Spring Stir Fry with Chicken and Sugar Snap Peas

P1110209

I bought a beautiful used book by Life for 3.99 today: The Meaning of Life — Reflections in Words and Pictures on Why We are Here. Why are we here?  Life posed the grand question to 300 celebrated authors, artists, scientists and to ordinary barbers, taxi drivers and welfare mothers, and published the answers with a selection of black and white photos from the magazine’s photo archive.

themeaningoflife  meaningoflife_owens

A couple of days ago, I wrote about how the Costco roast chicken was the best $4.99 anyone could spend.  Today I found the best $3.99 that anyone can spend in this book — a feast to the mind, the heart and the eye.  You can open it at any given page and find something poignant or poetic or funny.

Here is the answer from one of my favorite writers Annie Dillard:

We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.

According to the second law of thermodynamics, things fall apart. Structures disintegrate. Buckminster Fuller hinted at a reason we are here: By creating things, by thinking up new combinations, we counteract this flow of entropy. We make new structures, new wholeness, so the universe comes out even. A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars and thinks, ‘There’s a hunter, a plow, a fish,’ is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves.

meaningoflife_abbas   meaningoflife_myron

And here is the answer from a butcher by the name of Carmine Pucci:

The meaning of life is listening to Pavarotti, feeling the sun on your face, drinking a bottle of wine, and then another. The meaning of life is having a safe and healthy society, a happy family life, good health, a loving wife, work that you like, smelling the smell of a new car and the ocean air, being able to hit a bull’s eye, coming home with the fish and not another fish story.

I couldn’t agree more.  We are here to bear witness, to create and to feast.

P1110210

I made similar stir fries quite often before, usually improvising and by feel, but I like today’s recipe a great deal – flavorful yet light.

Spring Stir Fry with Chicken and Sugar Snap Peas

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp + 1tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tbsp water

1 tsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp sugar

P1110199   P1110203

For the Stir Fry:

1.2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced, marinated for 15 to 30 minutes in 1 tbsp of cooking wine, 1/2 tsp cornstarch, a pinch of salt and a few thin slices of ginger

2 tbsp rice bran oil, or canola

2 tsp fresh garlic, minced

2 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 cup sugar snap peas

1 cup carrots, sliced diagonally

P1110206

Preparation:

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

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 just cooked through and slightly browned, about 3-4 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 carrots, stirring over medium high heat until tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.

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

Adapted from: skinnytaste.com

A Simple and Yummy Spring Stir Fry

P1060023

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!

P1060015

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

P1060029  P1060016

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.

P1060028

Recipe adapted from: skinnytaste.com

Chinese Shredded Pork + Homemade Graham Crackers

P1030976

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.”

P1030981

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

P1030978

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

P1030997  P1060005

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.

P1060008

Adapted from: chocolatecoveredkatie

“Chifa” Beef with Baked French Fries

P1020688

I had longed to visit Peru ever since I read Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa.  I became a devoted fan of the author and visited him in London when I was filming Judge Dredd in 1994.  I was trying to adapt Llosa’s humorous and erotic book In Praise of the Stepmother into film and enjoyed many wonderful afternoons chatting with the author in his Knightsbridge apartment. Llosa flew from London to attend the premiere of my directorial debut Xiu Xiu, The Sent-down Girl in Berlin in 1998.

In the spring of 2012, I booked a trip for the family to visit Peru during the girls’ spring break.  I bought non-refundable tickets on LAN Airlines, and pre-paid all the hotel rooms and some dinner packages. This was an unique experience for me as I rarely ever plan trips since they are always arranged for me by the production company or film festivals.

We had never taken LAN before the trip and was happily surprised by what we saw.  There was an old world glamour in the LAN Premium Business cabin, which was better than many United First Class cabins at that time.  The four of us were sitting on the plane waiting for take off when Peter decided to fill out  in advance the arrival cards for Peru.  Suddenly, he discovered that Angela’s passport was missing and presumed lost somewhere between the security check and the plane.  We frantically searched through all the carry-on bags and the overhead bins.  We retraced our steps from the plane to the airline lounge and to the security check point, but no one had seen or turned in her passport.  It simply disappeared and it meant that Angela could not enter Peru. 

Peter decided that he would deplane with Angela, and Audrey and I would go to Peru by ourselves.  A few years ago, I took Angela on a Mommy-Angela trip to Rome and Capri, and Audrey had been wanting to take a Mommy-Audrey trip for quite some time.  Now unwittingly this journey to Peru became her Mommy-Audrey trip. 

When Peter deplaned, he took most of the cash with him and left me with four people’s luggage. We lugged two large suitcases around to four different cities and towns in eight days, and everywhere we went we had either huge hotel suites or two rooms.  In many places we also feasted on food enough for four people.  The hotels felt sorry for us that we couldn’t refund the rooms or the dinners so they offered us lunch boxes and massages.

In Lima, we saw many Chinese restaurants that had the signs that said Chifa; I suppose it came from the sound of “chi fan” which means literally eat rice in Chinese.  Audrey and I tried one and we quite loved the interesting combination of Peruvian and Chinese flavors.

I thought of Peru today because of my failed trip to Boston.  My flight to Boston, which had been canceled yesterday and rebooked for today got canceled again due to the blizzard.  I will now miss my speaking engagement for which I spent a whole week preparing. 

