Skinny Lemon Bars

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When I called my mother in Shanghai today, she told me that my father was out buying roast peanuts in Cai-Zhi-Zhai.  I know exactly the kind of peanuts he was buying.  Cai-Zhi-Zhai is a snack store about four blocks away from where my parents live.  They sell a kind of peanuts that are first boiled with special spices and then roasted to perfection, for only 20 yuan (about a little over 3 dollars) a kilo — the best 20 yuan anyone could spend.  I have never had any peanuts that tasted better.  My father walks to the store every few days to buy snacks for TV watching.  He must snack when the TV is on.  It’s amazing how snacking while watch TV or reading is a genetic trait that passes on from generation to generation.  His father did that and now I also do that. 

Peter and I have been binge watching a TV show call Bosch this weekend, and we both indulged on three pieces of the lemon bars as we watched the series.  It’s a good thing that they are relatively guilt free.

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Skinny Lemon Bars

Ingredients for the Crust:

1/2 cup almond flour

1/4 cup oat bran

1/4 cup xylitol or brown sugar (I used xylitol)

1 pack Stevia

3 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tsp grated lemon zest

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 tbsp coconut oil,

2 tbsp fat free Greek yogurt

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For the filling:

1/2 cup sugar free maple syrup or honey (I used Joseph’s sugar free maple syrup)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1 tbsp coconut flour

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tsp grated lemon zest

5 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp powdered sugar, for dusting on top (I made the powdered sugar with xylitol by grinding it in a coffee grinder.)

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Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Generously grease an 8-inch square pan. 

I skipped the following step from the original recipe, but I include it here in italic for your reference:

Prepare an 8-inch square pan by lightly spraying the inside of the pan with baking spray before lining it with 2 long sheets of aluminum foil folded to fit inside and placed perpendicular to each other in the pan.  This is so you can get the bars out after they are cooked, so don’t skip this step.

Cut the sheets long enough to hang over the sides to use as handles to lift out the baked lemon bars before cutting into squares.  Spray the inside of the foil lined pan with baking spray.

For the crust: In a food processor combine the flours, xylitol, cornstarch, lemon zest, baking powder and salt and process until well combined.  Add the coconut oil and yogurt to the flour mixture at once and pulse at least a dozen times before turning out into the prepared pan and pressing into an even layer.  I used a piece of parchment paper to press it because the dough was very sticky.

Bake until evenly browned about 20-22 minutes.  Cool the crust on a metal rack for at least 15 – 20 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Prepare the filling by whisking together the eggs, sugar free maple syrup, lemon zest, coconut flour , corn starch and the salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and pour over the cooled crust.  Bake until filling is set, about 22 minutes. 

Let cool completely before cutting it into 9 squares.  ( I let mine sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes before I cut the bars.)  Dust with confectioners sugar.

If you are using the foil, cool completely before lifting the bars out of the pan with the foil.  Cut into 9 squares and dust with confectioners sugar.

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Adapted from: skinnytaste.com

Lemon Almond Souffle & Vegetarian Taco by Audrey

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Audrey cooked dinner for us tonight.  She opened a package of wheat protein called Seitan and made delicious vegetarian tacos.  A dash of this and a dash of that.  She claimed that it was a secret recipe, but I think she was just improvising as she went.  She enjoys the kitchen almost as much as I do.  She is fast — turning out a meal in a matter of minutes, leaving behind a mess as if the hurricane has swept through the kitchen.  She looked so cute and sweet in her apron that I couldn’t get mad at her.

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In April, Audrey and I filmed at this lovely little cafe theater in Las Vegas called Inspire Theater.  On the magazine rack I saw a stack of Vegetarian Times Special with “5-Ingredient Recipes” on the cover and I immediately swiped one copy.  This 5-ingredient soufflé recipe is grain free, dairy free, paleo-friendly and deceptively easy to make.  It is melt-in-your-mouth light and airy.  Most importantly, it is absolutely delicious!

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Lemon-Almond Souffles

Ingredients:

2 teaspoon coconut oil

4 large eggs, separated

3 tablespoon honey, softened or Joseph’s sugar free maple syrup

3 tablespoon fresh organic Meyer lemon juice + zest from 1 lemon

3 tablespoon almond meal

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Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease 6 4oz. ovenproof ramekins with coconut oil up to the rims.  Chill ramekins in refrigerator.

