuts in front of the TV, I knew I was doomed. It is amazing how one can inherit a penchant for peanuts from one’s father. There is definitely a peanut loving gene  in my DNA.  My dad is hard of hearing and talking with him is laborious for the both of us; so we shelled peanuts together while watching some Sino-Japanese war series on TV. It seemed that my parents are always watching the same battles being fought every time I visit them.  The Japanese invasion and the Chinese resistance must be one of the few themes that can pass censorship while still showing some scenes of sex and violence. I was able to make them happy simply by sitting with them. Nothing else was required — just my presence. I think only children have this kind of magical power over their parents.

Okay, back to the panna cotta. It is low fat, but feels extremely creamy in your mouth.  I made mine sugar free with xylitol and stevia extract.  Stevia extract is natural and has virtually no calories. I usually add a pack or two with about 1/4 cup of xylitol. If you don’t like xylitol or stevia, you can use 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of sugar depending on how sweet you want your panna cotta.  

Everyone in the family loved the panna cotta not only because it is delectable and healthy, but also because home-made dessert means mommy is back.

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I found reusable yogurt bottles with lids to be perfect for the panna cotta. You can easily store them in the fridge for a few days.

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Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

2 1/2 cups Fage Total or other full fat Greek yogurt

1 1/2 cup 2% organic milk or milk of choice or cream (I used 2% organic)

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup xylitol or sugar

1 to 2 packs of organic stevia or 1 to 2 more tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)

2 1/2 teaspoons (1 1/4 ounce packet) unflavored gelatin

Canola or safflower for greasing the containers

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Preparation:

Grease the containers (ramekins or teacups or bowls) if you plan to un-mold the panna cotta when serving.  If you plan to serve the panna cotta in the container that you make it with, you can skip the greasing.

Pour 1 cup of milk in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin in the milk, let soak until soft, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a small sauce pan on low heat, stir the xylitol or sugar, milk and gelatin until melt. (Do not boil.) Let cool for 3 to 5 minutes.

In a food processor, mix together milk gelatin mixture, yogurt, lemon juice, vanilla extract, xanthan gum and stevia.

Pour mixture into desired container and refrigerate for 2 to 8 hours depending on the size of the container, about 2 hours for small ramekins or cups and up to 8 hours or overnight for a cake pan.

To take the panna cotta out of the container, dip the bottom of the container in a pan of hot water for 5 seconds, or use a sharp knife to separate along the side of the container. Cover the container with the plate you plan to serve on and turn the whole thing upside down.

Serve with fresh berries and a dollop honey or maple syrup

Or

Top with brandied dried apricots

I made the brandied apricots the same way I made the brandied dried figs and the brandied dried cherry.

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Brandied Cherry Garcia Fro-Yo

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Last night, Peter and I went to the CPMC 2020 Gala to support the construction of the new hospital. The event was sponsored by Chanel and I think it was as glamorous as any hospital fundraising event could ever get. People couldn’t believe how well their doctors cleaned up.  So many people came to tell me how much they loved Peter. They were his peers, his former students, his patients and his bosses, people I had not met before, but I could see that they were sincere in their feelings. Talking to them about Peter made me happy and proud. It made the evening more meaningful for me.  Peter works harder then anyone I know, and sometimes I complain about his long hours or his sudden departure from a night out with friends because there was a heart attack patient in the ER. All parties are stressful for me, but last night the stress was worth it. It was wonderful for me to know that he is well appreciated by so many.  But I think what truly sustains Peter is not just people’s appreciation.  Medicine is his life’s passion.

Peter has a sweet tooth, but he needs to watch his sugar intake.  I made this very low sugar, low fat, but really yummy treat for him. He had a couple of scoops after dinner and told me that he was feeling the effect of the brandy even though I cooked it. I guess I will not feed this to the girls.

I have made different versions of the healthy cherry Garcia fro-yo before. Today, I made it with brandied cherries to give it a more luxurious and decadent taste.

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Homemade Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients:

2 cups fat free plain Fage or Greek yogurt of choice

4 tablespoon xylitol or sugar

A pinch of salt

1 packs Stevia

1 cup 2% milk or milk of choice

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup brandied dried cherries

4 to 5 tbsp shaved 86% dark chocolate bar

Preparation:

Soak the dried cherries in about 1/2 cup brandy and 1/4 cup water until rehydrated. Boil on high until the liquid is reduced to syrup. 

Chop or shave the chocolate.

Blend everything except chocolate and cherries in a blender.

Pour the yogurt mixture into the ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour the content into a large ziplock bag with the cherries and chocolate.  Lay it flat in the freezer for 20 minutes or until solid but not hard.  Squeeze the bag to mix the fro-yo before serving.

