Cilantro Lime Prawns

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My friend Betty, who loved my Healthy Cherry Garcia Ice Cream Pie, just emailed me a photo of the Xylitol that she bought from Amazon.  The email read, “Am so excited. I wonder if this means I will start cooking??!!!”  I love it when I can get my friends to cook and share their results with me.  It’s funny how people unabashedly share so many photos of their food everywhere. Food porn is definitely an undeniable part of mainstream American culture that all ethnic groups participate in – from all the food channels to blogs to Facebook sharing to Instagram to text messages etc. etc. – nowadays even eating alone can be a social event.  Food has been bringing people together for centuries; now virtual food is bringing people together in a different way.

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So here it is:  Cilantro Lime Prawns

This flavorful dish goes well with yesterday’s corn salad, or the corn chowder that I have shared in February.  I can’t wait to cook the chowder again with fresh corn.

Ingredients:

1 pounds peeled and deveined prawns or jumbo shrimp

1/4 teaspoon teaspoon ground cumin

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 medium lime)

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

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Preparation:

Season the shrimp with cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan, then shrimp. Cook them undisturbed for about 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and cook until opaque throughout, about 1 minute.

Add crushed garlic and stir for 30 seconds, and then add the 1/4 chopped the cilantro and stir for another 30 seconds.

Squeeze the lime juice over all the shrimp. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Cook in batches if you want to double the recipe.

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Adapted from Skinnytaste.com

Against All Grain

I am traveling this weekend and regrettably will not be in my kitchen, but I want to share with you the wonderful dishes from my guest blogger, New York Times Bestseller cookbook author Danielle Walker, who overcame debilitating disease through healthful eating.  I found her story and her cookbooks inspirational and hope that you will enjoy these recipes.

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Hello Hungry Empress readers! I hope you enjoy my new recipe collection. Each recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free and Paleo-friendly.

Eating a nutritious diet focused on meals and snacks prepared at home doesn’t have to be intimidating. While it does take a little extra work to prepare things from scratch, I think you’ll find that you’ll not only enjoy the food, but also the process.

I’ve included a few of my favorite tips for easing nutritious eating and cooking into your regimen—if you haven’t already!

·         Planning meals and cooking ahead is key to keeping up a good habit, like eating and snacking healthfully

·         Never waste fresh produce, repurpose it! For example, if you start to notice your bananas ripening and you are not ready to enjoy them, simply peel and throw them in a plastic bag and place in the freezer

·         Use Mason jars for portable and compact lunches

Feel free to stop by my blog Against All Grain for more tips, recipes and information about my cookbooks.

Enjoy! Danielle

The new recipes include:

·         Chocolate Almond Cherry Power Cookies

·         Almond Matcha Superfood Smoothie

·         Thai Shrimp Salad with Spicy Almond Dressing

·         Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken with Chopped Almonds, Apricots and Cauliflower Couscous

·         Layered Chia & Almond Pudding Parfait

Danielle Walker's Chocolate Almond Cherry Power Cookie

Chocolate Almond Cherry Power Cookies

Yields 16 cookies

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons ground chia seeds

1/2 cup unsalted natural almond butter, unsweetened

1/2 cup ground flaxseed

1/2 cup arrowroot powder

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup unsweetened dried cherries, chopped

1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces (80% cacao)

1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together 1/2 cup hot water and ground chia seeds and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to thicken.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the almond butter, flaxseed, arrowroot, applesauce, maple syrup, cinnamon, lemon juice, nutmeg, ginger and sea salt. Mix on medium speed to combine fully.

Add the thickened chia mixture to the bowl with the baking soda and beat again until fully combined. Stir in the cherries and chocolate pieces.

Using a cookie scoop or a large spoon, drop dough onto the lined baking sheets. Wet fingers slightly with warm water and gently press the mounds down to flatten slightly. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sliced almonds.

Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and the almonds are lightly toasted. Cool on a wire rack completely before serving.

Danielle Walker's Almond Matcha Superfood Smoothie

Almond Matcha Superfood Smoothie

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk

1 cup baby kale, packed

3/4 cup frozen pineapple

1/2 cup frozen mango pieces

1 medium frozen banana

2 tablespoons unsalted natural almond butter, unsweetened

1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder

2 teaspoons chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Serve immediately.