Whisk together 3 egg yolks, honey, lemon juice, lemon zest and almond meal in medium bowl. (Discard or use the extra yolk another time.)

Beat 4 egg whites with electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Fold meringue into egg yol mixture with spatula.

Fill Ramekins two-thirds full, and bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown. (I baked it for 12 minutes.) Serve immediately. 

We made the first batch with honey and a second batch with Joseph’s sugar-free maple syrup.  Both came out great.

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Scones & Chili

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Breakfast Scones

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Turkey Chili

There is a good reason why Peter usually does the dishes.  I just cut my finger quite badly washing the knife given to me by renowned chef and cookbook author Martin Yan.  And I’m typing in pain.  With my finger wrapped in bandages, I can now truly attest to the sharpness of his knife.

What I made today were variations of the recipes that I had posted on the blog before.

For breakfast, I made the gluten-free, dairy-free scones from my earlier recipe.  I switched the dried fruit and the nuts.  You can make endless variations on the combination of dried fruits and nuts with this scone recipe.

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For dinner, I cooked turkey Chili.  I used a can of organic diced tomato instead of fresh tomatoes and the marinara sauce and I used the whole can of kidney beans instead of 1/2 can.  I also added 1/2 a red bell pepper.  It was as delicious as I remembered it to be.

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Gluten-free Vegan Almond Apple Breakfast Mug Cake

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Baked

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Microwaved, with crumbled pecan

Nothing is better than a leisurely breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning .  You start with your coffee or tea, then you peel some ripe fruit and contemplate what to cook while eating it.  You look at the Sunday paper or surf on your favorite food site until you feel inspired to move out of your chair and saunter into the kitchen. 

After my second cup of tea and a mango, I decided that I wanted to make something special, but not work too hard.  After all, it’s Sunday.  I found a mug cake recipe on skinnytaste.com and tweaked it.  These healthy vegan mug cakes were simple and quick to make — you can literally make them in five minutes.  And they are absolutely yummy!  

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Gluten-free Almond Apple Breakfast Mug Cake

Ingredients for the Cake:

3 tbsp almond flour

3tbsp oat bran

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

4 oz no sugar added apple sauce

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

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Ingredients for the topping:

1/2 tsp cinnamon

4 tsp brown sugar or xylitol

4 tsp apple sauce

Tiny pinch salt

4 tsp coconut oil

A pinch of corn starch

Crumbled pecans or walnuts (optional)

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Preparation:

Grease 2 small mug or 4 small ramekins and set aside. In a small bowl, combine all cake dry ingredients, then add all cake liquid ingredients and stir. Transfer the cake batter to the prepared mugs or ramekins, then spoon the streusel evenly on top.

Either bake at 350F for 14 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean OR cook in the microwave until a toothpick comes out clean. (Microwave times will vary depending on wattage.)

I nuked mine in the ramekins for 70 seconds each while Audrey baked hers in the toaster oven.  We tried each other’s cake and they taste quite the same.  If you use a small mug instead of a small ramekin, you will probably need 90 seconds to 100 seconds.  Start with a shorter time and poke a toothpick in the cake to see if it’s done.  If not, add another 10 seconds or so.

If you don’t want to eat the cake directly from the mug or dish, allow it to cool completely. Then run around the sides with a knife and it should pop right out! Eat plain or topped with sugar-free icing (see note).

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I enjoyed eating it piping hot right out of the ramekin.

Note:

I blended 1 cup of xylitol into powdered “sugar,” and used the powdered sugar with a tiny bit of milk to make the icing.  You can also use a little bit of plain yogurt to make a yogurt icing.

Store the powdered xylitol with a 1 teaspoon of cornstarch to prevent clumping.

Raspberry Vanilla Coffee Cake

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My mother’s memory is getting a little foggy.  The doctor prescribed playing piano, socializing, reading and writing a memoir as her treatment.  I encouraged her to write and told her that I would love to read what her life was like before I knew her. 

Today, she emailed me the story of how she and her mother traveled from Shanghai to Chong Qing to reunite with her father in 1942, in the midst of the Japanese invasion.  What is today a two and half hour flight took them more than a month of walking on dirt roads and riding on ox-powered carts.  They zigzagged away from the major routes to avoid the Japanese occupied areas.  Sometimes, her mother would carry her for hours on her back when she was too exhausted to walk. 

