Moroccan Chickpea & Turkey Stew

P1060477

Tiffanie Hsu is the writer director for Adeline, a film that Audrey will star in.  Tiffanie is a 27-year-old Harvard graduate.  In my girls’ eyes, the Harvard degree instantly gives her credibility and legitimacy.  Tiffanie came up from LA today to see Audrey and she assigned her to read the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Audrey dutifully purchased it on Amazon and began reading it as soon as Tiffanie left the house.  Perhaps I should ask Tiffanie to tell her to practice piano, or to do dishes. 

To give Audrey a crash course in acting, we watched Natalie Portman’s first film, The Professional.  Portman’s fierce raw talent simply incinerated the screen. Audrey loved the film so much that she wanted to watch it again tomorrow.  She seems to take this spring break acting gig quite seriously.

I wonder what life has in store for Audrey.  What will be her passion?  What will give her meaning, and in turn make her happy? 

Seeing how quickly my children grow up right in front of my eyes brings a twinge in my guts.  It’s frightening how time skates by so fast.  I can easily flash forward and see myself like my own mother waiting thousands of miles away for her wayward children to visit home.   

Audrey told me this morning that she was having a free weekend, meaning that she would allow herself to eat some meat.  I instantly began to cook this Moroccan Chickpea and Turkey Stew.  I found that a pot of stew is perfect for the weekend — you cook it on Saturday and it will last you till Monday.

P1060470   P1060471

P1060473   P1060491

Moroccan Chickpea & Turkey Stew

Ingredients:

1.3 lb package 99% lean ground turkey

1/4 cup cooking wine

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, light

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 tbsp poblano pepper, chopped

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

2 1/2 ripe tomatoes, diced

2 (15 oz) cans chick peas, drained

2 cups low sodium, 99% fat free chicken broth*

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 tsp coarse salt

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup Bertolli Organic Olive Oil, Basil & Garlic tomato sauce (optional)

2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley or spearmint, chopped

P1060475

Preparation:

Mix ground turkey with cooking wine.  Let sit in the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes while you chop the vegetables.

Heat a large nonstick skillet with 1 tbsp olive oil and over medium high heat cook ground turkey for 10-12 minutes.  Break up the ground meat and mix so meat cooks evenly; place in a soup pot.

Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet, add onions, tomatoes, pepper, carrots, and celery and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Transfer to the soup pot with chick peas, spices, broth and gently mix well.  Cover and bring to boil, then simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

Garnish with fresh herbs.

P1060483   P1060493

Adapted from: skinnytaste.com

Chinese Shredded Pork + Homemade Graham Crackers

P1030976

Parenting drama erupted between Peter and Audrey.  Having been woken up multiple times two nights in a row and working without a weekend brought Peter pretty much to the brink of his  breaking point.  Audrey’s insolent attitude was all it took for him to fly into a rage.  I will not give you the blow by blow, but let’s just say it was pretty bad.  All of us were exhausted by the emotional strain.  Everyone felt hurt, victimized and guilty.

I escaped to the kitchen.  As I stepped away and began methodically cleaning up the kitchen, I felt a calm fell on me like a fuzzy blanket.  I remembered an old Chinese proverb 退一步海阔天空, which means “Retreat one step, the sea is wide, the sky limitless.”  The proverb is actually from a couplet that starts with 忍一时风平浪静, meaning “Tolerate one moment, the wind turns calm, the waves peaceful.”  I’m afraid I may have lost the beauty in the original words that carry such a visual sense of the sudden broadening of the horizon in front of you when you shift your perspective by taking one little step back. Of course we couldn’t all live in such a philosophical and detached manner as in Chinese proverbs.  We never feel we are good enough as parents simply because we love our children too much to feel anything is good enough.

There is a Shanghainese term for children 讨债鬼 — debt collecting ghosts — meaning whatever you do, you owe them.  When I was growing up I heard this phrase yelled out by neighbors and friends’ parents all the time, but I never thought much about it.  For some reason, my parents never called my brother and I 讨债鬼. They were too cultured for it, I suppose.  Certainly we gave them just as much grief. 

