Tabouleh Duty

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I was in London filming Judge Dredd when I first tasted the refreshing lemony flavor of tabbouleh.  I took the part of the villain in Judge Dredd because it was a paying job and because it filmed in London.  What’s great about making films is that something wonderful always happens even when the film is not worthy.

Before I went to London, I was on a flight from Singapore to Shanghai.  For some reason, I got to talk to the passenger next to me, which was something I almost never did or do.  Samuel was his name and he worked for Pfizer in Asia.  I remember talking to him about my mother’s interest in flax seed that grew in the Northwestern part of China and if Samuel thought Pfizer would be interested in collaborating with my mother on making the gel capsules.  Samuel was not interested in flax seed, but he chatted with me for the rest of the trip.  He told me that he had a girlfriend in London.  I said that I would be going to London in a couple of weeks and he insisted on giving me his girlfriend’s contact in London.  Her name was Hanan Kattan.

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Hanan and her family

I thought to myself, I’d be crazy to call someone whose contact was given to me by a total stranger sitting next to me on the plane.

Two weeks after the encounter with Samuel, I arrived in London.  It was late autumn and rainy.  I spent a couple of wet days in the the hotel room, with occasional sessions of physical training and costume fitting.  Perhaps I was lonely or perhaps I felt adventurous.  I took out Hanan’s number and called her.  I’ve always been socially awkward and fearful of meeting new people. But I met Hanan on a wet and cold autumn day and we ate tabbouleh and a dozen other dishes in a Lebanese restaurant, and the next day I moved into her family’s swanky apartment in Mayfair London.  This whole thing was entirely and utterly out of character for me.  I don’t even know why I kept Samuel’s card with Hanan’s number on it.  Fate is mysterious.  We have been friends for 20 years.

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup fine bulgur

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cup boiling-hot water

1 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint

2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 seedless cucumber*, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Boil water with salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pot.  Add bulgur when water is boiling and turn off the fire and let the bulgur sit for 15 minutes.  Discard water and let the bulgur cool.

Mix the cut vegetables, lemon juice and olive oil with bulgur and leave in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.  If you are pressed for time, you can serve the dish right away, but it gets better after sitting in the fridge for an hour.

PS: The saga of the Pumpkin Man, I’m afraid, is never ending.  Day 4.  I have by now completely perfected my creamy pumpkin soup.  I ate the soup with a dash of cinnamon today.  I can’t believe it, but so far I still enjoy it.

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Revenge of the Pumpkin Man

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We have been eating the same pumpkin for a third day now and I don’t think I even made a dent in the pile of pumpkin flesh.  A helpful reader of this blog gave me a recipe for a pumpkin black bean chili and I gratefully tried with a couple of little tweaks on the ingredients.  It was quite delicious.  I especially liked the avocado in the soup.

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Ingredients

  1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

  1/2 medium onion, chopped

  1/2 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped

1/2 medium sweet red pepper, chopped

  3 garlic cloves, minced

  1 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

  1 1/2 cup cubed raw pumpkin

  1 cup diced tomatoes

  3 cups chicken broth

  1 teaspoon Paprika

  1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

  1 teaspoon ground cumin

  1 teaspoon dried oregano

  1/2 teaspoon salt

  Cubed avocado and thinly sliced green onions

Sauté onion, garlic, red and yellow pepper in the pot for 4 minutes.  Add tomato and pumpkin and continue to stir for 4 more minutes.  Add the spices and the chicken broth and let it cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  Add avocado and green onion before serving.

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Since both my children are vegetarians, I don’t cook as much meat as before, but Peter really misses meat and tonight I made one of his favorite meats for him — pork chop.  Peter said that it was one of tastiest pork chop that he had ever had, and it was another of many daily reminders of why he married me.

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon cooking wine

1 tablespoon grated ginger

  Cooking spray

  2 pork chops

  1/2 apple

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Mix all ingredients other than the apple and marinade the pork chops for 2 to 8 hours.           

Preheat and spay the skillet grill.  Grill the pork chops for about 6 – 8 minutes on either side.  Grill apple slices until soft.

Cook the marinade in a sauce pan for about 5 minutes and serve with the chops and apple slices.

Cannibalizing the Pumpkin Man

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Joan the teenage revolutionary in front of Tian An Men Square

There is a famous revolutionary song about Mao’s Long March I used to sing as a child call “Red rice and Pumpkin Soup.”  Pumpkin soup was considered peasant food — the opposite of Bourgeois — therefore revolutionary. Even today pumpkin soup is still emblematic for a plain life style touted by the Party for its officers.

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CCTV posted Xi eating pumpkin soup with the soldiers and the officers and named the event Red Rice and Pumpkin Soup

I of course no longer associate pumpkin soup with revolution. I anticipate Autumn’s abundance when I see pumpkins arriving in the market. Fall is my favorite season.