It was an arduous and dangerous journey, but my mother was too young to fully realize the risk involved.  She was happy to be with her mother, who had spent 5 years in England and America with her husband, leaving my mother and my aunt to the care of the relatives in Shanghai.

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My mother and her younger sister, a year or so before their parents left them in 1937.

My mother’s mother — my grandmother — was not what one would consider a good traditional Chinese woman, who would have stayed behind to take care of the old and the young while her husband went abroad.  Then again, most traditional Chinese women back then had arranged marriages.  They did not necessarily love their husbands.  From what I found out, my grandmother loved my grandfather.  A couple of years ago, I found a poem dedicated to my grandmother by a renowned poet of that era by the name of Liu Ya-zi in one of his poem collections.  It described my grandmother being in love with my grandfather. (See Note.)

The war had just broken out when my grandmother left with my grandfather to England where he received his doctorate degree in Neuropharmacology.  When they left, my mother was not yet four and her younger sister was only two years old. 

I think in my mother’s eyes, it was during the long and grueling trip from Shanghai to Chong Qing that my grandmother redeemed herself for abandoning her and her sister.  My mother admired my grandmother for her resourcefulness and for her ability to enjoy life. During their difficult journey, my grandmother always had two magical items with her to make life (or boiled vegetable and watery porridge) better, tastier — her bottles of saccharin and MSG.  That I, too, remember.  When she was persecuted for being a foreign spy and sent down to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, she said she would be fine as long as she had her saccharin and her MSG. 

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My grandmother holding me in front of our house

I began to live in my grandmother’s room at age six after my grandfather committed suicide.  Looking back, she was not much older than I am now when she lost her beloved husband.  In the time of great personal tragedy, she taught me by example to always insist on finding pleasure in life no matter how bad things are.  When I first saw the film Mary Poppins and heard the song A Spoonful of Sugar, I immediately thought of my grandmother – the Mary Poppins of my life – making the medicine go down with a pill of saccharin when sugar was an absolute impossibility.

Here is a spoonful of sugar for you, grandma!  (Well, it’s actually xylitol, but it looks and taste exactly like sugar, with only half the calories, not that you ever worried about high calorie intake.)

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Raspberry Vanilla Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup milk of choice

1/2 cup vanilla-flavored yogurt (I used fat-free Fage)

1 tbsp ground flax or 1 egg white

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

3 tbsp coconut or veg oil

2 cups wholewheat flour

2/3 cups xylitol or sugar (or sucanat)

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/16 tsp pure stevia, or 2 extra tbsp sugar (or 2 NuNaturals packets)

1 2/3 cups raspberries

1/3 cup more raspberries

optional: chocolate chips

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Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 F, and grease a 9 1/2-in springform pan. Combine first 5 ingredients (yes, the flax too) and whisk. Set aside. In a separate, large measuring bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except the final 1/3 cup raspberries, and stir well. Pour wet into dry and stir until evenly combined (don’t overmix). Pour into the prepared pan, then sprinkle the remaining berries on top. Bake 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out relatively clean. Cool the healthy raspberry coffee cake in pan on a wire rack, 15 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan.

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Adapted from: chocolatecoveredkatie.com

Note:  For those readers who understand Chinese, here are a few more stories about my grandmother and the original poem by Liu Ya-zi:

思念姥姥

陈冲

杂志社约我写稿,不知哪根筋搭错尽一口答应下来,但是很长时间都不知该写什么。杂志社建议的有关如何以美颜和智慧取得成功的题目,我似乎没有任何实用的忠告可分享。眼看交稿的日子就要到了,夜里在床上发愁,突然就梦见了我已故几十年的姥姥——我的榜样和守护神。

怎样才算一位成功的女性?如果我能问她,姥姥会怎么说?今天衡量成功的标准无非是金钱和权势。如果是女性,她还必须拥有一位同样成功的丈夫。按这个标准,姥姥不是一位成功的女性,多半也从没有过这种成功的企图。但是跨越半个世纪的距离远远望她,我仍然清晰地看到她的富足。姥姥所拥有的是一份高贵——贫困侮辱或悲痛都不能剥夺的精神高贵;一份自由——手铐脚链或压制都无法捆绑的心灵自由。