Danielle Walker's Thai Shrimp Salad with Spicy Almond Butter Dressing

Thai Shrimp Salad with Spicy Almond Dressing

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the Spicy Almonds

1/2 cup whole natural almonds

3/4 teaspoon maple syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon coconut aminos

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/8 teaspoon paprika

For the Dressing

2 tablespoons unsalted natural almond butter, unsweetened

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salad

1 pound wild shrimp, tails removed, peeled and deveined

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

1 cup mung bean sprouts

1 cup carrots, julienned

1 cup red cabbage, shredded

1 cup cucumber, julienned

4 cups arugula

4 cups mixed baby greens

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

1/2 cup dressing

1/2 cup spicy almonds, chopped

Directions:

To make the spicy almonds: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss all of the ingredients together in a bowl, then spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle with any remaining sauce. Bake for 10 minutes, turning once halfway through. Cool completely, then roughly chop.

Meanwhile, make the dressing: Place all of the ingredients in a blender except for the olive oil. Blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the blender in a steady stream. Add one tablespoon of water, to help keep the dressing liquid when refrigerated.

To assemble the salads: Toss the shrimp in the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a grill pan or skillet to medium-high heat and cook the shrimp for two minutes on each side, until pink throughout. Set aside to cool.

Divide the dressing between six 24-ounce Mason jars or bowls. Divide and layer the remaining salad ingredients in the four jars or bowls in the order they are listed, with the lettuce and shrimp at the top. Leave 1 inch of space at the top of the jar.

Garnish each with about 1 tablespoon chopped spicy almonds, cover and refrigerate until ready to enjoy. When ready to enjoy, shake the jar vigorously to mix the ingredients and dressing.

Danielle Walker's Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken with Chopped Almonds, Apr...

Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken with Chopped Almonds, Apricots and Cauliflower Couscous

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the Chicken

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed

Salt and pepper (to initially season the chicken)

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper

1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock

1/4 cup unsalted natural almond butter, unsweetened

6 ounces unsweetened dried apricots

1 pound baby carrots

For the Cauliflower Couscous

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper

2 tablespoons unsweetened dried cherries

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Zest of 1 lemon

For the Garnish

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper then add half of the chicken to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker and repeat with remaining chicken.

Return the pot to the stove and add onion and garlic and sauté for three minutes or until tender. Add the ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Stir in chicken stock and almond butter, scraping pot to loosen any browned bits. Pour contents of pot over chicken into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for five hours.

Add the apricots and baby carrots to the slow cooker, cover and cook an additional hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the cauliflower couscous. Rice cauliflower by running the florets through a food processor with a grating attachment or use a box grater to create rice-like pieces. Pick out any large fragments that didn’t get shredded and save for another use. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic for 2 minutes, then add the cauliflower, salt and pepper. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender. Stir in the cherries, basil, cilantro and lemon zest.

Garnish the chicken with toasted, sliced almonds and fresh cilantro. Serve over cauliflower couscous.

Note: To toast almonds, spread them in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes.

Danielle Walker's Layered Chia & Almond Pudding Parfait

Layered Chia & Almond Pudding Parfait

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder

2 cups unsweetened almond milk

6 ounces pitted dates

1/2 cup unsweetened raw cacao powder

1/3 cup chia seeds

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 medium bananas, sliced

1/3 cup unsalted natural almond butter, unsweetened

1 cup mixed berries of choice

1/4 cup roasted almonds, chopped

Directions:

Pour 3/4 cup water into a saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over top. Turn the burner to med-high heat and whisk until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Set aside.

Combine almond milk, dates, cacao powder, chia seeds, vanilla, cinnamon and sea salt in a blender. Blend until very smooth, about two minutes. With the blender running, slowly pour in the gelatin liquid. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

To assemble the parfaits: Divide the banana slices between six 8-ounce Mason jars or bowls. Spoon equal amounts of almond butter into the jars, then top with equal amounts of the chilled pudding. Top with berries and almonds and serve immediately or refrigerate covered for up to three days.

Beet Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit

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When Audrey visited me on the set of Marco Polo in Malaysia last year, she often rehearsed dialogue with Benny, the actor who played Kublai Khan.  Audrey would read all the other characters to help Benny memorize his lines. Did the acting bug bite her then?  I was surprised when Audrey expressed her interest in acting this week and sent in an audition tape to a young director who is shooting a short film in April.  I told her that she can do it if the shooting happens during spring break.  I have never wanted to involve my children in acting.  The profession can be a treacherous one because hard work doesn’t correlates with success.  There is too much uncertainty and not enough security in this business.  But I guess it’s no use telling her how acting is a bad profession when I do it myself.  I have long learned that you can’t teach your children by telling them things.  What you teach is what you are. 

