“What About Something Sweet? Baked Goods!”

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These delicious cookies are deceptively healthy. They are gluten free, dairy free and packed with nuts.

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Andrew Ly asked me via Facebook “What about something sweet? Baked goods!”  So, Andrew, here they are.  I feel like I am showing da Vinci how to paint a picture since Andrew Ly and his brother founded the Bay Area baking phenomenon Sugar Bowl Bakery.

Andrew and his family, along with another 140 refugees, braved pirates and sharks on a ride in a rickety hand-built boat from Vietnam to Malaysia with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  They were in a refugee camp in Malaysia for a year before coming to America.  They started a family bakery which grew into a 60 million dollar enterprise.  Their rags to riches story was singled out by President Obama when he came to San Francisco to give a speech about immigration a few years ago.

I understand the struggles of being uprooted and coming to a strange land.  I also understand the great opportunities that this land offers to all who are willing to work hard. 

I was not a boat person and I arrived US on a plane, but I also came to America with only the clothes on my back in 1981.  Though I was a movie star in China, I had no money.  I babysat, cleaned houses, and worked in restaurants to support myself through college. I, too, have come a long way.

Now, what about something sweet?  Baked goods!

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Walnut & Date Almond Meal Cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/4 heaping cup almond flour

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 heaping cup chopped dried dates (I used very plump and gooey ones)

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 egg

3 tablespoons melted coconut oil (or almond oil)

1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 tsp Xanthan gum (optional)

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Preparation:

Combine almond meal, walnuts, dates, shredded coconut, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum in a large bowl.

In a small bowl whisk the egg until it is uniform in color doubles in volume. Whisk in the coconut oil, honey and vanilla.

Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until combined

Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or overnight

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and using your hands roll the chilled dough into two bite sized cookies and lightly press on the tops to flatten.

Bake on a parchment paper lined baking sheet until the edges begin to brown – about 12 minutes.

Yields about 12 cookies

Adapted from: Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook

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These nutrition packed cookies and ice cream are perfect for after school snack.

Slow-churned Raspberry Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1 cup 2% milk fat evaporated milk (or any milk)

1 cup fat-free Fage (or other Greek yogurt)

1 1/2 heaping cup fresh raspberries

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt

5 tbsp xylitol

1/2 tsp xanthan gum (optional)

Preparation:

Blend all ingredients except for raspberries in a large blender until smoothly mixed.  Add raspberries and pulse for a second.

Pour mixture into the ice cream machine and let it churn for 30 minutes or until the desired hardness.  

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I know it must feel odd and inappropriate to show my socks with my yummy cookies, but I promised yesterday that I would demonstrate what the Kondo way of folding socks is like.  It took me less than 15 minutes to un-ball the socks that looked like potatoes in my drawer, and to fold them in a way that they can relax and I can see each and everyone of them at one glance. I actually committed a Kondo sin by beginning to organize my socks before discarding of the clothes category is 100% completed, but rules are made to be broken.

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Hoisin Orange Pork Chops with Vegetables

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Mondays are usually busy with all kinds of errands, but I managed to read a few more chapters of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up.  I learned today that I’m never supposed to ball up my socks.  It cracked me up when the author asked “This should be a time for them to rest.  Do you really think they can get any rest like that?”  My socks are supposed to be on holiday in my drawer.  Being balled up means that they are in a state of tension.  I wondered where she was gong with this until she showed me how to fold it and store it “the right way.”  It actually made sense.  I can’t wait to un-ball all my socks tomorrow and create a sock resort for them.  I will show you a photo of my relaxed socks if it all goes well.  

I’ve never been good at the lotus position meditation, but I can imagine the methodical smoothing out and folding of the socks to be a meditative process as cooking oftentimes is for me.

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Hoisin Orange Pork Chops with Vegetables

Ingredients:

For the Marinade:

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp Asian cooking wine

Other Ingredients:

2 (6 oz total) 2-inch thick broccoli stems, spiralized

cooking spray

(2) 5 to 6 ounce boneless pork chop, 1” thick

2 cups broccoli florets

1 teaspoon 100% pure sesame oil

1/4 red onion, julienned

1 carrot, spiralized

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

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Preparation:

Combine the hoisin, orange juice soy sauce and wine with a whisk and reserve. Add pork chops to marinade and refrigerate for 2 hours.

While chops are marinating, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place the broccoli in a wire basket and cook for about 3 minutes at a slow boil to blanch. Remove from pot and place in ice water to stop the cooking process. Let sit in ice bath for a couple minutes until chilled.

Remove chops from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for about 5 minutes before cooking. Remove from marinade, reserving the marinade for later. 

Heat a medium nonstick sauté pan on high heat, spray with oil when hot then place the steaks and cook 3 minutes on each side. Lower the stove to medium and cook another 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until the thermometer inserted to the center reads 140.  Transfer to a cutting board and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Add the reserved marinade to the skillet, reduce heat to medium-low, bring to a boil and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.

Place the sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet, add the onions, garlic and ginger and cook on high 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broccoli and carrot noodles, season with salt and cook 3 minutes. Add the blanched broccoli and cook until hot.

Divide the vegetables unto 2 separate plates. Place the chops on a cutting board and cut into thin strips. Lay chops on top of the vegetables, top with sauce and serve.

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Recipe adapted from:  skinnytaste.com

“Easy Minute” Almond Muffins

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I always get up early on Sunday mornings to read a little or to find an interesting breakfast recipe to make for Peter and the girls.  This morning, I brewed myself a tea and continued with my reading of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  Yesterday I read only 18% of the book, and I was inspired to discard 8 trash bags of stuff.  I had a major shift of paradigm today when I read that it is not about deciding what to discard; it is about choosing what to keep. Keep only what “spark joy,” the author advised.  She also asks the reader to envision her ideal home and ideal lifestyle before beginning the process of this life-changing tidying up. 

I remember fantasizing about a clutter-free life whenever I check into an elegant hotel suite with my carefully packed suitcase.  Sometimes, I would stay for a few months with only what I had in that suitcase — each item meticulously considered — without missing anything.  Now I will contemplate all my possessions as if I were packing for a trip, except the hotel suite will be my home.

Peter got up when I was at 38% of the book, and I shared with him my vision for our house.  He looked a little dubious, but said, “Sounds great.”  He is the easiest person to live with.

In the mood to streamline, I made microwaved almond muffins for breakfast.  It is so simple and quick to make — literally just press the “easy minute” button.  They were fluffy, moist and yummy.

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Ingredients for microwaved Muffins:

1 1/3 cup almond flour

3 tbsp black molasses 

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)

1/8 tsp salt

3 large eggs

1/4 cup almond milk or milk of choice

1/4 tsp xanthan gum (optional)

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Preparation:

Add all wet ingredients into the blender, and then add all the dry ingredients on top.  Blend until smooth.  Pour batter into rinsed ramekin 3/4 full and microwave for 1 minute.  Instead of greasing the ramekins, I just rinsed them and left them wet.  The muffins came out from the ramekins very easily after microwaving.  You may need to test your microwave and decide on the time needed to make a perfect “mug pancake.” I simply pressed “easy minute” on mine.  If you use a real mug to make these, you will probably need 90 seconds.

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Spring Cleaning & Ramen in Beef Broth

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I read about the phenomenal Japanese cleaning guru Marie Kondo on the Wall Street Journal and immediately bought her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I have been in dire need to declutter and am very fed up with my inability to organize. I’m not the kind to read self-help books, but my desperate situation calls for desperate measures. 

A few days ago, I talked to my brother about the troubles of an overabundant life.  We used to have two sets of clothes at any given time, and we changed clothes only because they needed washing. I remember that the first time I set foot in an American supermarket, I was both delighted and paralyzed by the dazzling variety of choices of shampoo.  It took me a long time to read about every product and finally decide on buying the cheapest brand.  My brother and I reminisced nostalgically about our frugal lifestyle with few possessions. 

For a Japanese book about tidying up and decluttering to become a international best seller, and for the author’s name to become a verb, the world must be full of clutter indeed. This is an age of clutter, both tangible and intangible.  Her theory is that once the tangible clutter is gone, the intangible ones will be taken care of as well.

After I read only 18% of the book, I felt somehow enlightened and emboldened to take a crack at organizing.  Kondo method begins with discarding — what a liberating thing to do.  After putting away eight trash bags of once loved or never used things, I felt lighter, happier and hopeful that finally I maybe able to learn to organize.

It was time to make some good old comfort food: ramen in beef stew and broth.  We cooked a pot of beef stew a couple of days ago. The leftovers were perfect for ramen in broth.

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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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For the Ramen:

200g fresh ramen from Asian market

8 to 10 pieces of beef shank and beef tendon

Broth from the beef stew + beef broth if the stew does not have enough broth

2 teaspoon chopped green onion

Preparation:

Cook the ramen in a large pot of water according to package instruction.  In a separate pot heat up the beef and broth.  When the noodle is cooked to al dente, rinse it in cold water and separate into two serving in two bowls.  Pour the beef and broth over noodle.  Sprinkle chopped green onion and serve hot.

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