Audrey had a complete recovery from her hysteria in the afternoon when a friend came to visit and they ate ice cream sandwiches together.  Audrey was chatting and laughing like nothing had ever happened.  Her friend said that she didn’t have eaten and began eating the leftover shredded pork that I made for lunch.  She loved it, “This chicken is really good,” she kept saying.  And I wasn’t sure if I should tell her that this was not chicken.  I was afraid she might be grossed out.  I have learned that in America, not everyone likes pork as I do.  Instead of explaining the dish, I casually asked her if she ever fought with her father.  She nonchalantly said yes, about once a week.  I asked what about and she said usually over small things.  I felt somewhat relieved that what happened this weekend was not unique to our household.

The two girls went shopping at Target, each bought a bag of “things.”  Audrey bought a pair of bunny ears for Easter, lolly pop, Febreeze and a pink rabbit mold, all for 11 dollars.  The shopping spree gave her the leisurely pleasure she wanted today, but I’m sure these things will be forgotten and get piled up somewhere at a corner in a couple of weeks. Once again sabotaging my efforts at “discarding what no longer spark joy” as per Marie Kondo.

When Peter came back from work at 8 pm, Audrey went to him and said, “I’m sorry I gave you the attitude.”  Peter’s exhausted face lit up as he gave her a big bear hug.  I am proud that Audrey instinctively understood to “retreat one step.”

I thought of a passage from Housekeeping, one of my favorite books by one of my favorite writers Marilynne Robinson: “At a certain level housekeeping is a regime of small kindnesses, which, taken together, make the the world salubrious, savory, and warm.  I think of the acts of comfort offered and received within a household as precisely sacramental.”

P1030981

Shredded Pork Tenderloin with Peppers

Ingredients for the Marinade:

2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp minced ginger

Ingredients for the Dish:

8 oz. pork tenderloin

1 tsp corn starch

1 tsp pure sesame oil

1 large jalapeño pepper, sliced lengthwise

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

3 tbsp scallion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp ginger, minced (1/2 for the marinade and 1/2 for cooking)

1 1/2 tbsp canola oil

Ingredients for the sauce:

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp rice vinegar

2 tsp xylitol or brown sugar

1/4 tsp corn starch

P1030978

Preparation:

Wash the pork and slice the pork into 1/4 inch by 2 inch strips.  Rinse the pork until all the pink in the water is clear, drain.  Marinate pork in wine and soy sauce for 30 minutes to 2 hours in the fridge.

In the meantime, slice the peppers, set aside.  Mince the garlic, ginger, scallion.  Add 1/2 tsp minced ginger in the marinade and mix the rest with minced garlic and minced scallion in a small bowl. 

Drain the marinade from the pork and add 1 tsp corn starch, 1 tsp sesame oil and mix well with your hand or a spoon.

Heat the oil on high heat in a wok, sprinkle some minced garlic, ginger, scallion and let it sizzle for a while.  Add the shredded pork and stir for one minute.  Add all the garlic, ginger, scallion and stir for one more minute.  Add the peppers and continue to stir for another 2 minutes.  Pour in the sauce and give it a few good stir before turning of the stove. 

Homemade Graham Cracker

Ingredients:

1 cup plus 2 tbsp whole-wheat flour (or white, or arrowhead mills gf will work, too)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp salt

3 tbsp xylitol

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 tbsp blackstrap molasses(or maple syrup)

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 tbsp water or milk of choice

P1030997  P1060005

Preparation:

Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet in a separate bowl, then mix together. Form a ball with your hands (or, if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, put the mixture in a plastic bag and squish into a ball). Place the ball on a piece of wax paper, then place another sheet on top and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into very thin (graham-cracker) width. Cut into squares or cookie-cuttered shapes, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, depending on whether you like your graham crackers super-soft or crispy.