We will find out in a few days if Audrey will do her debut role in Las Vegas during spring break.  Should I keep my fingers crossed for her?

If there is “beauty sleep,” is there beauty food?  I think the salad I made for dinner comes close to “beauty food” if there ever is one. 

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Beet Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit

Ingredients:

3 small cooked beets

1 avocado

1 large pink grapefruit

Salt and Pepper to taste

This simple salad is it’s own dressing.  With the oil in the avocado and the citrusy juice from the grapefruit, all you need is a little salt and pepper if anything.  I used organic cooked beets from Love Beets.  It took me less than 10 minutes to make this delicious and satisfying salad.  Give it a vigorous toss before serving to mix the flavors of the three ingredients.

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A Simple and Yummy Spring Stir Fry

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Whenever I am pressed for time, I turn to stir fry.  Not only is it something that I have been doing since childhood and therefore second nature, but also it is a way of cooking that is, in my opinion, good for almost any food.  A quick stir fry enhances the flavor without compromising the nutritional value of the vegetables, and it never over cooks the meats.

A friend who seldom cooks texted me today to let me know that she was making the Chinese shredded pork that I posted yesterday.  It brought a smile to my face to know that the blog inspired a friend to try cooking. All the fancy culinary performance shows can sometimes be intimidating and  make cooking a spectators’ game. In reality it is just an activity that human kind has been doing since the use of controlled fire over a million years ago.  You don’t need to be a professional to cook.

So, let’s cook!

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Spring Stir Fry with Sugar Snap Peas and Chicken

Ingredients:

For the Marinade:

2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine

A pinch of salt

2 slices of ginger

For the sauce:

1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp xylitol or brown sugar

1/2 tsp pure sesame oil (optional)

1 tsp cornstarch

For the Stir Fry:

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced

1/2 tsp corn starch

1 tbsp or more canola oil

2 tsp fresh garlic, minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 heaping cup sugar snap peas

1/2 red or orange bell pepper, sliced

scallions for garnish

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Preparation:

Combine soy sauce, lime juice, water and cornstarch in a small bowl, mix together and set aside.

Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes to an hour.  Drain the chicken and discard the marinade. Add 1/2 tsp corn starch and mix.

Marinating meat in wine enhances the flavor, if you don’t have the time, you can skip the step.  Just salt the chicken and add 1/2 teaspoon corn starch.

Heat a large wok over high heat. When the wok is very hot, add half of the oil, then add the chicken. Stir fry, stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked through and browned, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set aside. Reduce heat to medium.

Add the remaining oil to the wok; add the garlic and ginger, stir for 20 seconds. Add the sugar snap peas and bell pepper, stirring over medium high heat until tender crisp, about 3 minutes.

Return the chicken to the wok, add the soy sauce-lime mixture, mix well and cook another 30 seconds to one minute. Serve immediately and top with fresh scallions.

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Recipe adapted from: skinnytaste.com

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

Saturday Brunch with Artisanal Silverware

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

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

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Smoked Salmon Scallion Omelet Ingredients:

1 Egg + 3 Egg White (beaten)

3 stalks Scallion (chopped)

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

2 tablespoon 2% Shredded Cheddar & Jack cheese

1/2 teaspoon Dill Weed

1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil

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Preparation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hungry Empress on the Big Screen

When I picked Audrey up from school today, she looked sad and tired.  What a horrible day, she said.  I asked her what happened and she told me that they had a really difficult math test. Half the class didn’t finish and many of them cried during and after the test.  I asked if she cried too and she said that she did only because her friends cried.

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So, it was time to churn some ice cream.  Audrey has a sweet tooth. And the ice cream (and perhaps Mommy’s hugs, too) brightened her right away.  With our healthy ice cream recipes, we can eat it everyday and not worry about weight gain or tooth decay.  As a matter of fact, xylitol is even good for your teeth. 

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We had Chinese food for dinner.  I only have enough daylight to take the pictures of one of our dishes.

