Avocado Toast with Kale Salad & Fennel Salad

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Audrey’s soon to be alma mater, The Hamlin School, put on a lovely musical The Wizard of Oz. I went to see it last night and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was, especially considering the fact that they only had two weeks of rehearsal. The girls looked like they were all having a lot of fun, singing and dancing their hearts out.  I have always believed that anyone can act if he or she is given the right part.  And these kids proved me right. They were all impressive in playing the characters they were assigned to do.  According to Audrey, she had the most embarrassing part in the whole show — Toto the dog. She was in a thick furry dog suit, bouncing around and sweating like crazy.  I could tell that there were moments she subconsciously wanted to hide when she was on stage. I told her afterwards that, like anything in life, the only way to enjoy something is to give it all. According to Angela who went to see her in today’s performance, Audrey was having a great time prancing around with confidence.  

I made some yummy avocado toast with massaged kale salad and lemon olive oil marinated fennel salad for lunch — a perfect light meal to enjoy two hours before curtain time. Massaged kale is one of Angela’s favorite salads, while the marinated fennel is Audrey’s favorite. The ingredients are deceptively simple, but the result is refreshing and tasty.

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Ingredients:

4 slices of bread of choice

2 avocados, separated

1 bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and sliced

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice, separated

2 tablespoons olive oil, separated

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon or more toasted pumpkin seeds

A pinch lemon zest (optional)

A couple of mint leaves (optional)

A few slices of radish (optional)

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Preparation:

Make the massaged kale salad according to instruction in this link

Make the marinated fennel according to the instruction in this link.

Mash 1 avocado with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

Toast the bread slices.

Spread mashed avocado evenly on the 4 pieces of toast.

Top the toast with kale salad or marinated fennel. Add thinly sliced avocados. Top with thinly sliced radish or mint leaves and sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds.

The recipe makes 4 servings.

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Rhubarb & Strawberries with Healthy Vanilla Ice Cream

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Rhubarb is in season — plump, crimson and shiny like jewels. I bought two pounds of these ruby stocks today and decided to try them in two different flavors. One with grapefruit juice, which turned out to be best chilled, and other other with a bit cinnamon and brandy that is better served warm. They are both quite delicious by themselves, but absolutely divine with my home made healthy vanilla ice cream.

Most people might associate Rhubarb with British desserts, but the Chinese have actually used the rhubarb roots as medicine for over two thousand years. Rhubarb traveled along the Silk Road to Europe in the 1400s, and then from England to America with the early settlers.

Why did my ancestors only use the roots for medicine and not the delicious stocks for dessert? As a matter of fact, my contemporaries in China don’t eat rhubarb either.  2700 years after it’s first recorded use as medicine in China, I think it’s high time for rhubarb to travel back to China as a dessert!  I am taking Audrey to see my parents in Shanghai this summer and will bring rhubarb seeds with us.  Apparently the rhubarb roots that are used for medicine in China is of a different variety from the one that we use in America to make desserts.

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Rhubarb & Strawberries in Grapefruit Juice

Ingredients:

5 cups rhubarb, sliced into 2 to 3 inch long strips

2 cups strawberries, stemmed and halved

1 cup or more red ruby grapefruit juice

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon xylitol or sugar

Zest from 1/2 lemon

Mint leaves for garnish

Preparation:

Place rhubarb, juice, xylitol or sugar, 1/2 of the zest in a pot over medium high. Cook until rhubarb is soft, gently stir as it cooks.  It may appear to have not enough liquid in the beginning, but as the rhubarb softens, it should be completely submerged in the liquid.  Add a little more grapefruit juice if there is not enough liquid.

Make sure that you don’t cook the rhubarb for too long or it will become too mushy. 

Turn off the stove and let it cool for a minute before folding in the strawberries. Serve cold or chilled.

Healthy Vanilla Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup fat-free Fage or other Greek Yogurt

1 1/2 cup 2% milk, or milk of choice

4 1/2 tablespoons xylitol or sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Preparation:

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. I used Vitamix. Pour into the ice cream maker and let churn for 25 to 30 minutes.

