Superfood Triple Berry Chia Pudding

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Today Angela made Skinnytaste’s Superfood Triple Berry Chia Pudding for Peter and herself.  We have made this often in different versions before…real easy, real delicious, and super healthy to boot! What’s not to like?  This reminds me that I could actually make chia pudding in the hotel room for breakfast or a refreshing after work snack. All I need is a bottle.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk of choice (She used unsweetened cashew milk)
  • 3/4 cup fresh berries (blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries work well)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • sweetener to taste (She used three packs of Safeway stevia which is just erythritol and rebiana, but I’m sure xylitol would work too)

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Preparation:

Mix it all up in a jar. Cover and shake vigorously, chill for 15 minutes, shake again and refrigerate overnight.

This makes a great breakfast, snack, or dessert! It’s beautifully minimalist, just like this post (I’m in Vegas shooting a short with Audrey but longer posts will be coming soon!)

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Adapted from:

skinnytaste.com

Creamy Conchiglie Pasta – Healthified!

I think we’ve established that pasta is boss. So it’s no surprise that today we made even more pasta.

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Every time we go grocery shopping, we always pass the pasta aisle and Audrey begs for the big pasta shells that are on display. They do look very enticing.  We never end up getting them because they’re made out of white flour and Audrey gets more than her fair share of refined carbs from all the candy she eats. Today we decided to buy some whole wheat conchiglie to satisfy her craving.

It was pretty hard to find conchiglie that’s whole wheat; we had to search through some pretty hippie-ish Gen Y grocery stores, which thankfully are abundant in San Francisco. If you don’t have one of those stores near you, you can substitute with another type of 100% whole wheat pasta or just use regular conchiglie. Anything in moderation, right?

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Ingredients

1 pound conchiglie or other pasta, preferably 100% whole wheat*
1 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (14-16 oz.) bag frozen green peas, thawed
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 teaspoon pepper flakes
1 pinch smoked paprika
2 cups basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn
8 ounces feta cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

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Preparation

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté the garlic and 1 tablespoon of basil until aromatic, add 2/3 cup of peas and give it a few stirs. Pour the cooked peas and the yogurt in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium heat in a small skillet and fry the pepper flakes, paprika and pine nuts until aromatic or the nuts slightly brown. Set aside.

Cook pasta according to direction on package. As soon as the pasta is al dente, add the remaining peas to the same pot, then immediately transfer peas and pasta to colander. Drain and shake the colander to release excess water.

Mix pasta, peas and the yogurt-pea sauce. Sprinkle with pine nuts, basil leaves and feta cheese. Serve warm.

The recipe makes six servings.

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Adapted from “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi
The Wall Street Journal Saturday/Sunday Eating and Drinking

*Pedantic foodie rant: A lot of the pasta at grocery stores that calls itself “whole wheat” is actually made with 51% whole wheat flour and 49% refined flour (cough cough Barilla cough), if that. Food packaging is, as the kids say, hella deceptive. Take Cheerios, for example. The packaging says “Made with 100% whole grain oats,” which is true. However, Cheerios themselves aren’t technically 100% whole grain because they contain small amounts of corn starch and wheat starch.

So if you’re trying to cut refined carbs out of your diet, make sure not to be fooled by deceptive packaging! My mother always buys “made with whole grain” products that are mostly just white flour. Yes, unbleached enriched flour is regular refined white flour. Moral of the story: if you’re trying to improve your diet, check the ingredient list before you buy anything! Sure, a little white flour here and there won’t kill you, but consuming unhealthy food should be a conscious decision. Unwholesome ingredients shouldn’t be snuck into your stomach by food labels that are obviously intended to fool you. Just my two cents.

Meaty Monday: Rosemany Pork Chops with King Oyster Mushrooms

This little piggy went to market… and never came back, because it was eaten. Oink oink no more.

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C’est la vie.

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I’m not good at the whole “c’est la vie” thing. I can’t just  ¯\_()_/¯ and move on. Some of my friends can stay upset about something for about two seconds and then forget about it, but I am still haunted by that awful essay I wrote in fourth grade.