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Chinese Mountain Yam with Sliced Chicken Breast and Celery:

1/2  6 inch long Chinese Mountain Yam (Chinese supermarkets)

1 celery heart

1/2 carrot

1 chicken breast

8 ounces cashew nuts or macadamia nuts

4 slices of peeled ginger

2 tablespoon cooking wine

1 teaspoon of corn starch

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 tablespoon Sha Cha Jiang or Sha Cha Paste (Chinese supermarkets carry it)

1/2 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 chicken meat, corn starch, wine, oyster sauce and Sha Cha in a small bowl. Marinate for 1 hour.

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. Set aside.

Repeat the same process to stir fry the chicken, but save the marinate.  Set aside.  Cook the marinate until it thickens.  Mix in everything. Mix in the nuts.

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Dessert is all American apple crisp, but a much healthier one than the traditional recipe.  The girls were excited about going to see The Last Emperor tomorrow and asked me how I got to play the part of the empress.  And I told them well, that’s a long story.

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Baked Apple Crisp (Dairy-Free, Grain-Free, egg free)

Filling

7 apples, peeled, cored, sliced into thin pieces

1/2 cup frozen cranberries

1/4 cup coconut water

3 tbs. xylitol

1 tbs. pure maple syrup

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

In a large bowl, mix together apples, coconut water, 1 tbs. xylitol, maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour into a pie dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven to sprinkle crumble on top.

Crumble Topping

1 cup almond flour/meal

4 tbs. chopped walnuts

1/3 cup shredded coconut

2 tbs. xylitol

1 tbs. maple syrup

2 tbs. coconut oil

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Mix together almond flour, pecans, honey and coconut oil in a small bowl until well combined. Take small portions of it into your hands and sprinkle chunks of it onto the apples. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

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I have never been good at auditions.  When I was growing up, modesty and humility were the two qualities that were hammered into me ever since I could remember.  And expressing personal desires was frowned up.  Basically the only thing we were encouraged to express was our desire to serve the people and to devote our lives to the realization of Communism. This kind of mentality was so ingrained in me that it was difficult for me to “sell” myself at auditions.  Growing up I was supposed to negate every compliment or praise given to me.  If someone said that I was pretty, I would immediately say no, no, I am ugly; if someone said that I was smart, I would say no, no, that’s not true.

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It took me at least one year to get used to saying thank you after people complimented me, and another year to honestly express my feelings and desires.  The first time I truly fought for what I wanted was when I auditioned for Michael Cimino’s Year of the Dragon. It was a lengthy process which lasted several months and involved dozens of call backs and a final screen test with Mickey Rourke.  The part was a sophisticated TV newscaster and I still looked and talked like a FOB from China.  In retrospect, I could see that I was completely wrong for the part but at the time I gave it everything to get the part.  I hired the the most expensive dialogue coach in Hollywood to teach me speak newscaster English.  Every session was $200 for 2 hours while I was working as a receptionist in a Chinese restaurant earning about $5 an hour.  I went for broke but I did not get the part.  Both the director and the casting director were very impressed by my progress not only in my dialogue but also in my acting ability, but in the end I was wrong for the part.  This was the only time that I ever received a huge bouquet of flowers from any director who rejected me.  I felt very dejected, believing all my effort had been a complete waste and hard work meant nothing in this business. 

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Ariane Koizumi is the actress who won the part in Year of the Dragon

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Fresh off the boat Joan

Then about a year later, I got a call from Joanna Merlin, the casting director who worked on the Year of the Dragon, and she said, Joan, there is a part that is perfect for you and I want you to meet with the director who is in LA for only a short time.  Can you come?  I said yes, anytime, I will be there.  Joanna said it is still preliminary.  We haven’t started casting, but I have told the director to look no further because I have exactly the person he’s looking for.  That’s how I met Bernardo for the first time, with the highest recommendation from a very reputable casting director who just a year before had combed through all the Asian actresses around the world. The months of work I thought was wasted paid off in a much grander film.  It would take the producer Jeremy Thomas another year to complete the financing , and they did go around the world to cast the film, but Bernardo would always call me whenever he came to LA and we would meet for coffee and chat.  The role was mine the first time Joanna brought me to meet Bernardo.

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With Bernardo in Jack Nicholson’s house. Jack told me that speaking perfect English has nothing to do with my acting career. I didn’t quite understand what he meant at the time, but I think I do now. Imitating an American accent, however perfect, is not going to change the life experience that makes me who I am; and that entire being is my asset in acting as well as in life.

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So I told my girls that hard work always pays off.  And that’s when they told me I was boring and left the table.

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.