P1060008

Adapted from: chocolatecoveredkatie

Chinese New Year Potstickers

P1020909

P1030115

When I was growing up in Shanghai, winter break from school usually began a week or so before Lunar New Year.  My mother would take me and my brother to the fabric store, and then to the tailor’s to have new clothes made.  For many years during our childhood, this would be the only time when new clothes were made — one set for cold weather and one set for warm weather.  Though I loved to have new clothes, the more exciting part about winter break was the food preparation for the New Year.  My brother and I would get up very early in the mornings leading up to the New Year’s Eve to stand in line to buy eggs, pork or rice cakes.  Meat or poultry or belt fish would be hung on the clothesline on the balcony, which was like a natural fridge, to get “wind dried.”  Once a year before the Lunar New Year, each family could also purchase the rationed luxury food of half a kilo of red dates, half a kilo of smoked black dates and half a kilo of peanuts.  A man who traveled with a coal stove and a fire blackened popping contraption would arrive around this time to pop corn, rice or dried rice cake slices for the children in the neighborhood.  The contraption would make a loud explosive sound when it was ready to pour out the popped grains, and the waiting crowd would cheer wildly.  During those years of scarcity, the anticipatory thrill of the New Year feast was almost too much for me to bear. 

P1030112

There would always be cousins from out of town coming back to see their grandparents during this time.  Their parents — my parents’ siblings — had been assigned jobs in remote regions where life was much harder than ours in Shanghai.  I envied them for having the opportunity to ride in trains.  Little did I know how hard the train trips were during Lunar New Year when some of my cousins had to sit or sometimes stand in packed trains for two days to get to Shanghai. 

My mother called me from Shanghai to tell me that she and my father are meeting with their siblings in Shanghai for lunch today.  Like me, most of their children now live in America.  And our children have no idea what New Year feast used to mean to us. 

Today, I taught Audrey how to make dumplings — a Lunar New Year must-eat food.  It’s supposed to bring prosperity to the family for the shape of the dumpling resembles Yuan Bao — the ancient gold bullion.  

P1020885    P1020878

P1020897  P1020880

Ingredients:

2 pack store-bought dumpling wrappers

Water, for wrapping

Filling for Pork Shrimp Cabbage Dumplings:

8 oz ground pork

4 oz shelled and deveined shrimp, cut into small pieces

1/2 heaping cup thinly sliced Napa cabbage 1 stalk scallion, cut into small rounds

1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese Shaoxing wine or rice wine

3 dashes white pepper powder

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

A good pinch of salt

Filling for Spinach Braised Tofu Dumplings:

10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, drained and squeezed dry

6 oz. braised tofu, or Five Spice Tofu or Wildwood Savory tofu

5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and squeezed dry, chopped

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon soy sauce

A good pinch of salt

A dash of white pepper powder

1 egg white

1 teaspoon corn starch

Dipping Sauce:

Chinese black vinegar

Soy sauce

Chopped scallion

Pepper flakes

Sesame oil

P1030119

Preparation:

Mix all the ingredients of the Filling in a bowl, stir and mix to combine well. Set aside. To make the Dipping Sauce, combine some 1 portion of black vinegar, 1 portion of soy sauce, 1/2 portion sesame oil, scallion and pepper flakes in a small sauce dish.

To assemble the dumplings, take a piece of the dumpling wrapper and add about 1 heaping teaspoon of the Filling in the middle of the wrapper. Dip your index finger into a small bowl of water and circle around the outer edges of the dumpling wrapper. Fold the dumpling over to form a half-moon shape. Finish by pressing the edges with your thumb and index finger to make sure that the dumpling is sealed tight.

P1020898  P1020900 P1020887  P1020903

If you want to the dumplings to sit up, you fold the wrap one said flat and the opposite side bunched.  Place the dumplings on a flat and floured surface to avoid them from sticking to the surface. Repeat the same to use up all the filling.  The dumplings taste the best when eaten freshly wrapped, but you can also freeze the dumplings for future enjoyment.

Heat up a pot of water until it boils. Drop the dumplings into the boiling water and cover the pot. As soon as the dumplings start to float (meaning they are cooked), remove them using a slotted spoon, draining the excess water and serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

P1030113    P1030116

Or you can make potstickers by heating up 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick pan, making sure the the entire bottom of the pan is coated with oil. Line the dumplings in the pan.  Let the dumplings sit and sizzle for half a minute and pour 2/3 cup of water with 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar into the pan and cover the lid.  When the water is dry, the potstickers are ready.