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Alternative:

Rhubarb & Strawberries with Brandy

Ingredients:

5 cups rhubarb, cut into desired shape

2 cups strawberries, stemmed and halved

1 cup water

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon xylitol or sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 cup brandy

Preparation:

Place rhubarb, water, xylitol or sugar, vanilla, cinnamon in a pot over medium high. Cook until rhubarb is soft, gently stir as it cooks. Pour the brandy in and stir for 30 seconds.  Turn off stove and add strawberries. Mix and let cool.  Serve warm or cold.

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.

Granola Bars & Walnut Coconut Bars

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School has started again and it’s time to make snacks for the girls to either bring in their backpacks or to enjoy after school.  These delicious granola bars and walnut coconut bars are packed with healthy nutrients and energy.  They are also great for breakfast if you are in a hurry in the morning which is what happens on most days for Angela and Audrey.

I had made the walnut coconut bars with dates before, but I made today’s with prunes, which are lower in sugar and higher in vitamins compared to dates.  You can use other nuts such as macadamia, cashew, almonds or pecan, but personally I think walnuts taste the best in this recipe.  

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Granola Bars

Ingredients: 

2 1/2 cup oatmeal (not quick cook)

1/2 cup sunflower seeds dry roasted no salt  (If you cannot find them you can use raw and toast them with the walnuts)

1 cup pecans or walnuts

1/4 cup brown sugar or xylitol

1/4 cup honey or maple syrup

1/4 cup unsalted butter or coconut oil

2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 t. kosher salt

1/2 cup dried cranberries

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Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325F.  Spread oats onto a sheet pan.  Place walnuts on a separate sheet pan.  Toast @325 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Stir oats after 10 minutes.  Take walnuts out after 10 min.

While oats and walnuts are roasting, add sugar, honey, butter, vanilla and salt to a saucepan and cook over medium heat.  Bring mixture to a boil.

Prep a clean sheet pan with parchment paper and non-stick spray

In a large mixing bowl, add dried fruit, the hot oat mixture, walnuts, and sunflower seeds and the hot syrup together.  Mix well.

Place mixture on prepared sheet pan.  Spread evenly.  Place another piece of parchment paper on top and then another sheet pan.  Press firmly.

Cool for at least 1 hour and the refrigerate for another 4 hours or overnight.

Cut into desired size and wrap each in plastic wrap.

The recipe makes approx. 12 bars.   

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Walnut Coconut Bars

Ingredients:

3/4 cup soft dried prunes, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dried tart cherries, coarsely chopped

1 heaping cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut + more to sprinkle on

Preparation:

Knead all ingredients together like kneading a piece of dough. 

Sprinkle shredded coconut on a sheet of saran wrap on a cutting board. press and fatten the fruit and nut dough on it.  Cover with another sheet of saran wrap and flatten it further with a roll pin. 

Remove the top saran wrap and cut into desired shape and size.

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2 Great Dishes with Fennel

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We went to a friend’s house for dinner last night.  I was to bring a fennel salad with burrata, yam casserole,  potato avocado salad and a no-bake mango cheesecake.  The ingredients for the dishes were prepared and packed in separate containers.  Then I took a shower, blow-dried my hair, put on makeup, got dressed and changed a few pairs of shoes before settling on a pair of Alexander Wang heels.  That was when I looked at the clock and realized that we were going to be late.  In the rush to leave the house, I left the pickled red onion for the potato salad and the burrata for the fennel salad in the fridge at home.  The mangos that I used to make the mango cheesecake were not as flavorful as the ones from Malaysia where I first made the cake.  I’m afraid that I have kind of ruined the Hungry Empress’s reputation.  

So today I remade the less-than-ideal dishes to redeem myself at least in my own mind.  I wish I could switch the dishes from last night like how people exchange gifts that don’t fit them on Boxing Day.

I received a beautiful two-toned ceramic serving bowl from my friend, whose house we were at last night.  I used it to serve my potato salad with the right ingredients for lunch. So Amy, if you read this, this is what I meant to bring yesterday.

