Corn Chowder with Queso Fresco & Chive

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Audrey loved the Fisherman’s Wharf when she was little.  We would go there a couple of times a month, first stopping at the Musée Mécanique for an hour and then to eat her favorite clam chowder in a bread bowl at the Boudin Bakery, and finally at Candy Baron for some saltwater taffy. 

We haven’t been back to the Boudin since Audrey became a vegetarian.  After school today Audrey suddenly said, “Oh, I wish I could have a bowl of chowder.”

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Audrey and a friend at her favorite haunt Fisherman’s Wharf

I used the frozen corn from the freezer and made her a healthy and nutritious corn chowder. And according to everyone in the house it was much tastier than the clam chowder at Boudin.  Not to mention much healthier.

Audrey just wished it was in a bowl of sourdough bread.

Corn Chowder with Queso Fresco and Chive

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1/3 cup chopped scallions

1 garlic clove, chopped

3 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels

1 (6 oz) russet potato, peeled and diced

5 cups 1% milk

1 chicken bouillon cube (or Vegetable Better than Bouillon)

1/4 onion, chopped

1/4 cup fat free Fage

salt and fresh pepper, to taste

3 oz (6 tbsp) crumbled queso fresco or reduced fat feta

Preparation:

Heat a medium heavy pot or Dutch oven on medium heat. Add oil and sauté scallions and garlic and onion for 1 minute. Add the corn, potatoes, milk, bouillon, and cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the corn is tender, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and reserve 6 tablespoons of the corn kernels for topping. Add yogurt to the soup and purée in the blender in two batches, careful not to burn yourself; return to the pot.

Adjust salt and pepper, to taste and heat over low heat 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour into 6 bowls and garnish each bowl with 1 tablespoon each of corn kernels and cheese. Top with fresh chive.

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Recipe inspired by skinnytaste

Nutty Citrusy Kumquat Muffins

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 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? 

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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.”  

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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Baked Coconut Yam Fries

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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.

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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. 

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Lemon Dill Baked Cod

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It’s approaching midnight and I’m still trying to finish reading the scripts that I received from China.  The film market is booming in China and there are many opportunities for me to direct my next film, but I’m yet to find a story that’s exciting to me as well as suitable to the censorship standard.  I will keep looking.  And in the meantime, I will cook.

Who am I?  If we are what we do everyday, which I think is the closest answer to this impossible question, then I am a cook.  At least for now.  As I busied myself in the kitchen with my pink batik apron, I actually thought, “I should buy myself a pretty apron.”  I used to think about buying sexy and glamorous dresses.  The ever evolving I.

Dill & Lemon Baked Rock Cod

Ingredients:

3  large cod fillets

1 lemon

1/2 cup white wine

1 teaspoon dill

1/2 sleeve of Ritz Cracker, crushed

3 tablespoon olive oil

Preparation:

Marinate the cod in the white wine in a large ziplock bag or a plate for 30 minutes.  Pat dry.

Coat the fish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 of the dill.

Crush the crackers and mix in the 2 tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining dill with fingers.

Preheat oven at 400F.

Bake the fish in a baking dish for 8 minutes and take the dish out of the oven, but leave the oven on.  Carefully discard the juice from the fish.  Squeeze half of the lemon juice on the fish and sprinkle the cracker mixture on top.

Return to oven and back for another 12 minutes.

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Pickled Green Turnip, A Taste From My Childhood

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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.
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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
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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.
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Marco Pol(l)o

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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Saturday Brunch with Artisanal Silverware

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There is something wonderful and exciting about receiving and opening packages in the mail, especially when you are not sure what exactly the boxes contain.  I was away on film locations in remote regions of China when I was only fourteen.  My mother used to send me bi-weekly care packages from Shanghai — often times my favorite snacks such as dried plums or a can of spam, which was a luxury item back then.  I can still recall those moments of excitement and anticipation when I opened up the care packages.