I sat across from the Pumpkin Man at the breakfast table this morning, drinking my tea and contemplating his fate. In the end, I couldn’t let the Pumpkin Man go.  He’s now been hacked to pieces and occupying both my refrigerators.  I grew up not having enough food and I simply hate to waste anything, let alone a perfectly good pumpkin.

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It is true that the Pumpkin Man was not raised to be yummy; he was raised to look good.  But he turned out to be quite worthy of admiration in the form of an almond flour pumpkin bread.

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Ingredients

2 cups pumpkin puree (roasted at 350F and pureed in Vitamix)

3 large eggs

3 egg whites

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses or honey

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon Xanthan gum (optional)

In a mixing bowl, mix Pumpkin puree, eggs, egg whites, vanilla and molasses.  In another bowl, mix all dry ingredients.  Mix the wet and dry together with a hand mixer.  Move mixed ingredients into two loaf pans and bake at 350F for 40 minutes.

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Since the oven was already on, I decided to make another bread and some muffins in a different flavor:

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1 cup almond flour

1/2 oat bran

1/2 coconut flour

1/2 pumpkin puree

3/4 cup raisins

2 eggs

2 apples

4 tbsp. xylitol

1tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

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Trick or Treat!

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Audrey carved the Pumpkin Man and I used his huge eyes, tiny nose and smily mouth to make a pumpkin soup.  I also cleaned the seeds, boiled them with a couple of star anises, salt and Chinese Five Spice powder, and then baked them at 250 F for two hours. 

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As I drank the soup and cracked the seeds, I looked up at the Pumpkin Man in between bites, and for a second I seemed to feel him watching me eating him, and I feared that I might be traumatizing him.  And he would come after me when the lights went out…  If I don’t have a new post tomorrow, you will know that the Pumpkin Man has had his revenge.

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The girls went out with their friends.  Peter and I had a movie date after dinner and we saw CitizenFour, a provocative documentary about Edward Snowden and global surveillance of all electronic communications by the NSA. The film portrayed another kind of spooky man, who lurks behind everyone’s cell phone and computer, and I suppose it was ironically fitting for a Halloween night.

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Pumpkin soup:

2 cup raw cubed pumpkin

1/2 onion, chopped

2 clove garlic, crushed

2 carrots, chopped

4 slices peeled ginger

a dash of each ground cumin, paprika, turmeric and coriander

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 cups chicken broth (or water if vegetarian)

Sauté onion, garlic, ginger and carrots until soft and slightly caramelized, and move them into the soy milk machine.

Add in pumpkin and chicken broth and turn the machine to DRIED BEAN.

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Audrey with Mr. Yo, her math teacher

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Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Our mother needed a break today, as all mothers occasionally do. Audrey is cooking dinner, which terrifies me, and I am writing today’s blog post.

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Tonight’s dinner is vegetarian spaghetti squash lasagna. This healthy lasagna is low-carb, reduced-calorie, paleo (depending on what marinara sauce and cheeses you use), “clean” (depending on your very subjective definition of “clean”), high-protein and veggie-packed! Hey, I think I hit all the buzzwords! Seriously, though, this lasagna is delicious but far far better for you than your usual starch- and fat-laden junk from Olive Garden or whatever.

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The idea of spaghetti squash lasagna is not a new one, but given our great love for all things spaghetti squash and all things lasagna, we thought it would be appropriate to make our own recipe and share it with everyone.

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Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Serves 3-4 hungry people

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups cooked spaghetti squash (we microwaved the halved squash for about 8 minutes)
  • 1 cup marinara sauce (we used Francesco Rinaldi no-salt-added tomato sauce)
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese (we used Trader Joe’s Fat-Free Ricotta)
  • 1 oz or 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, shredded
  • 6 oz or 1.5 cups mozzarella shreds (we used Lucerne Fat-Free Mozzarella, which has 9 grams of protein per ounce, about 50% more than regular mozzarella!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Layer the spaghetti squash, marinara sauce, ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella in an oven-safe casserole dish, making sure that the topmost layer is a cheesy layer!
  3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the foil and broil until the cheese bubbles.
  5. Eat!

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make salad with the leftovers!

make salad with the leftovers!

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna, 中文 Translation

今天我们的妈妈很累,所以妹妹做了晚饭,我得写今天的博客。对不起,我的中文不好。

我们今天的晚餐是健康的烤宽面条,其实一点面也没有。最近美国人不喜欢吃面粉,因为他们都觉得麸质是有毒的。当然麸质没有什么不好的,我常常吃面筋,可是面粉其实没有什么营养,而且吃面粉会让你的血糖提高,所以吃这种没有太多碳水化合物的食品会让你健康,对你的小蛮腰好。

我不知道你懂不懂我的中文。我的父母不知道我的中文这么差,因为我考AP中文考了一个五(最高分)。其实,谁都考了一个五,化学考试也是的。请别告诉他们,我中文是很马虎的。哈哈哈,我是老虎,妹妹是马,我们最的事当然都是很马马虎虎的。

成分:

  • 差不多710 mL意大利面条壁球 (谢谢,Google 翻译)
  • 237mL 防切将
  • 425 g 乳清干酪 (谢谢,Google 翻译)
  • 28 g 干酪 (谢谢,Google 翻译。不知道你对不对。)
  • 170 g 无肥马苏里拉奶酪

用这些成分做lasagna,有没有那么难!快吃!很好很强大!