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Potato Salad with Fennel, Avocado and Eggs in Greek Yogurt Dressing

Ingredients for the salad:

10 medium red skin potatoes, boiled and diced with skin on or off

1 tender fennel bulb, rough parts discarded and chopped

3 to 4 avocados, diced

4 to 5 boiled eggs

Pickled red onion from 1/2 red onion

Fresh lemon juice to coat the diced

Ingredients for pickled onion:

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup apple red wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon salt

Ingredients for the dressing:

1 cup Fage or other Greek yogurt

2 to 3 tablespoons pale mustard

2 stocks green onions, minced (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

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Preparation:

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and set aside.

To make pickled onion, bring vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add onion, bring to boil again and then remove from heat, and let sit 4 to 5 minutes; drain. Drain and let pickled onion cool.  Pickled onion should be crispy.  Don’t over cook it or let it stay in the hot brine for too long.

Boil the eggs for 5 minutes (counting from after the water boils) and rinse with cold water.  Do not over boil the egg. The yolks will get flaky if you overcook them.  Peel and cut into quarters.

Cook the potatoes in a pot of water to al dente and cut into bite size.

Cube the avocados and chop the fennel bulb.  To prevent the avocado from browning, coat the cubes with a little fresh lemon juice.

Toss all salad ingredients with the dressing.  Garnish with fennel fronds and serve at room temperature.

The recipe makes 8 to 10 serving.  You can easily half the recipe for fewer people.

I made a similar potato salad with chili peppers in the dressing when I was in Malaysia.  You can check out that recipe by clicking on the link here.

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Fennel Salad with Burrata:

Ingredients:

2 medium heads fennel, cored and very thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving

6 strips lemon zest, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon lemon juice

8  to 12 oz burrata

Fennel fronds for garnish

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Preparation:

Place fennel, oil, zest and lemon juice in a dish; season with salt and pepper. Let stand 10 to 20 minutes.  Just before serving, arrange fennel salad on a large platter. Cut burrata into halves or quarters and lay on fennel. Drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired.  Garnish with fennel fronds.

The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of mint leaves, but I found the salad delicious without it.

Chocolate Oatmeal Mug Cake

P1090250We had our wrap party last night, and everyone feels that we are almost at the finish line.  People are buying suitcases and clearing out their shelves and fridges.  Knowing that I cook, some have come to me with their leftover or never-opened sauces, noodles, oatmeal and eggs, etc., hoping that I will somehow be able to use them.

I made a couple of simple and yummy mug cakes for breakfast with some of the ingredients that I received.  If you are bored with oatmeal, try this chocolate oatmeal mug cake for a change.  It actually takes less time to cook than your usual oatmeal.  All you need is a blender and a microwave. Nothing beats a little dark chocolate to set you in the right mood for the day. And you can save the leftover as a snack or dessert later. 

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1 Minute Chocolate Oatmeal Mug Cakes

Ingredients:

1/4 cup rolled oats, ground to flour

3 tablespoon +1 teaspoon milk of choice

1 egg

2 scant tablespoons 100% dark cocoa powder

2 teaspoon brown sugar or xylitol

1/4 heaping teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon coconut oil or olive oil

Preparation:

Blend the rolled oats first before adding the rest ingredients in the blender, and then pour the mixture into two greased tea cups or ramekins.  Microwave for about 1 minute each. 

If you mix by hands, mix all dry ingredients together, and then all wet ingredients together before pouring the wet into the dry and mix thoroughly until smooth.

The length of microwave time depends on the power of your machine.  You might need to try one to figure out exactly how long it will take to make the cake in your microwave.  Start at a low time, 45 to 50 seconds and if it’s not done give it another 10 to 15 seconds.

You can also bake them in your toaster oven for 15 minutes.

