Chocolate Thistle & Chicken Soup


A crunchy chocolate dessert high in cereal fiber


A hearty chicken soup with whole grain and vegetables

Last week, Peter bought a Costco roast chicken as he often did when I was away at work.  Tasty, tender and versatile, Costco roast chicken is the best $4.99 anyone can spend.  Peter would usually eat the drumsticks on the first day, and then breast meat for sandwiches for the next couple of days.  If I am home, I often use the breast meat to make a quick chicken curry, or use it on top of a caesar salad.  And I use what’s left to make a stock — for porridge or for soup. 

When I opened the fridge today, the roast chicken carcass was waiting there to be transformed.  I suppose this is what home cooking is often about — improvise with leftovers.  I usually make the soup with hulled barley, but I was out of it today and made the soup with farro instead.


Chicken Farro Vegetable Soup

Ingredients for the Stock:

1 Roast Chicken Carcass

1/4 cup cooking wine

1 inch giner, sliced

12 cups water

1/4 tsp salt or to taste

Ingredients for the Soup:

1/4 farro or hulled barley

1 cup diced carrots

1 zucchini

8 to 10 oz mushroom, sliced

2 cups chicken broth (from carton or can)



To make the stock, put the entire carcass in a large pot with cooking wine, ginger, water and salt.  Bring to boil and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.  Turn off stove.  Pour the entire pot of soup over a colander into another large pot.  Discard the bone and the skin from the colander and save the meat.  Skim the fat off the top of the stock.

When the stock is simmering, cook the farro or hulled barley with the chicken broth in a rice cooker.

To make the soup, add the meat back into the stock with the cooked farro and carrots. Cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the zucchini and mushroom and cook for another 5 minutes.

Peter has a sweet tooth, but he is supposed to be careful with his sugar intake.  So the one thing he missed the most when I was away was healthy dessert.


Chocolate Thistles


1 1/3 3.5 oz milk or dark chocolate bar (I used dark)

1 cup All-bran cereal (I used Kellogg’s)

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup unsweetened shaved coconut

1/4 cup dried sweet cherries

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Break the chocolate bar and put in a bowl.  Steam the bowl with chocolate in a steamer on low to melt.  Remove the bowl from the steamer and pour in the cereal, almonds, coconut and dried cherries.

Spoon 1 tbsp mounds of chocolate mounds onto prepared baking sheet.  Transfer to freezer to set for 10 minutes.

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The Many Lives of Tofu — Sweet & Savory


When Angela first emailed me this chocolate fudge pie recipe, I was very dubious.  I had been eating tofu my entire life and had believed that I knew every which way to eat it.  I associated it mostly with soy sauce, scallion, sesame oil, spicy chili oil.  I had also had sweet soft tofu in light syrup.  But chocolate fudge? Come on, you must be kidding me!

Today I came back from Costco with a whole case of Nuri-Nu Tofu, and decided to give the chocolate fudge pie a try.  It was actually the simplest thing in the world to make.  With a blender, you can make this pie in less than 15 minutes.  However, you do need to keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours before it reaches its ideal consistency. 

The pie turned out to be an absolute winner: rich, creamy and chocolaty, without even a hint of tofu in the taste.  If you serve the pie at a party and tell people afterwards that it is made of tofu and that it is healthy, they will definitely say that you are pulling their leg.  In fact Peter still thinks that I was joking when I told him it was made from tofu.   


No Bake Chocolate Fudge Pie

Ingredients for the Filling:

12.3 oz silken or firm tofu (I highly recommend Mori-Nu silken-firm for no aftertaste)

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk of choice

scant 1/8 tsp salt

5 oz unsweetened 100% dark baking chocolate

5 to 6 tbsp xylitol (or sweetener of choice)

optional: extracts, flavorings, or liqueurs


Ingredients for the crust:

You can either use stored bought ready pie crust, or graham cracker crust, or no-bake crust of nuts and dates. 

I used 1 cup of walnut and 1/2 cup very soft and gooey dates.  Blend the dates and walnuts in a blender, but do not over blend into a paste.


Carefully melt the chocolate (I steamed mine in a steamer.), then throw everything into a food processor and blend until super-smooth.

Line a 9 inch tart pan or a pie pan with plastic wrap for easy removing of the pie when it is ready.  Press the date walnut mixture evenly at the bottom

Pour the chocolate mixture into a pan on top if the date walnut “crust.” Fridge until chilled. This gets firmer and firmer, the longer it sits. It’s also firmer if you use firm tofu and more like mousse pie if you use silken.


Recipe adapted from:


Braised Shiitake with Snap Pea (Still in season!)


1/2 teaspoon dark rice vinegar

4 teaspoons canola or peanut oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tsp brown sugar

5 large dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced

1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced

2 cup snap peas

1/2 red pepper, sliced

1/3 cup sliced scallions, divided

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Soak the dry shiitake mushroom in a bowl in 2 cup warm water for 1 hour.  Save 1/3 cup of the water but discard the sediment at the bottom of the bowl.

In a sauce pan heat 2 teaspoons cooking oil on medium high, sauté half of the ginger until aromatic, add the sliced shiitake mushrooms and stir for about 45 seconds.  Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and 1/3 cup reserved mushroom water.  Bring it to boil and lower the heat to let simmer for about 30 minutes.  The mushrooms are done when sauce is reduced and thickened but not burned.

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

Serve with warm brown rice and Miso Tofu.


Ingredients for Miso Tofu:

12 oz. firm tofu, sliced

1 tablespoon miso paste

1/4 tsp red chili flakes (optional)

2 tsp canola or peanut oil


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

Serve Hot.


Butternut Squash Risotto & Valentine Treats


Audrey popped the corn, melted the chocolate; she mixed them together with M&Ms and crushed nuts and salt with her hands. She named this “Sloppy Popcorn.” We ate them fresh – sticky and crunchy and absolutely delicious.

Our flight to Boston got canceled today due to the blizzard.  Though it messed up our schedule, I was secretly happy to be at home for this special day.  Valentine’s Day is Audrey’s favorite and she made Valentine treats for everyone.  Her concoctions were not exactly healthy and Angela almost forbade me from posting them, but they looked so cheerful and tasted so delicious that I just had to share them here.


Toasted Coconut Chips Chocolate Dipped Strawberries – Yum!

For lunch I made butternut squash risotto.  Since we love butternut squash, and we love risotto, I decided to put these two loves together on Valentine’s Day. 


Butternut Squash Barley Risotto with Saffron


1 butternut squash (2 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 cups or more chicken stock, preferably homemade (vegetable broth for vegetarians)

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)

1 1/2 cups hulled barley (10 ounces)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon saffron threads

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the hulled barley in a rice cooker with 1 part barley 4 part chicken stock.  The hulled barley takes a long time to soften.  It took me almost 1 hour to cook the hulled barley to al dente.  Pearl barley will take about 25 minutes, but pearl barley is not a whole grain.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the cooked barley and stir to coat the grains. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed. Add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and ladle to bowls; sprinkle with shaved parmesan, fresh pepper and parsley.  Serve immediately.


Recipe inspired by

Chocolate Banana Souffles

I have been in and out of airports quite a lot in the past two weeks and all the flying was getting on my nerves.  It is pathetic how I’m on the top level of airlines’ frequent flyer programs year after year.  This is the one area of my life I wish could be different.  I’m adventurous only in a spiritual sense — meaning in my thinking and imagination.  My physical self is unbelievably timid and just wants to be home.  When Angela was a toddler, I took her to Shanghai to see my parents and my childhood friends.  They asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and Angela said she’d like to be a tree on Filbert St.  That homebound gene came from me.

Today, I heard that the 2nd season of Marco Polo will again shoot in three remote countries.  In the 1st season, I only had to be in one of them, but in the new season I will most likely be in all three countries.  I was stressed out just thinking about all the flying I will have to do, and the long months away from my family. 


I had to bake some yummy treats after I heard the news.  The kitchen is my refuge, my shrink. Before I came to the US, I had never heard of shrinks.  The first time I learned of Freud’s Couch I couldn’t understand how anyone would feel better after letting their time, money, and precious life experiences spill out like vomit.

I’ve saved a lot money and breath cooking in the kitchen instead of lying on the couch.  I free associate better with a mixer in hand.

These Soufflés are light and fluffy and they were made mostly of egg whites, which is great if you are on a reduced carb, or gluten free diet.  This was the first time I ever made soufflés and I was curious how they would turn out.  I was staring at the oven almost the entire time watching them rise.  My excitement grew as the soufflés rose higher and higher in the oven, but the minute I took them out they started to deflate.  It was a good thing the kids were already home when they came out of the oven.  They should be eaten within 15 minutes before they lose the fluffiness.


Chocolate Banana Soufflés Ingredients:

2 ripe medium bananas, mashed

2 tsp cornstarch

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large egg whites

3 tbsp sugar (I used 2 tbsp of xylitol and it was sweet enough)

cooking spray


Preheat over to 400F. Coat 4, 6 oz ramekins with butter flavored cooking spray. Place on a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, mash bananas and vanilla together. Sift cornstarch and cocoa powder over bananas and stir well.

In another medium bowl, beat egg whites with sugar until they form soft peaks. Fold 1/3 of egg whites into banana mixture. When incorporated, fold in the rest of the egg whites. Spoon mixture into ramekins.

Wipe the top 1/4 inch “collar” of the ramekin to remove any excess batter so that the souffle will rise straight and place ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.


Recipe adapted from Baking Bites

Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes

The Best Flour-less Chocolate Brownies!



Spring cleaning!  After months of procrastination, I finally cleaned out my study.  It was tedious work, but I reveled in the feeling of being neat and organized.  Why didn’t I do this sooner?  I had looked at the mess now and then and thought about cleaning it, but every time  I just closed the door and walked away.  All I could say was that I was not born with the neat gene.  Whenever I visit my parents, I would lose all hope of ever get organized.  My parents’ rooms were always strewn with gift bags, newspapers and other knickknacks.  My mother, whom I most resemble, has a desk with layers of books, newspaper clippings, bottles of pills and what-have-you. 

So, it was no small feat that everything was filed into its rightful place.  And the recycling bin was full.  High time to bake some brownies for afternoon tea.  These flour-less brownies are unbelievably moist and delicious without any added fat.  They felt decadent and sinful to eat, but they are actually healthy and nutritious.  In all of my efforts in grain-free baking, this is the best recipe.  A definite keeper!


This recipe is from  I added 1/2 cup of walnuts to the original.

PB2 Flourless Chocolate Brownies Ingredients:

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1 cup PB2 (see photo and note)

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp water

1/2 cup raw honey

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup semi sweet dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup walnuts



Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a nonstick 9 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Beat the egg and egg white in a small bowl with a whisk.

In a large bowl combine the PB2, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and mix well with a spatula. Add the egg and egg whites and stir. Add water, honey, vanilla and stir with a spatula until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool, then cut into 12 bars cutting 3 rows x 4 rows.


Note on PB2:

PB2 is a reduced fat peanut powder that you can order from  It is an ideal product to have if you like peanut or peanut butter but don’t want to ingest too much fat.