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

Meaty Monday: Rosemany Pork Chops with King Oyster Mushrooms

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

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C’est la vie.

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

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

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

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

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

Elixir for the Traveller

There was a pot of hot and flavorful bone soup waiting for me when I arrived in Shanghai last night for work and to see my parents. They sat across from me at the dining table looking very pleased that the elixir had the expected effect on their daughter. It was an instant energy reviver and mood booster.  There is always bone soup waiting for me whenever I visit my parents because they know it’s my favorite and they also know that I don’t cook it at home.  The girls, especially Angela, hate the smell.
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Before I left for Shanghai, I cooked Peter lunch to quell the separation anxiety.  I used the oranges that we picked from my in-laws’ garden to make this Orange Mustard Pork Chop.  I always brine the pork before cooking to ensure that the pork stays juicy.  
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Basic Pork Brine Ingredients:
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 cup water
A dash of pepper, rosemary, thyme and sage.
Brining direction:
Melt the salt and sugar in warm water, add all spices and leave the brine in the fridge until it is completely cold.  Pour the brine in a large ziplock bag and add the pork chops in.  Seal the bag and leave in the fridge for 4 to 8 hours.  
If you decide to leave the pork in the brine overnight, be sure to soak it in fresh water for about 30 minutes before using.  If you cook the brined pork on the same day, just rinse the pork and pat dry before cooking.
Orange Mustard Pork Chop Ingredients:
1/4 cup fresh orange juice 
1 tablespoons orange marmalade
1/2 tablespoon whole-grain mustard 
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 pork loin chops (1 inch thick) 
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 rosemary sprigs
1/2 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
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Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Combine juice, marmalade, and mustard in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until syrupy.
3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add pork to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned. Turn pork; add rosemary and onion to pan. Pour juice mixture over pork; bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 150°. Place onion and rosemary on a platter. Return pan to medium-high heat; add lime juice. Cook 4 minutes or until liquid is syrupy. Add pork to platter; drizzle with sauce.
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Speaking of oranges, I remembered an image that Angela forwarded to me the other day — how an orange cemented the love of this young couple. I suppose that one of the troubles with a life of abundance is that beautiful things are available without much effort and so the things don’t seem to have the same value.  Nothing in the world was ever so precious as that one orange for this couple in Jerusalem.
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Sandwiches and the Art of Sauntering

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“Give me a wildness whose glance no civilization can endure — as if we lived on the marrow of koodoos devoured raw.” by Henry David Thoreau

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When I pointed to the sky and told Angela that the bright stars meant we would have a sunny day tomorrow, Angela sighed, “More of your old wives’ tales…”  So I was extra happy to see the glorious blue sky this morning.  I was proven right in the eyes of my 16-year-old daughter who often thinks that I am stupid.

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We took our extended family on one of our favorite hikes in San Francisco — Land’s End, the closest wilderness that we could experience without taking a long drive. The best things in life are free and this hike is one of them.

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When Audrey was little, she couldn’t understand why anyone would take a walk.  She thought one walked to get somewhere, and she’d always be asking “are we there yet?” when we strolled.  That, of course, was a long time ago.  Now she is quite a master at taking walks, or as Thoreau put it – sauntering.

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Thoreau wrote in his book Walking: “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks — who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre, to the Holy Land.”

So, we didn’t just walk.  We practiced the art of sauntering.

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Roast pork shoulder sandwich with fresh basil pesto and mushroom onion gravy

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Roast turkey breast avocado tomato sandwich with mustard and mayo

We walked up a ravenous appetite and had the most satisfying sandwiches and soup made from leftovers.  For lunches, I like to forage in my own fridge for leftovers and reinvent them into something new and delicious.  I never throw any food away.

Ingredients for Turkey Vegetable Soup:

1 Roast turkey carcass

3 cups sliced celery

1 onion

2 cups of chopped carrots

2 cups of mushrooms

2 zucchinis

3 cups of chopped kale

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste.

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Boil the turkey carcass with bay leaves, onion, celery and carrots for about hour and half.  Use a spoon to skim the fat off the top.  Take out carcass, remove meat, chopped it up and set aside.  Discard the bone.  Add the remaining vegetables with the turkey meat and cook for 20 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

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The roasted pork shoulder from the night before was made with a similar recipe as the pork tenderloin, except that I brined it for three hours and roasted it at 325F for 3 hours.  I added two 2 onions at the 4 corners of the baking dish to give it a little steam.  Then I added the roasted onion to the porcini gravy. The leftovers made the most delicious sandwiches.

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Peter’s brother roasted the Turkey a couple of days ago, and today we made sandwiches and soup of the leftovers.

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Classic mustard and mayonnaise turkey sandwich

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Tending the Inner Pig

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In my younger days in LA, my brother and I ate a lot of pork, at least three to four times a week, making up for lost time for when we were children.  Now I cook pork only once or twice a month at the most.  There is a traditional Shanghainese dish called Hong Shao Rou — Red Braised Pork.  It reminds me of happiness and contentment as I knew it as a child.  It reminds me of Chinese New Year when we would always cook this braised pork in a large clay pot.  You can take the girl out of Shanghai, but not Shanghai out of the girl.

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup cooking wine

1/4 cup light soy sauce 

1/4 dark soy sauce (or you can use all light soy sauce)

3/4 – 1 cup water (you may not use all of it)

2 to 1 1/2 pounds pork shank

4 boiled eggs (optional)

1/4 cherry tomato (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

8 cloves garlic, bashed

2 inch cube peeled ginger, bashed

2 star anise

1 tbsp. brown sugar or molasses

1 tbsp. canola oil

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Heat the oil in a wok on high.

Put in peppercorns, garlic, ginger, star anise, sauté for a minute. 

Add cut pork shank to be seared at all sides. 

Add soy sauce, wine, water and sugar and turn the fire to low.

Cover and stew for 2 hours.  Adjust taste by adding a little more water or soy sauce.

Eat it with brown rice.