我们在养这个草泥马,真可爱!

Piggy Sunday

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Sunday morning.  Glorious blue sky.  Everyone in the family still slumbered while I drank my tea and looked out the window at the humming birds flitting about my little lemon tree.  I must have been a peasant in my last life.  I always wake at the first light of dawn, which is something I quite enjoy.

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These muffins are low sugar and low calorie but you will absolutely love them

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Breakfast muffins inspired by the recipe from minimalistbaker.com

2 eggs

2 medium ripe bananas

3 Tbsp maple syrup

3 Tbsp unsweetened vanilla or plain almond milk

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup almond meal (ground from raw almonds)

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp oat flour (ground from GF oats)

I added 1 cup blueberries

Having put the muffins in the oven and the oatmeal on the stove I flipped the page of New York Diaries to Oct. 11th.  “At home all day — writing private letters.” —President George Washington was having another relaxing day 215 years ago today.  It amazes me that our founding father, who arguably has achieved more for America than any other presidents in history seemed to have a life.  Yesterday 215 years ago he was strolling in a Mr. Prince’s fruit garden in Flushing, which he described “The shrubs were trifling, and the flowers not numerous. “ Later on that day he had dinner with Mrs Washington, Mrs. Adams and Mrs. Smith at a tavern.

The world was smaller then, I suppose.  Unlike today’s presidents, he had no global wars to launch, no international media damage to control.  The word China connoted mostly dinnerware and the term Middle East wasn’t invented yet.     

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This is absolutely the most delicious bread I have ever had

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Almond flour zucchini bread recipe at the end of blog

As I was reading Washington’s diary, a whimsical idea came to me: why not try something the early settlers of America ate? I couldn’t find much that sound healthy or palatable, but there was an original recipe for Pumpkin from plimoth.org I found quite entertaining.  It was written by John Josselyn,  the author of Two Voyages to New England. 

John Josselyn called this recipe a “standing dish” suggesting that this sort of pumpkin dish was eaten everyday or even at every meal.

“The Ancient New England standing dish.

But the Housewives manner is to slice them when ripe, and cut them into dice, and so fill a pot with them of two or three Gallons, and stew them upon a gentle fire a whole day, and as they sink, they fill again with fresh Pompions, not putting any liquor to them; and when it is stew’d enough, it will look like bak’d Apples; this they Dish, putting Butter to it, and a little Vinegar, (with some Spice, as Ginger, &c.) which makes it tart like an Apple, and so serve it up to be eaten with Fish or Flesh: It provokes Urine extremely and is very windy.”

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Just for fun, I decided to give it a try, regardless of the warning that “It provokes Urine extremely and is very windy”.  Pumpkins are in season and they make everything golden.  So why not?

Modern version of it, of course, doesn’t take all day:

Trader Joe’s washed, peeled, cut sweet pumpkin, microwave on high with two tablespoon of water for 10 minutes.

Mash with coconut oil, a pinch of salt, 2 1/2 tablespoon xylitol, a little ground ginger and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar.

The result was interesting, and quite pleasant — tangy, sweet.  Almost a dessert.

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For the meat eaters in the family, I made carnitas with the recipe below.  Thank God for slow-cooker.  We were so stuck in the Blue Angel traffic that we didn’t get home until dinner time.  And the carnitas was just cooking itself for me.  The aroma of the pork was so enticing that Audrey, who had been vegetarian for over a month, decided that she would allow herself to eat meat on Sundays.

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http://allrecipes.com/recipe/slow-cooker-carnitas/

Angela baked miso tofu for herself.  It’s a simple dish that she has made many times. 

Spread the miso paste on the tofu and baked it at 375 F. 

Sprinkle green onion, sesame seeds and crushed chili on top.

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Isn’t she cute?

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Hydration makes you cuter, I think

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Thank you EcoJarz for sending us your jar lids! Audrey loves ’em 🙂

Almond Flour Zucchini Bread Ingredients:

2 zucchini (grated and drained)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup oat bran

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon guar gum

3 large eggs

1 purple shallot

1sprig rosemary

2 sprigs thyme – fresh stems removed and leaves minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preparation:

Pre-heat oven at 350

Grate the zucchinis and leave in a bowl.  Mix in 1/8 teaspoon of salt and let sit for 10 minutes.  Squeeze the water out of the shredded zucchini.

Saute sliced shallot, chopped rosemary and thyme with olive oil 

Mix dry ingredients, and then in a separate bowl mix all wet ingredients before mixing the dry and wet ingredients.  If the dough feels too dry, add a tablespoon of milk.

Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes.