Guest Post: Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies!

Today our mom flew off to Taiwan, so for dinner I’m having steamed cauliflower, brown rice, and a healthy protein “milkshake.” Not exactly what you’d call gourmet. So instead of boring you with all the stuff I’ve been putting together in the microwave, I’d like to introduce you to today’s guest blogger, Kim Hoeltje:

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I am 29 years young and live in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania with my husband, two kittens, and one snuggly Puggle.
I love baking. My parents own a cookie bakery so I learned how mix, scoop, and taste test at an early age. I like to experiment with different recipes, make changes, add different ingredients, and just have fun with it. I love using protein powder in place of flour and sugar.
My protein-packed dessert recipes come from my love of sweet treats, healthy alternatives, and kid-friendly taste buds. I am a full-time nanny, fitness enthusiast, and recent lover of food blogging. My focus is creating good for you foods that make you feel good too!
One of my all time favorite recipes is my Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies!
These may look like they are packed full of sugar, flour, and butter, but they actually contain none of those ingredients!! They are low fat, low carb, and packed full of protein!
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
  • 1 scoop Chocolate Protein Powder (30g)
  • 2 T PB2 or other powdered peanut butter (14g) (can sub any nut butter)
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin (60g)
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas or any white bean (130g)
  • 3 T egg substitute (46g)
  • 3 T unsweetened almond milk (46ml)
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • sweetener to taste (4 packets)
  1. Drain and rinse beans
  2. Puree beans, pumpkin, egg, milk, and vanilla
  3. Stir in everything else except the peanut butter
  4. If using PB2, add water til you get a peanut butter consistency
  5. Coat 5×7 baking dish with nonstick spray
  6. Pour brownie batter in dish
  7. Swirl peanut butter on top
  8. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes

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You could just eat one or two brownies, but why stop there?! You can have all six for only 315 calories!! Only 5 grams of fat and 34 grams of carbs. They make a great breakfast because they are packed with 37 grams of protein!
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Brownies for breakfast!? Yes please!
Original recipe link –
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A Day of No Cooking!

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A day of no cooking!  Nonfat Fage and fruits for breakfast, leftovers for lunch and takeout for dinner!  Peter and I went hiking on Crissy Field before the girls got up.  It made me think that this is how I should be every morning — to eat yogurt and to take a brisk walk along the bay. 

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Since we had to leave the house at 5 to go to the Castro Theater, we ordered Chinese takeout from this hole-in-the-wall place called Green Island.  Cheap and yummy comfort food, the kind that I love.  They have a three dish special that is $21 and we ordered rock cod with black bean sauce, salted fish with chicken and eggplants clay pot, beef and string beans in oyster sauce.

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I told the girls that when they grow up and serve their husbands cheap Chinese takeout, they should dress up, take out the linen napkins, uncork a bottle of champagne or drink water in fine crystal goblets… That’s the only way to eat cheap Chinese takeout. 

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The screening of The Last Emperor 3D was an emotional experience for me. I teared up with the first note of music. Everything felt so vivid that I could almost reach out and touch the young self I had left far behind.  That splendid and miserable youth of 28 years ago.  Sitting in the audience holding hands with my daughters, I relived the six months I spent making the film.  Six month on location would be unthinkable today.  I would be needed at home.  And I would need my home.  But back then I had no one in particular to rush home to and being on location was exactly where I wanted to be.  I thought of all the talented people, the best in their own fields, who had worked on the film.  Quite a number of them have since passed.  I sensed their spirit in the lightwaves and particles.

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With Bernardo, Jeremy Thomas, Vivian Wu

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With Ryûichi Sakamoto

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
  • I added a 1/3 teaspoon Mae Ploy yellow curry paste, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and 2 eggsP1040657
  • 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.

My first kiss went a little like this…

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

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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. 

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Chase and I being the Marx brothers for Halloween

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Chase’s self portrait from that era

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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My mother with my brother Chase in front of our house

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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2 Spaghetti Squash Dishes That Are So Delicious You’ll Forget They’re Healthy

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We all have heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child.  Jing, our nanny of almost ten years has been an integral part of the village that raises my daughters, especially when I go away on location.  Any working mom knows how valuable a good nanny is.  A couple of years ago, I helped her when she and her husband decided to purchase a house in the Sunset District in San Francisco.  Nowadays, she often brings me things that she has grown from her garden and today, it was a spaghetti squash.  She told me that she had just picked up some seeds from our kitchen and planted them in the soil.  Simple as that.  Mother Nature did all the rest. 

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The nanny grown spaghetti squash was a different color than normal store-bought spaghetti squash, and the strands, though tasty, were short and not very much at all like spaghetti. I guess this goes to show that the produce we buy is selectively bred (and perhaps genetically modified) to make it look and taste a certain way.

Sunny autumn days are perfect for spaghetti squash dishes. I made a refreshing salad and crispy-on-the-outside-tender-in-the-inside patties with the vine ripe squash. They were so delicious that no one would expect them to be so healthy as well.

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I based my recipes on Martha Stewart Living and made a few small changes. 

Ingredients for the salad沙拉原料:

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil) 15 mL橄榄油

2 shallots, diced small 少许小洋葱

2 garlic cloves, minced 两瓣大蒜

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves 一小勺百里香

3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves 迷迭香

6 cups Roasted Spaghetti Squash (I microwaved it) 半只鱼翅瓜

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 1/4杯意大利香菜

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Coarse salt and ground pepper

I added 1/2 cubanelle pepper that is not in the original recipe

DIRECTIONS

Instruction:

In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium. Add shallots and garlic and cook until softened, 7 minutes. Stir in thyme and rosemary and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add squash and toss to combine. Cook until warmed through. Stir in parsley and Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. 把所有的香料在橄榄油里炒过之后跟瓜拌在一起。如果没有鱼翅瓜,可以用南瓜切丝在开水里烫熟后凉拌。

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Ingredients for the patties鱼翅瓜煎饼:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 橄榄油

3 shallots, minced 小紫洋葱

2 small jalapenos, seeded and minced小青辣椒

3 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger姜

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin孜然

3/4 teaspoon ground coriander香菜

Coarse salt and ground pepper胡椒

3 cups Roasted Spaghetti Squash, patted dry

2 large eggs, lightly beaten鸡蛋

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used oat bran)面粉

Nonstick cooking spray

I added 1/2 cup fat free mozzarella and 1/2 of sunflower seeds which are not in the original recipe

我在煎饼里加了奶酪和葵瓜子,这样我的两个食素的公主可以有足够蛋白质。

DIRECTIONS

Instruction:

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add shallots, jalapenos, and ginger and cook, stirring, until softened, 7 minutes. Stir in cumin and coriander and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly, 5 minutes.

Transfer to a large bowl and stir in squash, eggs, and flour. Wipe out skillet, then lightly coat skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium. In batches, add batter in 1/4 cupfuls to skillet and cook until pancakes are golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through. Transfer pancakes to oven to keep warm; repeat with remaining batter.

How I Quit Twin Peaks to Eat Coconut

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Twin Peaks is back after 25 years, but I highly doubt that I will be back as Josie.  I was the exotic beauty in an incestuous town, a poisonous fish out of water.  And we all know I that haven’t been these things for quite a while now.  However, a glimmer of hope still exists, for Josie was last seen trapped in a wooden doorknob.  Perhaps I can come back in one of the episodes as a doorknob witch? 

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I have made countless stupid mistakes in life and wanting to be written out of Twin Peaks was among the stupidest.  With the ignorance of my youth, and the influence of the PC factions in the Asian community, I naively rebelled against being an exotic flower.  I believed that I should want to be something more meaningful. When I asked to be written out of Twin Peaks, I didn’t realize how impossibly precious the opportunity of being a beautiful Ming vase was.  Unlike a real Ming vase, the value of which increases by the day, the human version, like a blossoming cereus, is only valuable for a few short hours.  Couldn’t I have searched for meaning after my once in a lifetime bloom?

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‘The Night-Blowing Cereus’ by Robert John Thornton, 1799

The project for which I quit Twin Peaks was called Turtle Beach, a disaster of a film that no one ever saw.  The only good thing was that it was filmed in Thailand, where the world’s best coconuts were grown.  I came to LOVE coconut during the 10 weeks of filming Turtle Beach on the balmy beach of Phuket. 

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Coconut love on “Turtle Beach”

People still walk up to me to tell me they loved me in Twin Peaks.  I would be walking on the street or shopping for groceries with a dirty face, and a stranger would begin to gush about Twin Peaks with me.  I have always been quite shocked and totally embarrassed at how people could make the connection between this slob and Josie Packard. 

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For desert tonight I served my family almond flour coconut chocolate cookies and coconut mango raspberry ice cream as I told them the story of how I ended up in a wooden doorknob so many years ago.  And how I came to love coconut.

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Sprouted Kitchen cookie recipe slightly revised:

1 ¼ cups almond meal (I added 1/4 cup of coconut flour)

¼ cup cacao nibs (I used Ghirardelli 100% unsweetened dark chocolate)

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup  muscovado sugar (I used sugar free maple syrup)

1 egg

3 tablespoons melted extra virgin coconut oil (I replaced it with non fat Fage)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)

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8 ounces mango
4 ounces raspberries
1/4 cup sugar free maple syrup
2 tablespoons raspberry or strawberry jam
1 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup non-fat Fage
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup shredded toasted coconut, plus additional for serving
This recipe was improvised based on a few online references.