我从六岁开始跟姥姥同屋,一直都喜欢和羡慕她那股潇洒劲儿和享受生活的能力。我记忆中总是有很多年轻人来找姥姥补习英文、修改文章或者闲聊,有时聊得高兴了她还点上一根烟。姥姥是一个让年轻人喜欢的老人,有许多忘年交。

文革期间姥姥下放到五七干校,虽然生活是贫瘠的,但是她的信上讲的都是她找到了什么上海吃不到的东西,我记得让她特别兴奋的好像是一种叫臭芦梗东西。她在干校跟人说,毛主席是“两论起家”,我是“两精起家”(味精和糖精)。结果让人给抓了小辫子,批斗了一通。姥姥没跟我说她挨斗的事,这是她的个性,说这种倒霉事有什么好玩儿的?挨斗的事是我母亲告诉我的,为了让我懂得“祸从口出”的道理。几十年以后,也是从母亲那儿知道,我的那位热爱生活的姥姥原来在文革初期挨整时曾经自杀过。我至今都无法将那种悲哀和绝望安在我心目中的姥姥身上。

从干校回来后,姥姥还停着职,不能从事她热爱的出版事业。被剥夺了工作权利和政治待遇是一件很糟糕的事,但是姥姥却决定乘没事干带我去旅游。那个年代没有人旅游,只有人出公差。我妈觉得很诧异,我却兴奋得跳起来。当时家里钱很紧,姥姥和妈妈又都不太会过日子,到了发工资前几天,总是缺钱买菜。为了不影响家用,姥姥取出她全部的积蓄,就带我上路了。那时我大概在小学三四年级,姥姥为我请了两周假,用的什么借口我不记得了。我的语文课本里有一篇写南京长江大桥的,姥姥就把大桥作为我们的第一个景点。站在南京长江大桥上我感受到无比的骄傲 ——— 并不是因为建桥的人克服了重重困难完成了这座壮观的大桥,而是因为全班甚至全校只有我一个人亲眼见过它。

1977年我主演了谢晋导演的《青春》,78年又拍了《小花》。在那之后,经常会有一些人上门来要认识我。据姥姥说,他们都是“高干子弟”。不管我当时在家或不在家,姥姥一概不让我出面。我总是拿着一本书待在厨房或待在厕所。姥姥照常倒茶递烟,冬天点上炭炉,夏天递把扇子,天南海北地跟人聊。来的人虽然不能满足初衷,走时也不觉太失望,有个把还回来看过姥姥。

刚开始留学那阵,我隔好久才见能姥姥一回。那个年代,如果从美国回家探亲,总是要带一台电视机什么的,那些所谓的“四大件”。可是姥姥不要大件的,也许是不舍得我花钱,也许是真的对大件不感兴趣。当我坚持要带东西给她时,她让我带一块美国最“臭”的奶酪,姥姥喜欢一切发过酵的“臭”食品:臭芦梗、臭豆腐、臭冬瓜、臭奶酪。还有一回,她问我能不能买个有点儿波浪的假发套。最让我惊讶的是有一次姥姥居然让我为她买一个在前面扣扣的文胸,让我在电话里开怀大笑好一阵。在美国拍戏后,我有了足够的收入频繁地回来看她。每次回家我总能从楼下就看到姥姥已经带着头套趴在钢窗框上等着我。

我在世界各地出外景都会在电话里告诉姥姥我的近况,她总是有问不完的问题。姥姥是一个富有强烈好奇心和探险精神的人,听母亲说抗战时姥姥曾经自愿跟中国远征军到中缅边界当过英文翻译。现在回想她一定很向往能到那些异国外景地去看看。当年护照签证都是非常难拿到的,如果我邀请姥姥,她未必能去成。但是我的遗憾是我没曾邀请她。

1989年我到澳洲拍戏,到了就给姥姥打了个电话。跟以前一样,我们嘻嘻哈哈聊了好一阵。但是我渐渐发觉姥姥的反应有些异常,说再见之前我突然意识到她不知道我是谁。挂了电话我大哭了一场,好几天都缓不过来。两星期后我鼓足勇气再打给她一次,跟她解释我是她的外孙女,是阿中的女儿,是陈冲。她笑着说,我知道阿中的女儿是谁,是电影明星。其实阿中比她女儿漂亮多了,倒是女儿当了电影明星。仍然是那位健谈的姥姥,但是她挣扎在失忆深渊的边缘。