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On Christmas Eve, we received in the mail a beautiful set of artisanal silverware from For Such a Time Designs!  We first saw Aly Nickerson’s lovely hand-stamped spoons on SkinnyTaste.com and coveted them for months before they finally arrived, a generous gift from Aly. Each piece of the silver plated flatware is vintage and stamped with antique metal stamps. It is absolutely gorgeous and makes eating even more fun than it already is. “Serve With Love,” “Eat Clean,” my thoughts exactly!

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Smoked Salmon Scallion Omelet Ingredients:

1 Egg + 3 Egg White (beaten)

3 stalks Scallion (chopped)

3 oz. Wild Smoked Salmon (pulled or cut to small chunks)

2 tablespoon 2% Shredded Cheddar & Jack cheese

1/2 teaspoon Dill Weed

1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil

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Preparation:

Heat a flat non-stick pan on medium, add oil, then add most of the chopped scallion. 

After the scallion softens, about 40 seconds, pour in the beaten eggs.

Add salmon, the rest of the scallion and the cheese. 

Sprinkle the Dill Weed.  Roll the Omelet.  Sprinkle with fresh pepper.

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Everyone in the house loved Yam Casserole so much that I made it for the second time this week. It is a delicious and healthy dish that is relatively easy to make.

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Recipe in December 25th post “Empty Chimney Once Upon A Time”

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Guest Post: Healthy Raw Raspberry Cheesecake!

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Hi! I’m Kim, a 23-year-old Biochemist from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for food, fitness, health, and overall happiness. When I am not working, working out, or spending time with friends & family, I spend time sharing my love of healthy food with others! I grew up overweight and ashamed of it. As a young teenager, I began to secretly starve myself in attempts to lose weight. This turned into a very unhealthy relationship with food that lasted over 7 years. At the age of 20, though, something “clicked” and I realized the importance of working out and HEALTHY eating. I finally succeeded in healthy weight loss by throwing myself into the kitchen (& gym!) to learn what truly healthy food is made of; I grew to really enjoy cooking & baking. Every recipe I create is sugar free, nutritious, and fit for a healthy lifestyle. I also have two recipe ebooks available that I have written, full of recipes I personally create and enjoy.
A lot of my recipes are protein-packed desserts, so this recipe is unique in the sense that it does not require protein powder, flour, or a baking step. It is a raw vegan raspberry cheesecake, made with everyday ingredients that are suitable for almost any diet preference one may have. It is comprised of a crust, a raspberry layer, a cheesecake layer, and what I call a “pink” layer; I topped the dish with a cocoa sauce and fresh raspberries. It is absolutely refreshing, while also satisfying to the sweet tooth; it can please anyone. I hope you enjoy!
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Raw Raspberry Cheesecake
 
Serves: 8
 
Crust
1/2 cup pitted dates (80 g)
3/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup coconut butter
Raspberry Layer
1 cup frozen raspberries
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
Cheesecake Layer
2 cups raw cashews (soaked in water)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup maple syrup (or sugar free syrup as I use, or agave, or honey)
juice from 1/2 lemon (2 TBSP)
2 TBSP coconut butter
1 TBSP vanilla extract
You will need a food processor to make this. First, add the dates and almonds in the processor to make the crust. Process it down until it becomes fine grits, then add the coconut butter. Continue to blend it until it is malleable and thick.
Now, you have two options. You can make 3 mini 4″ cheesecakes or 1 full size cheesecake. I made mini cheesecakes with 4″ springform pans, but this is also a recipe fitting for 1 full-sized springform pan. Spread your crust on the base of the springform, pressing down firmly with the backside of a spoon or knife.
Next, make your raspberry layer by blending frozen raspberries and water. It will be thick like a sorbet. Spread this evenly on top of your crust, (saving approx 1/4 of it for later)! Place the 1/2 cup fresh raspberries on this layer as well.
Next, make the cheesecake layer. You want to strain your soaked cashews first. Then add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and blend it all. I often stop the processor to scrape down the edges, and blend more. Pour this layer on top of your raspberry layer (saving approx 1/4 of it for later)!
Now, place your cheesecake in the freezer! While that’s freezing, combine the remaining 1/4 of both the raspberry and cheesecake layers that you saved earlier. After the cheesecake has frozen for 45-60 minutes, pour the “pink” layer on top! Freeze again for at least 2-3 hours. It is best if you go ahead and let it freeze overnight. Once ready, slice into 8 servings and let it thaw approximately 10 minutes before serving. I also added a cocoa layer on top right before serving, made from unsweetened cocoa powder, water, and stevia. Enjoy!
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Nutritional Information for 1 slice: 357 calories; 27 g fat, 27 g carbs (6 g fiber), and 8 g protein