I Like Chinese Food!

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I was forced to cook at the age of 11 or 12. At that time, my parents were sent down to the countryside as a part of their cultural revolution reeducation.  My brother and I were left to be in charge of our own survival.  Five families of workers and peasants had moved into our house when I was seven or eight.  It was a way for the government to redistribute housing from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat.  In the beginning, I didn’t like these people who invaded our home and occupied our best rooms.  But after a few years I became friends with the children of the invading families.  When my parents were away, they kept an eye out for my brother and me.  I don’t remember ever feeling cooking was a chore.  I wanted to cook.  The more the better.  Cooking meant there was food to eat.  There were times when I would only cook a pot of rice, and we would eat with the crispy pork lard residue.  It really sounds worse than it was.  When the pork we got from the market was too fatty, we would cut the fat into tiny cubes and make lard.  The crispy residue was truly delicious over rice.

My mother sent my brother and me letters everyday.  And in every letter she would bid me to be extra careful about hot oil splatter that could blind me or ruin my face.  That was such a deep fear in her that she continued to write about the danger of hot oil spatter to me even when I was well into my 20s.  I was thousands of miles away from her and had problems much worse than she could ever imagine, but her worst nightmare was still the hot oil splatter blinding her young daughter. 

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However, my mother’s fear was not entirely groundless.  The key to stir frying is a red hot wok and smoking hot oil.  For dinner today, I went back to my roots and cooked four Chinese dishes.  Since I have cooked Chinese food all my life, I usually do it by feel and improvise with what I have at hand. 

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Chinese Mountain Yam with Braised Tofu and Celery:

1 6 inch long Chinese Mountain Yam (山药or怀山)

1 celery heart

1/2 carrot

1 braised firm tofu or baked firm tofu

8 ounces cashew nuts or macadamia nuts

3 slices of peeled ginger

1 teaspoon of corn starch

3 tablespoon of water or chicken broth

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 teaspoon or less of salt

1 to 2 tablespoon canola oil depending on how healthy you want to be

Instruction:

Slice all vegetables into desired similar sized pieces. 

Mix the corn starch, water and oyster sauce in a small bowl. 

Heat the wok on high heat, drop in the ginger, when ginger is dry pour in the oil. 

When the ginger is sizzling in the oil, put in the vegetables and stir for about 3 minutes or to desired tenderness. 

Pour in the oyster sauce mixture and stir for a few second until the corn starch is translucent.  Turn off fire and put in the nuts.

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Baby Bok Choi with grape tomatoes:

18 to 20 baby Bok Choi, washed and patted dry

4 slices of peeled ginger

4 to 5 cherry or grape tomato

1/2 cup of chicken broth or water

1 teaspoon of salt

Instruction:

Heat the wok, put in ginger, then the oil. 

When the ginger is sizzling put in tomatoes for 30 seconds. 

Take out the tomatoes and set aside before putting in the Bok Choi.

Stir for about 3 to 4 minutes. 

Pour in the water or chicken broth and close the lid for about 1 to 2 minutes.

When the broth is dry the Bok Choi is ready.

Stir in the tomatoes to make it pretty. 

Or you can skip tomatoes all together.

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Beef Shank & Beef tendon Stew with Carrots:

1 pound of beef shank, 2 tendons, or you can use just the beef and no tendon

1 brown onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 cup of spinach(optional)

1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes (optional)

1 cup of cooking wine

1/2 cup of soy sauce

1/2 cup of dark soy sauce

3 cups of water or beef broth

5 star anise

5 slices of ginger

1/4 teaspoon Chinese peppercorn (花椒)

1 tablespoons of oil

Preparation:

Cut the beef shank and tendon to 1and1/2 cubes.

Heat the oil in a wok on high, put in peppercorn and ginger.

Stir and let sizzle for about 30 seconds, add onion and stir until soft.

Mix in the beef shank and the tendon, stir for 3 minutes.

Add wine, soy sauce and water/broth.

Close lid and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours before adding the carrots.

Cook another 30 minutes.  Before serving, add spinach and cherry tomatoes.

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Baked Pumpkin and Maple Syrup:

1 small pumpkin

1/2 cup of Joseph’s sugar-free maple-flavored syrup

Olive oil spray

Instruction:

Peel and cube the pumpkin into desired shape.

Spray olive oil and bake for 1 hour or until tender in a baking pan at 375 degree

Pour in the maple syrup and toss until pumpkin is coated with syrup.

This pumpkin dish is not authentically Chinese.  The Chinese way to cook the dish is to steam the pumpkin with Gouji Berries and some brown sugar.  My children prefer the baked version and their wishes are my command.

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