最后一次回家看姥姥时她已经得了胰头癌,我陪她一起到医院。有些检查的过程是痛苦的,而且缺乏尊严,姥姥不想做。她不停地用哀求的眼光看着我,最后跟我说,你让他们停下来。我真想跟医生们说别查了,我们要回去了。但是我没有,我轻轻跟姥姥说很快就会结束的。不幸的是检查结束后医生让姥姥马上住院。带她回家拿生活用具时,她待在房间半天不肯走,说还要再想想有什么东西忘记了。住院当晚姥姥就动员同病房的病人一起逃回家,护士们只能把她的鞋藏起来。

手术后没两个月姥姥就去世了,她没有能从医院回到她心爱的房间,我也没有在她身边。也许当年真的应该让姥姥留在自己的屋里,也许少活一个月,也许并不,但是那是她想待的地方。很长一段时间我每夜梦见姥姥,有时梦里的姥姥生动鲜活到跟真的一样,我醒来后要好几秒钟才悟到刚才那只是梦。

我每次回上海跟老朋友们聚会都有人会提到姥姥,我出国后朋友们常去陪姥姥聊天,他们每个人都有几段姥姥的故事说来分享。也是在朋友那里我慢慢知道一些她年轻时代的事。小时候姥姥念的是苏州女子师范学校,后来到南京的金陵女子文理学院学教育。现在回想,姥姥带我去南京的时候,我们的确去了金陵女子大学的旧址,也许她不想让她的历史给我带来政治包袱,所以没有提及她的过去。

关于过去,我最感兴趣的是她和公公的关系。少年时代,他们都曾经在苏州就学,青年时代又都在南京上过大学。1932年“12.8”事件爆发后,姥姥加入了上海医学院组织的第四救护队,当时外公也在上海医学院,他们到底是什么时候相识的呢?是不是家庭包办的? 外公出国深造时,姥姥把两个幼小的女儿留在战乱中的国内,跟他去了。如果不是自由恋爱,不是那么喜欢外公,姥姥应该不会这样选择的吧。

前不久我参与拍摄《客从何处来》时,从文献中发现一位当年的著名诗人柳亚子1932年为姥姥填过一首诗, “浪淘沙 文艺茶话会座上赠史伊凡女士:珠玉泻莺喉,钢里含柔,吴娃燕语最风流。一阙新词低唱罢,怎不娇羞。京兆画眉俦,是几生修,天教韵事继红楼。为恐石凉人睡去,芍药轻兜。”在这首词里,诗人还特意注释史女士爱人叫张弓——我外公的别名。这样的“风流”和“娇羞”也许是因为恋情的缘故吧。当年的“爱人”其实是恋人的意思。留学英美回国后姥姥用自己的积蓄和稿费,一个人办起了一家现代医学出版社,外公则利用国外带回的微型胶卷文献资料先后写成了《磺胺类药物》、《青霉素和链霉素》、《现代药理学》等书。这些书填补了国内医学界、尤其是解放区医学方面的空白。姥姥和外公当年从个人到事业全方位的合作给我的感觉是一对相敬相爱的最佳搭档。

1967年,在那个是非颠倒,黑白混淆的岁月,外公选择了清白,毅然与世长辞。那天我从幼儿园回家后,走进姥姥的房间。虽然是大白天,窗帘却紧关着,姥姥一个人坐在她和公公的大床上,我永远都不会忘记昏暗中她那张无泪的脸。不久后我就搬到姥姥房间跟她同住。她的房间很简洁,墙上除了一张外公的黑白相片别的什么都没有。从悲剧中走出来的姥姥仍然爱她的所爱:外公、书本、儿女、儿孙、朋友和臭奶酪。1983年姥姥为《自然杂志》写了一篇关于外公生平的文章,字里行间流露出尊严和敬意,没有半点廉价的煽情。姥姥做了一辈子编辑和出版,深知与人心相比,文字永远苍白。

现在我也年过半百了,跟当年的姥姥差不多岁数。在孤独或困惑的时候,我偶尔幻想我跟她像老朋友那样坐下来喝茶聊天,我的心便渐渐温暖和坚定起来。姥姥的人生观和价值观是我以不变应万变的准则。当我能跟姥姥那样远离庸俗的时候,我对自己是满意的。所谓的成功或者不成功都只是过眼烟云。

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

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Peter and I have been introducing old films to the girls on Friday evenings.  Last week we watched Jaws, and tonight we watched One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Though we thought that it might be too mature a theme for Audrey, she was riveted by the film.  However, the ending was a little too brutal for her.  Audrey had to watch an episode of Friends and eat a slice of cheesecake to neutralize the crushing sadness.