Recipe adapted from: http://rasamalaysia.com

Nutty Citrusy Kumquat Muffins

   P1030017

 I got a call today from a friend whom I haven’t heard from in a long time.  She is very much into astrology, and some years ago she had my astrological chart read by some very renowned astrologist in Shanghai unbeknownst to me.  She shared the findings with me afterwards and I remember one of the things was that I should never wear the color brown.  She meant well, but I told her I didn’t believe in astrology.  Through out the years though, what she said would pop up in my mind whenever I shopped for clothes.  And subconsciously I avoided buying anything that was brown.

Today’s call was about some dissonance between my astrological sign in the Year of Ram.  My friend had my sign read again and was calling to warn me to be extra careful.  Now what do you do with a call like this? 

1369025_121928978000_2

Well, the Chinese remedy everything by eating the right kind of food.  One of the lucky foods that we eat during Luna New Year is Kumquat.  As a matter of fact, any citrus fruit is considered lucky because the word “citrus” sounds like the word “auspicious.” Kumquat is the most auspicious because it sounds like “golden auspicious.”  

   P1030025

Nutty Citrusy Kumquat Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cup 100% whole wheat flour

1/4 cup canola oil

1 cup Kumquat jam (see note)

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup pecan nuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup nonfat lemon Greek yogurt

1/4 cup xylitol or sugar

The recipe makes about 16 – 18 muffins.

   P1030014

Preparation:

Mix all dry ingredients together.  Add all wet ingredients in the mixed dry ingredients.  Mix well, but don’t over mix.  Leave a little lumpiness in.

Preheat oven at 375, line or grease muffin pan.  Add muffin mix to the cups and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. 

Serve with Greek yogurt and kumquat jam.

 P1030027

Note:

I made the kumquat jam the day before with about 1 pound kumquats, 1 cup xylitol (or sugar), 1 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract.  Cut and seed the kumquats and cook with all ingredients for 30 to 40 minutes. 

P1030019

Baked Coconut Yam Fries

P1020723

I caught Audrey listening to Taylor Swift while practicing piano a couple of times.  I also caught her practicing with one hand while snacking with the other a couple of times.  Finally I decided that her playing piano was a futile effort for everyone involved.  Peter and I sat her down a couple of weeks ago and told her that we were letting her off the hook, that it was okay with us if she didn’t play the piano any more.  Unexpectedly, she said she didn’t want to stop.  She insisted on continuing to take lessons.  We told her that it would be her choice to either practice much more conscientiously or to stop entirely.  We told her to think it overnight and let us know her decision the next day.  The next day Audrey solemnly declared that she would practice everyday and with focus, that she wanted to continue piano. 

It’s been about two weeks since her own decision to continue playing the piano and I am hearing a marked improvement in her playing.  Life is full of surprises.

P1020708

P1020728

Baked Coconut Yam Fries

Ingredients:

1 yam (spiralized or sliced)

2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil (melted)

1/4 cup unsweetened shaved coconut

1/2 tablespoon xylitol or sugar (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Coat the spiralized or sliced yam with coconut oil and shaved coconut in a baking pan.  Spread a thin layer of yam in the baking dish. You may need two baking pans for this.  The fries will not be crispy if the layer is too thick.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes and then flip over. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until browned. 

P1020724

Pickled Green Turnip, A Taste From My Childhood

P1020582 2
Shanghai has changed so much in the recent years that most of the places from my childhood memory no longer exist, but the familiar foods are still everywhere from my parents’ house to street vendors.  And they fill me with nostalgia.
Yesterday I made a jar of pickled green turnip and it’s ready to eat today! They make the crunchiest and most refreshing appetizer or a side dish or a savory snack. I used to have pickled or dried turnip with porridge at breakfast every morning. I never thought they were particularly delicious in anyway.  They were just a part of a very meager diet.  Back then, no one had refrigerators and we often pickled or dried our food to preserve them.  But this once mundane everyday staple became completely new and special after decades of living in America.
P1020584
Basic Pickled Turnip Ingredients:
2 turnips
30 to 40 grams salt or to taste
4 to 6 chili peppers
1/4 teaspoon peppercorn or Chinese 花椒
1 pack Equal or other sweetener that is not sticky
 P1020588
Preparation:
Wash and scrub and peel the turnips.  Slice them into two inch long wedges.  Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl or any large container before transferring them to a jar.  Let it stay for at least an hour and up to two days, either in the fridge or in room temperature.  Pour out all the juice that came out of the turnip.  Press a serving spoon on the turnip and squeeze out as much water as you can.
P1020578