I do enjoy using the  ¯\_()_/¯ emoticon though. It allows me to exude an aura of nonchalance when in reality I am ranting and raving and collapsing in a pool of lactic acid and cortisol.

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Anyway… pork.  Mother is busy preparing for a speech she will deliver at Harvard next week, and she’s asked me to write the post for today’s dish.  What can I tell you about these pork chops? Father loved them.  I didn’t eat any because I’m a vegetarian.  I would have eaten the mushrooms if only they didn’t touch the pork. Oyster mushrooms are pretty darn good for you though.

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As you can see, they are not very energy dense, which is good in an increasingly obese world. They also have a good amount of potassium, fiber, and iron. Okay.

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Ingredients for Basic Pork Brine:
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 cup water
A few dashes of pepper, rosemary, thyme and sage.
You can half or double the brine based on the number of chops you cook.
Brining Preparation:
Melt the salt and sugar in warm water, add all spices and leave the brine in the fridge until it is completely cold.  Pour the brine in a large ziplock bag and add the pork chops in.  Seal the bag and leave in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.
If you decide to leave the pork in the brine overnight, be sure to soak it in fresh water for at least 30 minutes before using.  If you cook the brined pork on the same day, just rinse the pork well and pat dry before cooking.
Ingredients for Rosemary Pork Chop with King Oyster Mushrooms:
2 boneless pork chops
8 king oyster mushrooms, sliced lengthwise
2 shallots, sliced
2 stocks rosemary
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Preparation:
Heat oil in a large skillet pan on high, add the chops in the center and spread the rosemary stocks, mushrooms and shallots around them.  Close the lid and cook each side of the pork for about 4 minutes.  Open the lid now and then to stir the mushroom and shallots so they don’t get burned.  The chops will be cooked in the natural moisture of the mushroom and shallots.

Lotus Root: the Sexiest Tuber

An anonymous internet philosopher once said, “Just like the lotus, we too have the ability to rise from the mud, bloom out of darkness, and radiate into the world.”

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Ever heard of eating your feelings? Well, today we ate the part of the lotus that never makes it out of the filth. We ate the lotus root, the part responsible for the growth and existence of the pretty flower that never gets to see the light of day until it’s cruelly uprooted and devoured. It does almost all the work and never gets much credit or appreciation. Eat a lotus root. Everyone’s got a little lotus root in them.

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Potatoes and lotus roots face off. East meets West. MMA.

And they stand their ground against sweet potatoes too!

And they stand their ground against sweet potatoes too!

According to the wise and all-knowing Google, lotus roots are better than taters. Think of ’em as the plain old potato’s sexier exotic friend with more potassium and vitamin C and fiber by mass. Lotus roots are popular in many Asian cuisines. We watched a documentary last year in AP Chinese about how lotus roots are grown; apparently they’re quite difficult to harvest since farmers have to dig out the entire root, which is several feet long. If the root breaks, it gets filled with filth and it can’t be sold. These A+ tubers are definitely worth the trouble though.

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Apologies for inundating you with lotus root pics.

So that’s Lotus Root 101.

Anyway… lotus roots can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. You can stuff them with soaked glutinous sweet rice and cook them up with dates, “dragon eyes” and xylitol (or sugar, if you’re into that) and they’re sort of dessert-y, almost like Japanese mochi in texture.

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A very Shanghainese dish

You can also sauté them and they’ll be nice and crunchy. We made ’em with noodles… I didn’t choose the carb life; the carb life chose me. Dr. Atkins can run in terror from pasta, but I’ll embrace it with a smile.

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Ingredients for Asian Peanut Noodles with Lotus Root:

For the Peanut Sauce:

14.5 oz fat free chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian)

5 tbsp peanut butter (I used reconstituted PB2 for lower fat)

1 tbsp sriracha

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp soy sauce (use Tamari for gluten free)

1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

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For the Vegetables and Noodles:

1 section of a lotus root, sliced

salt and pepper (to taste)

1 tbsp sriracha (more or less to taste)

5 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1 tbsp soy sauce (use Tamari for gluten free)

1/2 tbsp sesame oil

8 oz rice noodles, preferably 100% whole grain

3/4 cup green onion, chopped

1 cup shredded snow peas

1 red bell pepper, sliced

2 tbsp chopped peanuts

Preparation:

For the peanut sauce: Combine 1 cup broth, peanut butter, sriracha, honey, 2 tbsp soy sauce, ginger, and 3 cloves crushed garlic in a small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat stirring occasionally until sauce becomes smooth and well blended, about 5-10 minutes. Set aside.