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You can eat it right out of the cup or flip it onto a plate

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Try my other easy mug cake recipes:

Gluten-free Almond Apple Mug Cake

Chocolate Mug Cake with Banana

Easy Minute Almond Muffins

Cashew Cardamom Chia Pudding & Chocolate Chia Pudding

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Raining season is here in Malaysia. Dark and gloomy days call for sweet treats to lift up the spirits.  These chia puddings are the perfect thing to make for a day as grey as today — effortless to prepare and guiltless to eat.  You can make one before you go to bed and have it for breakfast.  Or you can make one before you leave the house for work and have it for dessert.  Basically it’s just a little workout for your arms — shaking the glass jar as vigorously as you can for a minute or two and voila!  My favorite chia pudding is coconut mango, especially when I can get my hands on the sweet and buttery Ipoh mangos here.  I also love mixed berry chia puddings. 

Today, I whipped up a cashew cardamom chia pudding and a chocolate chia pudding. These happened to be the ingredients that I had in my kitchenette.  They turned out quite delicious.  It has been fun for me to prepare food with limited resources and tools here in my service apartment.  I don’t have a car and can’t just dash to the market to get a missing ingredient, but I find this challenge interesting.  I’ve learned to make do with whatever I have and still cook healthy and delicious food.  I was never a part of the raw food movement — firmly believing that our ancestors’ discovery of fire was a crucial step for us to evolve into humans.  However, I have made quite a number of raw or nearly raw desserts since my arrival here.  There is simply no oven in my kitchenette. 

I think that there is an inherent opportunity whenever we are limited by our circumstances.  We experiment and become more inventive. 

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Cashew Cardamom Chia Pudding

Ingredients:

3 tablespoon chia seeds

1/2 cup raw cashew nuts

1 1/2 cup water

2 tablespoon raw honey

5 cardamom pods

A pinch of salt

Fruits and more cashews for garnish

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Preparation:

Soak the cashews in the water for 8 hours or overnight if you don’t have a powerful blender such as a Vitamix.  Blend the soaked cashew with the water, honey and the cardamom into cashew milk.

Pour the cashew mixture into a glass jar with a water tight lid, add chia seeds and shake vigorously for a minute.  Leave it in the fridge for 20 minutes or so.  Take out the jar and give it another vigorous shake. Put it back to the fridge for 6 hours or longer. The shaking is to prevent the chia seeds from clumping. If you don’t have time, you don’t have to shake it a second time.  If you prefer your pudding less solid, add a little more water.

Garnish with fruits and cashew nuts before serving.  Dried fruits and seeds will go well with this too.

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Chocolate Chia Pudding

Ingredients:

2 tablespoon chia seeds

1 cup milk of choice

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons unsweetened 100% cocoa powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar or xylitol or sweetener of choice

A pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1/4 vanilla extract

Fruits, seeds and shaved dark chocolate to garnish

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Preparation:

Mix the cup of milk with the cocoa powder, sugar, salt and vanilla paste into a chocolate milk and pour into a jar with a water tight lid.  Add chia and shake vigorously for a minute.  Leave it in the fridge for 20 minutes or so and shake it vigorously one more time.  Let sit in the fridge for 6 hours or longer.

Garnish with fruits and seeds before serving.

These puddings will keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.

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Mango Avocado Prawn Salad & No-Bake Healthy Mango Cheesecake

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My mangos and avocados finally ripened to perfection.   I made a mango, avocado shrimp salad and a no-bake mango cheesecake with them.  The zesty salad was simple to make, and it was very refreshing and delicious. The cheesecake was yummy and healthy — well, much lower in calorie than your ordinary cheesecake and more nutritious.

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Mango Avocado Prawn Salad with Chili Lime Dressing

Ingredients:

1 avocado, cubed

1 ripe sweet mango, cubed

6 large fresh prawns, cut in halves and poached

1 small Thai red onion or shallot, minced

1 small red chili pepper, seeded and minced

1 small green chili pepper, seeded and minced

1 to 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce

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Preparation:

Make the dressing by mixing together lime juice, fish sauce, shallot, chili peppers and cilantro. Save some sliced shallot, cilantro and chili pepper as garnish.

Toss the mango, avocado, Poached prawns with the dressing and garnish with thinly sliced, Thai red onion or shallot and cilantro.