Marco Pol(l)o

2-tv-chen-marco-art-gv2viqdb-12-tv-chen-3-jpg

Marco Polo just got renewed for a 2nd season!  Yay!  Reunion with my Mongolian Beef and hordes of international eye candy.  And of course playing the wonderful Empress Chabi. This is exciting news for everyone involved, myself included.

But what about my family?  Though my girls act as if I annoy them all the time, they are at an age when they most need a mother’s guidance and influence.  In my younger days, I used to love this caravan life of a circus person — traveling the world while doing something I loved to do.  Having children has changed everything. While I believe many can do my job as an actress or filmmaker, only I can be the mother for my children.  There are times I become paralyzed by the prospect of a great opportunity, knowing fulfilling my desire and realizing my dreams professionally also mean abandoning the people I love.   P1020077

Work is a double edged sward for me.  Perhaps it is so with most working mothers.  I realize that I am lucky to be in this dilemma.  Many people don’t have the choices that I’m facing.  The ingredients of fulfillment is difficult to balance, but I have a secret ingredient in life — my husband Peter, the best husband and father anyone could ask for.  He is my lobster.  He is my salt.

And he does dishes.

P1050308

To celebrate Marco Polo’s 2nd season, I made a delicious Chinese dish called Three-Cup Chicken (三杯鸡).   Historically, it was made of 1 chicken with 1 cup each of soy sauce, cooking wine and sugar.  The dish has evolved through time to its contemporary version.  Mine was adapted from the recipe from rasamalaysia.com.

P1020512

Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken drumsticks (I used 1 lb. of skinless thighs)

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil or toasted sesame oil

2-inch piece old ginger, peeled and cut into thin pieces

2 to 3 dried red chili pepper, without the seeds (optional)

7 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 shallot, sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 tablespoon xylitol or sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine + 2 tablespoon to marinate the chicken

A big bunch Thai basil leaves

(I added 2 small boiled red skin potatoes, halved and peeled.  This dish ordinarily does not use potatoes, but I improvised this time because I had two boiled potatoes lying around. I added the boiled potato after I poured in the sauce and before I cover the lid.  They tasted yummy with the chicken.)

P1020518

Preparation:

Cut the chicken into pieces and marinate in 2 tablespoon of cooking wine for 10 to 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry.  Add 1 tablespoon of corn starch to the chicken and mix well.

Heat up a wok or clay pot on high heat and add the dark sesame oil. Add the ginger, garlic, shallot, chili pepper and stir-fry until aromatic.

Add in the chicken and do a few quick stirs. Add the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, xylitol or sugar and continue to stir-fry the chicken. Cover the chicken and lower the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add the basil leaves and stir well with the chicken, dish out and serve immediately with steamed rice.

  P1020507

Nietzsche and a Vegetable Sauté

P1020286

Now that the holiday vacation is over and the house is quiet, I could take time to reflect upon the important events of last year and give thanks to all the good that has come from the bad.  There was a period of time last year when both Peter and I were stressed out and in crisis mode because our children were going through difficulties in their young lives.  We worried about and feared for them. Peter’s hair turned grey seemingly overnight.

I feel fortunate that we have endured and life is thriving again.  I’m sure our children will face many more challenges in life, but I hope having overcome severe obstacles has made them more tenacious. 

When I was going through a very difficult time in my late 20s, a friend gave me Nietzsche’s The Will To Power as a source of strength and comfort.  I took it off the shelf today and opened it to a passage that my friend had underlined and bookmarked for me a long time ago, “To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities — I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not — that one endures.”

I’m a mother and I could never wish any suffering upon my children, but I understand the value of all the “bad stuff” that happen to us in life.