Boil water for the noodles and cook pasta according to package instructions.

Heat a large skillet or wok until hot. Add 2 cloves crushed garlic, scallions, snow peas, bell pepper, lotus root and salt, sauté until tender crisp, about 1-2 minutes.

Drain noodles and toss with peanut sauce. Separate the noodles in 6 plates and top with the sautéd vegetables and chopped peanuts. Or mix the sautéd vegetables with the noodles and top with chopped the peanuts.

The recipe makes about 6 servings.

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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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Spiralized Butternut Squash Pasta with Garlicky Kale & White Beans

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Pasta is good, pasta is great. Pasta is the friend who will always be there for me. Pasta, o beauteous pasta, you make any dish complete. You complete me. Non lasciarmi, mio amato (grazie, Google Translate).

I never want to spend a day without pasta, not even if I’ve already eaten my weight in starch and definitely do not need to further raise my blood sugar. This is when my beloved vegetable spiralizer comes in handy. It can turn just about any vegetable, from zucchini to broccoli stalks, into pasta. That’s right, all the deliciousness of al dente pasta and all the holiness of veggies. Now that’s what I call good wholesome fun.

Big smile at Ristorante La Fattoria in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Italy. There was probably some pasta involved.

Big smile at Ristorante La Fattoria in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Italy. Pasta!

The first time I heard of spiralizing vegetables was when I was reading about zoodles on SkinnyTaste.com. I then coveted a spiralizer for about a year before Audrey bought me one from Williams Sonoma as a gift using her own money. How sweet!  I have since made my own zoodles on several occasions. They are delicious!

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Spiralizers are very versatile. A vegetable doesn’t need to be vaguely phallic in order to be turned into pasta. Today we had a grand old time spiralizing butternut squash!

Note: if you don’t have a spiralizer, then a mandoline or even a vegetable peeler should work.

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Butternut Squash Pasta with Garlicky Kale & White Beans

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and spiralized, noodles trimmed

olive oil cooking spray

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, if you like it really spicy)

1 bunch Lacinato kale, stems removed

salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth, if vegetarian)

1 can white beans (cannellini, Great Northern), drained, rinsed, patted dry

1 teaspoon oregano flakes

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional if vegan)

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Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the butternut squash noodles on a baking sheet and coat with cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 10-12 minutes or until al dente. When done, divide noodles into bowls and set aside.

While the butternut squash is cooking, place a large skillet over medium heat and add in the olive oil. Once oil heats, add in the garlic, red pepper flakes and kale. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes, tossing occasionally, or until kale is wilted. You can do this in batches.

Once the kale is cooked, pour the chicken broth into the skillet and add the beans and oregano. Let cook for 5-10 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half.

Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Divide the kale mixture equally over the bowls of butternut squash noodles. Serve immediately.

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Recipe modified from Inspiralized

Vegan Creamy Ginger Coconut Kale Zucchini Spaghetti

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I got up early today to try this “zoodle” recipe that Angela emailed me last night.  I packed it for Peter and Angela for lunch and I had a bowl of it before I went to the airport.  It was so delicious and so satisfying that I couldn’t believe it was also extremely healthy!  

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Ingredients:

1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 15 ounce can lite coconut milk

2 teaspoons lemon juice

red pepper flakes, to taste

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 cups chopped kale

1/4 cup packed fresh basil

¼ cup raw cashews

6 medium zucchinis, Blade C, noodles trimmed

3/4 cup defrosted green peas (I used fresh peas from Trader Joe’s which take slightly longer to cook.)

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Preparation:

In a large pot over medium heat, add in the olive oil. Once heated, add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.