As for me — I’m letting Jack Nicholson’s face haunt me for the rest of the night.  What a brilliant performance!

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

Ingredients For the Crust:

2 cups Peanut Butter Crunch Corn Cereal (That happened to be what I had in the pantry and it worked out great for a gluten free crust.)

Or

1 1/2 cups crumbs of Homemade Graham Crackers, or 10 graham cracker sheets

3 tbsp oil of choice, or 3 tbsp milk of choice for a low-fat crust

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Ingredients For the Filling:

1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt  (I used fat-free Fage.)

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp Mori-Nu silken firm tofu

1/4 fat free ricotta cheese

1/4 tsp plus scant 1/8 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tbsp lemon juice 

5 tablespoons pure maple syrup or agave

pinch uncut stevia OR 2-3 tbsp granulated sugar of choice

2 1/2 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot

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Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients for the filling in a food processor or blender, and blend until completely smooth.

Pour into any prepared crust. Bake 50 minutes, then remove from the oven. It’ll still look very gooey, but that’s okay. Allow to cool for an hour before moving the cake, uncovered, to the refrigerator to set for at least 8 hours, during which time it will magically firm up and become more flavorful.

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adapted from: chocolatecoveredkatie

Banana Snacking Cake with Cashew Coconut Cream

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When I went to the library to return a book for Audrey, I browsed the isles and chanced upon a book written by Maya Angelou, called Letter to My Daughter.  The first essay was titled Home.  I was immediately drawn to it because the word home is the most beautiful word that I have ever known. 

Home — not just a warm place where one can take off one’s stinky socks and plunk down without apology, but also where one feels completely free and unencumbered in a spiritual sense — is everything I have ever wanted.

No one has defined that sense of belonging more eloquently and poignantly as Angelou did in her essay: 

“Home is that youthful region where a child is the only real living inhabitant. Parents, siblings, and neighbors, are mysterious apparitions, who come, go, and do strange unfathomable things in and around the child, the region’s only enfranchised citizen.

I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.

We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.”

And home, of course, is also where we bake.

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This moist banana cake is gluten free, vegan and delicious.

BANANA SNACKING CAKE WITH CASHEW COCONUT CREAM

Ingredients:

1 Cup Almond Meal

1/2 Cup Spelt Flour

2 tbsp coconut flour

1/2 Cup Unsweetened, Shredded Coconut

1 tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

2 packs Stevia

1/2 Cup blackstrap molasses

1/4-1/2 tsp. Cinnamon, plus extra for finishing

Few pinches of Fresh Grated Nutmeg

2 Large Extra Ripe Bananas

1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, warmed to a liquid

2 Eggs

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

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Ingredients for Cashew Cream:

1/2 Cup Raw Cashews, soaking in water for an hour

1/2 Cup Coconut Milk

1 Tbsp. Honey or Maple

1 tsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

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Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350′.

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

In another bowl, smash the bananas really well, breaking down the chunks. Add the oil, eggs, vanilla and mix. Stir the wet into the dry ingredients.

Grease an 8×8 glass baking pan and pour in the mix. Bake on the middle rack for about 22-24 minutes. Being sure the center is just set.

Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes, cover it with a dish towel and let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour as it re-absorbs some of the steam.

For the cream, drain the cashews and put them in a food processor with the coconut milk, honey and lemon juice. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. It will have a bit of texture to it. The cream will keep in the fridge for about a week.

Add a bit of the cream to each piece of cake. Finish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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Adapted from: sproutedkitchen.com

Chinese Shredded Pork + Homemade Graham Crackers

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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.”

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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

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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

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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.

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Adapted from: chocolatecoveredkatie