Looking for more?

Guest Post: Lynn Chen

What an honor to be guest posting for Joan!  I’ve often said that Joan’s performance in “The Last Emperor” was my inspiration for becoming a film actor; I’d like to think that my sites “The Actor’s Diet” and “Thick Dumpling Skin” influenced her starting Hungry Empress…

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…it’s been almost a decade since Joan and I worked together on Saving Face.  Even though we only had a few scenes together, we became a family on set – and that often meant sneaking away to the crafts services table together.  Weight gain was inevitable; our director Alice has joked that she had the snacks moved further and further away from set so her cast wouldn’t mindlessly munch between takes and cause costume issues.

These days it’s important to me to be very conscious of the power food has over my mind, and my body.  In the last 10 years, I’ve overcome eating disorder struggles, and make a daily effort to be kind when I talk about not only about how I look, but how others do, as well.  It can be a challenge to acknowledge that what we eat can change how we feel – mentally and physically – but also learn how to enjoy/celebrate without indulging in guilt/obsessive control.  To learn not to equate fat = bad, skinny = good.  Health is a lot more than a number on a scale (which, by the way, I’ve thrown out since 2006).  The most important thing I’ve learned – after 5 years straight of writing about food daily – is that nobody has it all figured out.  Not chefs, not nutritionists, not food scientists, not even doctors.  So the best diet for you, is literally trusting your own gut.

Lynn Chen
lynnchen.com

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What Is Fried Rice?

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What is fried rice?  It’s essentially a dish made of yesterday’s leftovers. What makes a great fried rice?  Quality leftover rice.  The return of Twin Peaks and the newly restored The Last Emperor 3D are delicious fried rice for the screen.  Great material rehashed from yesteryear to feed a new generation.  I am excited to take my daughters to see The Last Emperor 3D this Saturday at the Castro Theater.  I am usually afraid of seeing myself on screen, and premieres are excruciating to sit through.  I never see what I have accomplished; I only see what could’ve been done better.  But The Last Emperor was made 28 years ago.  That young lady who played the Empress couldn’t disappoint me even if she tried.  If anything I wonder if she would be disappointed in me, wearing an apron, as an “indentured servant” to my children.

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During the filming of the the Forbidden City, the entire place was closed to the public. It was lovely to stroll around the 178-acre walled city as if we owned it.

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With John Lone, Mme. Pompidou and Bertolucci at the French opening of The Last Emperor

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With Chinese President Li Xian Nian at the French opening of The Last Emperor.

In the spirit of giving old things new life, I made a tropical fried rice for dinner. Since I made fried rice hundreds of times, I usually improvise.  Today, I loosely followed the recipe from damndelicious.net.

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (I used 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated (I used red bell pepper)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 cups diced pineapple, canned or fresh (I used a ripe pineapple)
  • 1/2 cup diced ham (I used extra firm tofu for the girls and left over pork for Peter and me)
  • 2 green onions, sliced
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  • In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger powder and white pepper; set aside.
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion to the skillet, and cook, stirring often, until onions have become translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in carrots, corn and peas, (eggs) and cook, stirring constantly, until vegetables are tender, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Stir in rice, pineapple, ham, green onions and soy sauce mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until heated through, about 2 minutes.