I don’t have a New Year resolution, but I do have a New Year Prayer.  I pray for the wellbeing of my loved ones and I pray for courage and strength to endure and triumph in the face of adversity.

P1020289

Vegetable Sauté Ingredients:

8 to 10 oz. green bean

1/2 red bell pepper (sliced)

1/2 yellow bell pepper (sliced)

1 pack of Wildwood Savory Tofu (2 pieces)

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 to 2 tablespoon canola oil

4 thin slices of ginger

Preparation:

Poach the green beans in boiling water for about 3 to 4 minutes or until tender but not too soft and discard the boiling water. Rinse cold water over the green beans to stop them cooking.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok on high, add the ginger slices and let sizzle.  When the ginger slices are a little browned, add the bell pepper and stir for about 4 minutes.  Add the poached green beans and the tofu and stir for a minute.  Mix in the soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar.

Serve immediately with rice.

P1020276

As I write, I could almost hear Nietzsche stir in his grave as he is being quoted next to a vegetable stir-fry.  As a matter of fact, the very act of blogging one’s life would be conceived as “the constant fluttering around the single flame of vanity.”  But then again, maybe not.  His New Year resolution for 1882 was to be a yea-sayer and a beautifier of life: “For the New Year—I still live, I still think; I must still live, for I must still think. Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum. To-day everyone takes the liberty of expressing his wish and his favorite thought: well, I also mean to tell what I have wished for myself today, and what thought first crossed my mind this year,—a thought which ought to be the basis, the pledge and the sweetening of all my future life! I want more and more to perceive the necessary characters in things as the beautiful:—I shall thus be one of those who beautify things. Amor fati: let that henceforth be my love! I do not want to wage war with the ugly. I do not want to accuse, I do not want even to accuse the accusers.Looking aside, let that be my sole negation! And all in all, to sum up: I wish to be at any time hereafter only a yea-sayer!”

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Our mother needed a break today, as all mothers occasionally do. Audrey is cooking dinner, which terrifies me, and I am writing today’s blog post.

P1040845

Tonight’s dinner is vegetarian spaghetti squash lasagna. This healthy lasagna is low-carb, reduced-calorie, paleo (depending on what marinara sauce and cheeses you use), “clean” (depending on your very subjective definition of “clean”), high-protein and veggie-packed! Hey, I think I hit all the buzzwords! Seriously, though, this lasagna is delicious but far far better for you than your usual starch- and fat-laden junk from Olive Garden or whatever.

P1040857

The idea of spaghetti squash lasagna is not a new one, but given our great love for all things spaghetti squash and all things lasagna, we thought it would be appropriate to make our own recipe and share it with everyone.

P1040874

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Serves 3-4 hungry people

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups cooked spaghetti squash (we microwaved the halved squash for about 8 minutes)
  • 1 cup marinara sauce (we used Francesco Rinaldi no-salt-added tomato sauce)
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese (we used Trader Joe’s Fat-Free Ricotta)
  • 1 oz or 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, shredded
  • 6 oz or 1.5 cups mozzarella shreds (we used Lucerne Fat-Free Mozzarella, which has 9 grams of protein per ounce, about 50% more than regular mozzarella!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Layer the spaghetti squash, marinara sauce, ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella in an oven-safe casserole dish, making sure that the topmost layer is a cheesy layer!
  3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the foil and broil until the cheese bubbles.
  5. Eat!

P1040873

make salad with the leftovers!

make salad with the leftovers!

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna, 中文 Translation

今天我们的妈妈很累,所以妹妹做了晚饭,我得写今天的博客。对不起,我的中文不好。

我们今天的晚餐是健康的烤宽面条,其实一点面也没有。最近美国人不喜欢吃面粉,因为他们都觉得麸质是有毒的。当然麸质没有什么不好的,我常常吃面筋,可是面粉其实没有什么营养,而且吃面粉会让你的血糖提高,所以吃这种没有太多碳水化合物的食品会让你健康,对你的小蛮腰好。

我不知道你懂不懂我的中文。我的父母不知道我的中文这么差,因为我考AP中文考了一个五(最高分)。其实,谁都考了一个五,化学考试也是的。请别告诉他们,我中文是很马虎的。哈哈哈,我是老虎,妹妹是马,我们最的事当然都是很马马虎虎的。

成分:

  • 差不多710 mL意大利面条壁球 (谢谢,Google 翻译)
  • 237mL 防切将
  • 425 g 乳清干酪 (谢谢,Google 翻译)
  • 28 g 干酪 (谢谢,Google 翻译。不知道你对不对。)
  • 170 g 无肥马苏里拉奶酪

用这些成分做lasagna,有没有那么难!快吃!很好很强大!

我们在养这个草泥马,真可爱!

My first kiss went a little like this…

Chase painting Joan

Chase painting me when I was 19 before I came to the US

SCAN0011

SCAN0024

Vanity Fair Magazine write-up on the book Chase and I made

Dusting the living room coffee table this morning, I saw the book my brother Chase and I made when we were starving artists in Los Angeles.  We reminisced about our childhood in China, which was still a strong influence in Chase’s art work after he came to the US.  Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa wrote in his Letters to a Young Novelist: “The novelist doesn’t choose his themes; he is chosen by them.  He writes on certain subjects because certain things have happened to him.”  This is also true with artists or filmmakers. 

SCAN0130 2

Chase and I being the Marx brothers for Halloween

SCAN0015

Chase’s self portrait from that era

I am sharing parts of the book here in this blog:

SCAN0018

When we were children, we spent most of our time leaning on the window, looking out and day dreaming. 

My brother taught me how to really see the things that we looked at, how there were shapes in what appeared to be one shape, and colors in what I thought to be one color.  How did he know all this?  I didn’t know.  He was older than me.  Older brothers knew these things.

SCAN0008

We stared at the black roof tiles, grey buildings, brown dirt and green tree tops for hours on end.  The geometry of the shadow changed as the day went on.  The clouds were never the same from minute to minute.  Nature went out of its way to please us — kids with no toys.

One morning, just before dawn, I woke up to see my brother propped up on his elbows by the window sill.  He had the abstract expression of someone in a trance.  Curious, I joined him and looked out.  Everything slumbered still in primeval blue, blurred and dewy.  The world was absolutely calm and still, I could hear my own heart beating.  It was as though the first time in my life I became aware of the creature that was myself.  And I was living the morning’s first stirring breath of air, the first bird taking wing and the sun winking above the horizon.

SCAN0009 2

Why is it that some moments stay with us, moments that didn’t seem significant?  I close my eyes and I can see the blue mist of that morning, and feel the moist air in my nostrils.

P1040485

My mother saw us looking at the sky and bought us a picture book called Forecast the Weather by Observing the Sky.  She hoped that our staring at the sky would somehow turn into an educational experience.  “The red sky forecast a high wind and storm tomorrow,” I’d account at the end of the day.  Or, “the fish-scaled clouds suggest a light drizzle.” I finally had something important to say.

SCAN0017 (1)

My mother with my brother Chase in front of our house

SCAN0017

Even in the coldest of winter, we sat by the window and stared.  Our feet rested upon a round box made of wrought iron, filled with poplar wood cinder, covered with fine ashes.  The box was called a foot-warmer.

Before Lunar New Year, after my mother did the rationed special purchase for the festivity, our room would be filled with the warm odor of chestnuts, sweet yams, or dates being cooked in the foot-warmer.  I would feel happy and drowsy from the sweet aroma and carbon monoxide that the brazier emanated.

We looked into other people’s windows too.  Some of the windows looked like mirrors of our own.  The same little faces staring back, lost in their imaginations or boredom.  In the window across from ours lived an older girl with very long black hair.  Every time she lifted her arm to tie her pony tail, I wished I was her.  My mother caught me watching and said, “A big waste of soap to wash all that hair.”  Soap was scarce.  Throughout my childhood, the length of my hair stayed firmly at my earlobe.

Age12_bro_dad

One window always had its curtain drawn.  I heard the other children say that there was a ghost living in that house.  She only came out at night to steal little children.

The curtain was made of a pale blue cotton, dotted with tiny yellow flowers.  Where the flowers had been, there were little holes.  The yellow dye at the time was somehow very erosive and tended to eat through the fabric.

One night my brother and I decided to climb up to that window.  We peeked throughout the yellow flowers.  A ghost! I gasped and nearly fell.  She was an old woman with a very white face, ghastly blue eyes, and a long nose.  We later learned that she was a foreigner, an American.  She had married a handsome Chinese doctor a long, long time ago.

SCAN0006

The day came when I was no longer content with seeking hidden colors in the grey wall.  I had noticed a neighborhood boy and waited for him to pass by every day.  The billowing of the beige curtain in the breeze felt like a caress on my face.  One afternoon, he looked up and saw me.  Did he hear the clamor that my senses made?  I felt like spilling out the window.

This was the time when students were being sent down to work on the farms.  The night before he left, he put his mouth against mine and moved his lips in a funny way.  I didn’t know that was called a kiss.  Nobody told me.  All I knew was I wanted the return of those lips.  That night was the first sleepless night of my life.

SCAN0020

My second sleepless night was during a moist and hot summer.  The girl with long hair was not at her window.  In her place was her grandmother.  Grandmothers didn’t stare out the windows.  They were always cleaning rooms and cooking in the kitchen.  But this one stared.  At nothing.  She seemed to be waiting for something, but I didn’t know what.  Nobody ever came.  She was just in her window, staring, cut off from the world.  It was not the kind of expression that I was used to see in windows.

Then she climbed up and sat on the sill, new black shoes on her bound feet.  My heart missed a beat when I saw her jump out.  Later, I heard that she had wanted to die, but the building was not high enough.  She broke her legs and many ribs.  She had been rich.  Her late husband had owned factories and land.  She was the enemy of the proletariate.  I swore by that window that I’d never be rich.

My family, too, was once well-to-do.  My grandparents owned much land, and had an American education.  They adopted a “better attitude” toward the revolution and gave away most of our eight room house to families that had no house of their own. My brother and I didn’t mind that much about the crowded chaos, but we missed our back room windows.

SCAN0105

My grandparents with their children. My father is the handsome dude in the back

Soon, we made friends with the people who had invaded our house.  The back rooms that they occupied had a view of the long, narrow garden that grew in what had a dried up river bed.  In the spring, the air was perfumed by blooming flowers and fresh cow droppings.  I would stand by the window, breathe in with all the force that my lungs could muster, and sneeze the most satisfying and intoxicating sneeze.

Cow Painting

Beyond the long and narrow garden was a pasture.  My brother would be cow-watching as I sneezed.  For him, their melancholy slow pace radiated resignation and dignity — nowhere worth hurrying to, nothing worth fretting about.  Their black and white hides reflected the blue of the sky, the brown of the earth, the green of the grass.  As for me, I saw only their pink nipples and longed for ice cream.

Ice bream was a rarity in China when we were growing up.  I heard from other girls that you would be rewarded with a bowl of ice cream if you were lucky enough to have your tonsils taken out.  It was minor surgery, but performed without anesthesia.  I convinced my mother, and we went for the operation.  And they did give me a bowl of ice cream to sooth my throat.  But swallowing hurt so terribly that I gave my reward to my brother.

SCAN0014

So many years have passed.  We’ve left behind our childhood.  The windows are on the other side of the earth now.  My brother is still fascinated by the cows and pastures.  Me? I’m still fascinated by the pink nipples and vanilla ice cream.

SCAN0013

The first time I saw an avocado grove and tasted an avocado was when I visited Ojai with Chase, where he painted some of his paintings at the time.  The creamy buttery texture, the floral earthy smell and the complex taste made an indelible impression.  Now that my children are both vegetarians, I use avocados in our meals very often.  They are nutritious and very satiating.

P1040438

I used a simple recipe from allrecipe.com with minor changes:

4 large tomatoes, chopped (I used grape tomatoes)

4 avocados – peeled, pitted and diced

1 red onion, thinly sliced (I used red shallots) 

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

1 (8 ounce) bottle balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (I used Balsamic glaze and fresh lemon)

I also added a few kernels of fresh sweet corn that is not in the original recipe

P1040498 P1040489