Add in the coconut milk, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and then add in the kale. Cover and cook until the greens have wilted, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the kale mixture to a high-speed blender and add in the basil and cashews. Blend until smooth and creamy and set aside.

Wipe down the pot and place back over medium heat. Add in the zucchini noodles and peas and toss for 3-4 minutes or until cooked to al dente or your preference. Once cooked, divide into bowls and top with green sauce. Serve immediately.

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The original recipe came from:

inspiralized.com

Vegan Blueberry Muffin Bread

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One simply feels blessed coming back from anywhere to California in wintertime.

I have been traveling between China and the US many times a year for more then 30 years and I still suffer from jet lag.  Before the children were born, I would get up in the middle of the night and begin moving heavy furniture around the house.  I would put towels under the legs of the furniture and move almost anything by myself.  When Peter woke up in the morning, he’d be surprised to see how the rooms had changed.

Nowadays, when I’m jet lagged I just get up and cook.  Peter got called to the hospital at around 3 AM this morning and when he walked downstairs to the kitchen, I already finished baking the vegan blueberry bread.  The warm toasty aroma brought a smile to his tired face. 

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As I sit here in the afternoon sun writing the blog, I hear peals of laughter from Angela who is reading George Saunders’ story “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.”  I make a mental note to read the story and see if it will appear to be funny to me as well.  I usually don’t understand the newspaper comics that the girls love.  And they don’t think I have any sense of humor.  They also get exasperated when I laugh at inappropriate times when others don’t see anything funny.  I suppose humor is the hardest thing to translate.  The girls, though, believe simply that my brain doesn’t function so well anymore.

I sometime wonder if they will ever understand the cultural gulf that I have managed to cross to be who I am.

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Vegan Blueberry Bread Ingredients:

2 cups 100% whole wheat flour (250g)

1/2 tsp plus 1/8 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon, optional

1/2 cup xylitol or sugar of choice (100g)

1 cup almond milk or milk of choice (240g)

1 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar (15g)

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

3 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil (30g)

1 1/2 cups blueberries (200g)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 F, and grease a 9×5 loaf pan. In a large measuring bowl, stir together the first 5 ingredients. In a separate measuring bowl, whisk together all liquid ingredients except the blueberries.

Pour wet into dry, stir until just evenly combined, then add the blueberries and VERY gently stir them in only until evenly mixed. Do not over-stir, as this would break the blueberries and you’d end up with purple bread.

Pour into the loaf pan and bake 45 minutes on the middle rack. Do not open the door, but turn off the oven and let the bread sit inside the oven for another 30 minutes. Makes 10 big, fat slices.

This recipe has been adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie.

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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Spaghetti Squash Tots

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Spaghetti squash is one of our favorite vegetables.  We’ve made salads, cakes and lasagna with it in the past.  Today I improvised simple spaghetti squash tots with what I have in the fridge and pantry, and the girls finished all three trays of them.  I enjoy it very much when I do something by feel.  It’s more fun to line up the spice bottles and just shake my wrist instead of measuring everything precisely.  A dash of this.  A dash of that.  I felt like a witch concocting some wicked delicious magic.  

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You can eat the tots by themselves or with a little dollop of pesto sauce.

Spaghetti Squash Tots Ingredients:

1 small spaghetti squash

1/2 cup shredded fat free Cheddar cheese (packed, 2 oz)

1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese (packed, 1 oz)

1/4 cup oat bran

1 egg + 3 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 shallot (thinly sliced)

1/4 teaspoon Garlic & Herb Seasoning

1/4 teaspoon dry oregano leaves

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon paprika

A dash of cayenne pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut the squash lengthwise in half.  Scoop out and discard seeds.  Microwave each half with 2 tablespoon of water in a container for 8 minutes.  Scoop out the flesh and let cool.

Mix in all the ingredients well.  Spoon the mixture on the baking dish lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 35 minutes or until golden.

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A note about spaghetti squash: try it! It’s super easy to make since you can just cook it in the microwave. Also, you can eat it just like pasta but it’s got more fiber and less starch! Truly a miracle vegetable.

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This spaghetti squash was from our nanny’s garden.