Since avocado contains a lot fat, I didn’t need to use any oil for the dressing.  My mango is very sweet, so I didn’t need to add any sugar to the fish sauce.

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Note for poaching the prawns:

I always prepare the prawns by squeeze them for a minute or two with a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of Shao Xing cooking wine.  I let them sit in the salt and wine while boiling a pot of water with a few generous slices of ginger.  When the water is boiling, I add the prawns with the marinade into the water.  The water boils again and the prawns turn pink, drain the water and let the prawn cool.

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Healthy No-bake Mango Cheesecake

Ingredients For the Crust:

3/4 cup maple granola cereal

1/4 cup heaping chopped walnuts

1/2 cup soft Medjool dates

2 tablespoon 100% cocoa powde

1 tablespoon coconut oil

A pinch of salt

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I enjoy cooking with the challenge of limited tools and ingredients. It’s amazing what we can make do while producing delicious results.

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Ingredients for the Filling:

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

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

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

45g sugar

2 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 tablespoon agar agar flakes

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

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Preparation:

Knead all ingredients for the crust as you would a dough.

Press the crust “dough” tight in a prepared 8 or 9 inch tart dish. (I used a cooking pot lined with saran wrap.)

Leave the crust in the freezer as you prepare the filling.

Blend all ingredients for filling, except for the 1/2 cup of milk.

On low heat, boil the 1/2 cup milk with the agar agar flakes until melt. Transfer to the blender and blend with the mango cheese mixture until smooth.

Pour filling mixture into the prepared crust.

Refrigerate for 2 hours or freeze for 40 minutes for the cheesecake to set before serving.

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Note:

A friend told me that she made this cake with my recipe and it turned out a little too tart because her mangos were tart.  Taste your mango first, adjust the amount of mango, lemon, and sugar when blending the filling.

Sunday Eggs

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Most of the actors in Marco Polo eat a lot of eggs and chicken breasts — a high protein, low fat diet that helps them grow big muscles and look ripped, I was told.  That made me think of the Disney cartoon character Gaston in Beauty and Beast.  The kitchen is so used to actors eating lots of eggs that when I order my 5-minute boiled eggs in the morning, they come in fours unless I specifically ask for only one or two.  Claudia Kim, who plays Khutulun in the show, would eat six eggs in one go. She has been training to transform her slender willowy physique into one that is taut and muscular.  Unfortunate for me, I never get to train with them, because my character doesn’t move much at all.  I remember getting excited over a long tracking shot of me walking briskly as I talked — the biggest action I had in the entire season.  Needless to say, I don’t need to eat eggs the way they do.

But I love eggs.  The first few times the kitchen delivered 4 boiled eggs for breakfast, I actually ate them.  After a while, I stopped eating so many because I didn’t want to have clogged arteries and die of a heart attack.  Since I began taking Pilate lessons last week, I felt that I deserved some eggs for Sunday morning.  I made a Malaysian omelette for breakfast.  And when I saw a leftover boiled egg and some leftover black rice in the fridge, I made an egg prawn rice stack for lunch. It was fun to make the leftover into something new.

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Malaysian Omelette

Ingredients:

3 medium eggs

2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon coconut milk (full fat) or milk of choice

2 small Thai onion or shallots, thinly sliced

2 stocks spring onion or green onion

2 to 4 chili peppers or red and green jalapeño peppers, seeded and sliced

1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 tablespoon or more cooking oil

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Preparation:

Beat eggs with salt and coconut milk

Heat oil in a non-stick pan on medium high heat. Stir fry the Thai onion, spring onion, peppers until aromatic. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and turn the stove to medium. Let it cook for a minute or two.  When the omelette is set at the bottom, but still a little runny on top, fold it in three and turn off stove.

Serve with shrimp sambal sauce. 

Note:

Sambal is a Malaysian spicy sauce that can go with almost any food.  You can substitute with other spicy sauce of your choice if you can’t find it near you.

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Egg Prawn Stack

Ingredients for each stack:

1 hard boiled egg

1 tablespoon seeded and cubed English or Japanese cucumber

4 prawns, poached

2 to 3 tablespoon cooked black rice or other rice of choice

A dash or two of rice vinegar

Garnish with chives, sliced chili and sesame seeds

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Ingredients for sauce:

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon 100% pure dark sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 bird’s eye chili pepper, chopped

1/2 teaspoon chopped chives or spring onion

Mix more sauce if you are making more stacks

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Preparation:

Chop the cook prawns and set aside.

Chop boil egg(s) and mix with a dash of white pepper powder, a pinch of salt and a dash of rice vinegar.  You can also add 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise to each egg, and serve the stack with a mayo based sauce. But I decided against mayonnaise for obvious reasons.

Rinse the cup that you will use as a mold and do not dry it. Add cubed cucumber, then chopped egg mixture, then the prawns and finally the rice.  Press the rice down to pack the stack firm but not too tight.

Cover the plate with a small plate and flip it.  If the food sticks to the cup, use a knife to run around the edge to loosen it a bit.

Garnish with chopped spring onion, chili and sesame seeds.

Serve the stack with the sauce.

Fresh Sweet Corn Salad & Fresh Sweet Corn Fried Rice

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Angela and I flew back from Los Angeles on the first flight in the morning because she needed to cram for the physics final exam.  Tomorrow will be her last day as a Junior in high school.  She is 16, but already prefers the atmosphere and white noise of an internet cafe to home when she wants to concentrate.  Not just some Starbucks or Peet’s, she’d find some independent coffee house or teahouse to nest for the entire day.  I imagine her, donning a pair of earbuds, nursing a cup of coffee at some quaint little corner table.   

For a while, I was adamantly against the girls’ listening to music while doing homework.  How do  you focus or think properly with this continuous droning on?  How do you not go mad?   I read or  I listen to music, but never simultaneously; for me either of them is quite full and complete on its own.  I suppose the only multitasking I do well is adding snack eating to everything that I do.

Lately I have come to realize that almost everyone in the world can listen to music and focus on his work.  My own inability is somewhat of an anomaly.  Some study even shows that people seem to focus better — stay in a zone as they say — while listening to music.  Both Angela and Audrey listen to music when they do their homework. and apparently they are doing just fine in all their classes  As a matter of fact, Angela produced some of her greatest writing while wearing a pair of earbuds. The question is: If there is music all the time, does it still have the same impact it once did?

I will share with you Angela’s English final project at the end of today’s blog.  When Peter read it, he said, “Huh?”  And Angela smiled, “It is a story about you and me.  Or mommy and me.”  I don’t think many kids can write a story about her and her parents in this way.  Angela said, “You’d kill the blog if you post random stuff like this.”  Well, it’s not random for me.  Forgive me if it wears down your patience.  

Today’s food is all about fresh sweet corn.  They are in season and they are delicious.  We had them for lunch, and then we had them again for dinner.

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Fresh Sweet Corn Salad with Meyer Lemon Honey Mustard Dressing

Ingredients for the Salad:

Kernels from 4 fresh corns

2 tablespoon finely minced red onion

1 avocado, diced

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 cup cucumber, seeded and diced

1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

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Ingredients for the Dressing:

Juice from 1 large Meyer lemon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoon coarse ground Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

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Preparation:

Boil a large pot of water.  Put the shucked corn in the water when it reaches boiling temperature.  Boil for 2 minutes and rinse in cold water.  Cut the kernels off the cob.

Mix all ingredients for the dressing in a bowl.  Mix corn kernels with all the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and cilantro in a salad bowl.  Pour dressing into salad and stir to coat.  Add avocado and gently toss before serving.

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Fresh Sweet Corn Fried Rice with Tofu

Ingredients for the Fried Rice:

Kernel from 2 fresh corns

1 cup chopped baby carrots

1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas

2 eggs + 1/4 cup egg white, beaten

2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon minced green onion or chive

1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice

2 tablespoon low salt soy sauce

1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)

1/2 teaspoon xylitol (optional)

A pinch of salt

Wok Spray

1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used canola oil)

Roast sesame seeds for garnishing

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Ingredients for Tofu:

1 box of silken firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch slices

Wok Spray

1 tablespoon of oyster sauce or 2 teaspoons of soy sauce

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Preparation:

Combine egg and egg whites in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Season with a pinch of salt.

Heat a large sauté pan or wok over medium high heat and spray with oil. Add the eggs and cook, turning a few times until set; set aside.

Add the cooking oil and sauté onions, scallion, peas and carrots and cilantro about 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft.

Add cooked brown rice to the pan and stir for about a minute or so.  Add soy sauce, fish sauce and xylitol mixture. Stir and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg and toss to mix.  Turn of the stove.

Spray a separate non-stick pan on medium high, brown the sliced tofu on both sides.  Pour oyster sauce in the pan and turn off stove.  Mix to coat.

Separate the fried rice into 4 bowls and top with tofu.  Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds before serving.

Angela Audrey

As promised, here is Angela’s final project. Read at your own risk.

Angela Hui

Experiments in Fiction Period 3, Michael Holt

Due May 19, 2015

Final Project: “Redemption”

Retribution

Yesterday morning I awoke with my hair wet and limp as seaweed, with knots so beastly that I felt my cells screaming in each follicle as I forced my comb through every inch of matted mane. You told me this was punishment for my sins, which were accumulating like plaque in a glutton’s arteries, like vagabonds clogging a subway station. I stared back at you and said nothing, so you held my feather pillow to my face and kept the air out of my lungs until tears were coaxed from my swollen eyes.

When I noted how uncomfortably reassuring it was to feel the tears building up behind my eyelids, you remarked that the coldest days are the ones without snow, when the sky grows empty and our blood stagnates. I explained that the melting of snow is an exothermic reaction, which releases heat into the atmosphere, and I was reunited with my pillow until blackness slunk across my field of vision like a panther stalking its prey, like a conductor gradually silencing an orchestra.

Confession

Before I met you I did not know right from wrong, and like a mosquito buzzing from place to place and feeding on the blood of innocents, I let free my inner filth to pullulate godlessly through the city like a venereal disease through a college campus. I sold breath mints as ecstasy, went to bed with wet hair and later snorted the mold growing inside my pillowcase, drew pentagrams on my palms to keep Lucifer from prophesying my demise. Before you taught me to renounce the devil, he was my closest friend, and in the dark when my pupils dilated, his smoke-blurred silhouette could be seen branded into my retina.

In the nighttime I would gather in a circle with other youths and pass around a large silvery balloon, our conspiratory glances flitting about the room like bruised butterflies as we inhaled deeply from the buoyant phosphorescent orb. Our voices would become as dizzying and tart as hard lemonade bubbling in a demon’s cauldron. I liked to step back and listen to the strange noises my peers produced, but as the night drew on the sounds would always become increasingly jarring, like dissonant chords lunging, anguished and unrestrained, at my eardrums.

Without fail, I would sit silently at the kitchen counter the morning after, sipping canned soup and tea, wondering how much I had dreamt and how much I had forgotten. My roommate would stumble in as well, cheeks swollen, knuckles scraped, smelling of vomit and sadness; I would imagine her fantastic death, something that would provide a fire show to the stimulation-starved villagers, perhaps a kind of sudden incineration due to the sheer volume and flammability of alcohol in her veins. She would always hide the matches and the lighters, as if she knew how badly we all wanted to watch her burn, to admire the bright color of the flames, the air breathing back the energy that was once her soul.

I had come close before to killing her; I had once grabbed her turkey neck, wringing it and watching her eyes bulge and her fat limbs writhe, all because I did not want her to follow me around. Her every footstep was booming, her heels sending cracks straight into the earth’s core, each aftershock grabbing me by the sternum and shaking me savagely. The sky was empty on this day, and it was very cold; my hands would not stay steady and so she eventually escaped from my grip, sputtering obscenities and beating at the air with every breath as if punishing it for ignoring her cries.

The next day we both pretended that no attempt to slay her had been made: her downcast eyes refused to meet my gaze; I imagined the click of a lighter igniting her rippled flesh; I thought of roasting Brussels sprouts over her blazing carcass, selling her melted remains to high-end soap manufacturers, letting her turn to foam and dissolve into sudsy water and drain into oblivion.

Re-Education

After I met you I had to learn the error of my ways. It is impolite to kill, you taught me, and even the snapping of a twig warranted tearful repentance. You showed me the anguish experienced by every life form, even the trees surrounding the town park benches: I noticed the way they sprouted reluctantly, as if to avoid the mutilated corpses of their brethren, which had been stitched together to be exploited by humans and were now relegated to the realm of practicality rather than beauty, truly the most pathetic of Frankenstein’s monsters; I noticed the small patches of green growing rebelliously on the mangled trunks and branches, as though they were shaking their bleeding fists at humanity. Everywhere I went, I began to hear the mournful moans of nature, those astringently trilling tritones, fast quivering in the air that gasped godlessly and always forgot to die.

It is wrong to kill, always wrong to kill, you told me. For each log in the fireplace I began to see severed limbs and fingers trapped in their final contortions of terror, in each bowl of salad the uprooted hairs and fingernails of defenseless creatures, still lifes still life. You broke an old bottle of mine, slashed the jagged pieces across my forearms, reassuring me that the half-evaporated remnants of Belgian ale would prevent infection and facilitate scabbing. As my blood spurted into the soil and seeped into the tangled roots of the nearby mangroves, you explained that killing me twelve times over would not be enough, that I had caused too much suffering to ever achieve true penitence. When my eyes widened in shock, you spotted the image of Lucifer etched behind my irises and you freed them from their sockets, clutching them gently as though they were nacre-encrusted diamonds at long last released from the rusted jaws of dying oysters, and I felt pinkened globules of vitreous trickling slowly down my cheeks.

When my sight grew back, the devil was gone and I wondered whether he had ever existed outside of my vision. I could see again but my friends were missing; the beast had killed them when he dragged them down with him into the unreachable realm of the unreal.

Now you can repent, you said.

Repentance

Today I realized how many years of my life I hoped to undo and when you told me I could not change anything, I caught a spider and snapped off its legs one by one, smiling softly at the sound of each spindly limb popping off cleanly like a stem from a cherry. I heard the spider wailing in pain, its legless torso thrashing electrically before I removed its head and blew it into the sky as though it were a dandelion seed.

I asked you why I should repent if the past is permanent and your eyes faded to a lower harmonic before you admitted that memories could be altered and no one would ever know. But every contact leaves a trace, I protested.

Then you kicked sand over the corpse of the spider and said no, not if you are careful, not if time forgives you.

Angela,

This is great work. Diabolical, to be sure, but also clinically precise, well-organized in distinct chapters, and full of charged, wickedly enticing imagery. Though the voice of Schulz comes through most clearly, you are far along the path to creating a voice of your own. Your penchant for the grotesque has deepened, has entered an advanced, potentially irreversible stage. Things have reached the point where someone has to tell you it is wrong to kill. The “you” in this piece appears as a kind of savior, but a somewhat cruel, ironic one, intent on carving irremovable scars, on the one hand, and covering the past in sand on the other. That contradiction encodes your interlocutor with a gripping sense of mystery. Addressing the story to this person is one of the most inventive parts of your piece. It helps you generate the narrative movement from retribution to redemption. At the sentence level, too, this is consistently inventive work. Your images are terrifying vivid. My only suggestion would be that you pay a little more attention to the rhythm of your sentences. Your clauses are occasionally too long. Not your sentences—I like long sentences—but your clauses. Striving for a little more concision in your images would create even more intensity in your prose. It would deliver the content with greater impact. Try reading your sentences aloud to get a sense of what I mean. This is, however, a very small criticism. It is actually just a suggestion. Overall this is fantastic work that represents a lucid, inspired involvement with the things we’ve read in this class.

Michael       95/100