Let the machine churn for about 10 minutes. Slowly add the shaved chocolate and 3/4 brandied cherries as the machine churns.  Save about 1/4 cup of the cherries in brandy syrup to drizzle over the fro-yo when serving. Let churn until the ice cream is desired consistency.

Note:

If you like your fro-yo tart, use 2 1/2 cup of Greek Yogurt and 1/2 cup of milk.

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Fennel Salad with Grapefruit Orange & Avocado

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We are having the balmiest early spring here in San Francisco. I decided that it was a perfect day for a refreshing salad when I saw the beautiful, tender bulbs of fennel in the neighborhood grocery store. I love fennel. If you have not yet tried fennel salad, you ought to. For me, the best way to prepare fennel is marinating it in fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Simple, but perfect. I usually serve it with Burrata cheese, but decided to serve it today with avocado, orange slices and grapefruit slices.  It was crunchy, creamy, sweet, tangy and savory all at once. My favorite salad just got better.  It was absolutely delicious!

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Fennel Salad with Grapefruit Orange & Avocado

Ingredients:

2 heads fennel, thinly sliced

1/2 to 2 avocado, sliced

1 orange, peeled, pith removed and sliced

1 grapefruit, peeled, pith removed and sliced

1/2 cup tender green leaves of choice (I used watercress)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon lemon and orange zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon fennel fronds

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Ingredients for Dressing:

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

Salt & pepper to taste

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Preparation:

Place fennel, oil, zest and lemon juice in a shallow dish; season with salt and pepper. Let stand 15 minutes.

In the meantime, slice off the skin of the grapefruit and orange, remove the pith.  Save the juice in a bowl to use in the dressing.

Peel and slice the avocado.  Squeeze lemon juice on the avocado slices to prevent them from getting brown.

Mix ingredients for the dressing in a bowl.

Divide marinated fennel into four to six plates, top with orange and grapefruit slices, avocado slices, green leaves, fennel fronds. Drizzle with dressing before serving.  You need only very little dressing since the fennel is already marinated.

Note:

Use only very fresh and tender fennel bulbs for fennel salads. 

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Easy Cha Siu in a Rice Cooker

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I had never followed any cooking shows before taking on the role of being one of the judges for a cooking related award. The past two weeks, I watched dozens of food documentaries and cooking specials.  I enjoyed all the documentaries.  Whether or not they are well made, they brought me interesting characters and engaging stories. Cooking specials, on the other hand, were often boring or disturbing for me to watch.  I now better understand why they are called food porn. Our hedonistic hunger is supposed to be satisfied by the cooking shows the same way our prurient thirst is quenched by porn films. We get off vicariously by watching dishes being cooked with so much butter, cream, salt and sugar by the most upbeat and cheery people, who exclaim nonstop how delicious everything smelled or tasted.

It seems that our natural relationship with food has somehow been ruined by the diet industry, its nutrition experts with their ever changing theories of what we can or cannot eat. Food has become less about enjoyment and contentment, and more associated with guilt. Hence we have food porn.

Answering the question of what we should eat, Michael Pollan, a renowned food author, said simply, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” By food, he meant that something your great-grand mother would recognize as food — a piece of chicken, a bunch of greens, a bowl of oatmeal or a slice of pound cake.  Energy bars with dozens of unpronounceable ingredients or Chicken McNuggets don’t count as food by his standard, I think.

I am not much of a food porn guzzler because I am quite content with what I eat. I don’t have restrictions or prohibitions. I cook what I want to eat. And cooking is a part of the enjoyment; it is the anticipation, the foreplay.

Today, I felt like eating a simple Chinese comfort food: cha siu, a sweet and savory roasted pork, on a bed of brown rice with stir fried bok choy. I discovered a great way to make cha siu — in the rice cooker for 12 minutes. It turned out tender, juicy and slightly charred at the bottom. It was delicious. (Am I not making my own version of food porn here? Am I not a nudist exhibitionist flaunting my food instead of my body?)

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P1050174Ingredients for Cha Siu:

2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into long strips about 2 inches in diameter

Ingredients for the marinade:

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 1/2 tablespoon Shao Xing cooking wine

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Cha Siu sauce (Chinese Barbecue Sauce)

5 to 6 slices of ginger

Preparation:

Marinate the meat for 4 to 8 hours. Lay meat in a single layer in the rice cooker  and push“quick rice” button, or for about 12 minutes if you don’t have a “quick rice” button. 

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Audrey and her friends making S’mores by the fire. I have never seen an inkling of guilt in her when it comes to eating. I love watching her enjoy food.