I decided to roll with the punches and make the best of this unexpected free Sunday.  The memory of Peru made me crave for some Chifa food. This Chifa beef dish was so delicious that Audrey decided to have a free Sunday from her vegetarianism. 

P1030386

Lomo Saltado (Peruvian Beef Stir Fry)

Ingredients:

For the Baked Fries:

canola cooking spray

1 medium (5.3 oz) potato, russet or yukon gold, washed and dried

1 tsp olive oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Best-Baked-Seasoned-Fries

For the Beef:

1/2 lb lean sirloin, cut into small, thin strips

kosher salt, to taste

1/4 tsp cumin

black pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 medium red onion, sliced into thick strips

2 mini yellow bell peppers or 1 large

1 large jalapeno, ribbed and seeded, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium tomato, sliced into wedges

1 1/2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free)

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

P1030384

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut the potato lengthwise into 1/3-inch thick slices; cut each slice into 1/3-inch fries. Place on the baking sheet and toss with oil to evenly coat. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place on a single layer onto the greased baking sheet. Bake uncovered on the lower third of the oven for about 25 minutes or until tender crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, season meat with salt, pepper and cumin.

Heat a large wok over high heat. When hot add the oil and the steak, cook about 2 minutes, until browned on both sides. Add the onions, bell pepper, jalapeno and garlic and cook 2 minutes.

Add the tomato, soy sauce and vinegar and cook 1 more minute. Season with more salt as needed, remove from heat and finish with cilantro. Serve immediately with french fries and divide evenly between 2 plates.

If you double the recipe, you should stir fry it in two separate batches.  The French fries can easily be doubled in the same baking pan.

P1030382

Recipe adapted from http://www.skinnytaste.com

P1020627  IMG_0303

Nietzsche and a Vegetable Sauté

P1020286

Now that the holiday vacation is over and the house is quiet, I could take time to reflect upon the important events of last year and give thanks to all the good that has come from the bad.  There was a period of time last year when both Peter and I were stressed out and in crisis mode because our children were going through difficulties in their young lives.  We worried about and feared for them. Peter’s hair turned grey seemingly overnight.

I feel fortunate that we have endured and life is thriving again.  I’m sure our children will face many more challenges in life, but I hope having overcome severe obstacles has made them more tenacious. 

When I was going through a very difficult time in my late 20s, a friend gave me Nietzsche’s The Will To Power as a source of strength and comfort.  I took it off the shelf today and opened it to a passage that my friend had underlined and bookmarked for me a long time ago, “To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities — I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not — that one endures.”

I’m a mother and I could never wish any suffering upon my children, but I understand the value of all the “bad stuff” that happen to us in life.

I don’t have a New Year resolution, but I do have a New Year Prayer.  I pray for the wellbeing of my loved ones and I pray for courage and strength to endure and triumph in the face of adversity.

P1020289

Vegetable Sauté Ingredients:

8 to 10 oz. green bean

1/2 red bell pepper (sliced)

1/2 yellow bell pepper (sliced)

1 pack of Wildwood Savory Tofu (2 pieces)

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 to 2 tablespoon canola oil

4 thin slices of ginger

Preparation:

Poach the green beans in boiling water for about 3 to 4 minutes or until tender but not too soft and discard the boiling water. Rinse cold water over the green beans to stop them cooking.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok on high, add the ginger slices and let sizzle.  When the ginger slices are a little browned, add the bell pepper and stir for about 4 minutes.  Add the poached green beans and the tofu and stir for a minute.  Mix in the soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar.

Serve immediately with rice.

P1020276

As I write, I could almost hear Nietzsche stir in his grave as he is being quoted next to a vegetable stir-fry.  As a matter of fact, the very act of blogging one’s life would be conceived as “the constant fluttering around the single flame of vanity.”  But then again, maybe not.  His New Year resolution for 1882 was to be a yea-sayer and a beautifier of life: “For the New Year—I still live, I still think; I must still live, for I must still think. Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum. To-day everyone takes the liberty of expressing his wish and his favorite thought: well, I also mean to tell what I have wished for myself today, and what thought first crossed my mind this year,—a thought which ought to be the basis, the pledge and the sweetening of all my future life! I want more and more to perceive the necessary characters in things as the beautiful:—I shall thus be one of those who beautify things. Amor fati: let that henceforth be my love! I do not want to wage war with the ugly. I do not want to accuse, I do not want even to accuse the accusers.Looking aside, let that be my sole negation! And all in all, to sum up: I wish to be at any time hereafter only a yea-sayer!”

Mongolian Beef

10845956_763863650348028_233842341274042452_n

To celebrate the great Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan, I made Mongolian Beef today.  Don’t think that I am ignorant of the fact that the dish is not from Mongolia.  I just wanted an excuse to put Benedict Wong’s Kublai poster on my blog, together with my food.  Benny and I shared a passion for eating yummy food in great quantities when we were in Malaysia.  He is an extremely talented, hardworking and generous actor.  His Kublai in Marco Polo is breathtaking.  And he is the sweetest person in the world. 

Okay, back to my relationship with Mongolian Beef.  It was not a dish that I had ever eaten growing up in China.  Back when I was growing up, beef was rationed for registered Muslims only.  I guess Mongolian Beef is a Chinese American invention, much like the fortune cookies and my two daughters.

P1010394

P1010401

The first time I had Mongolian Beef, I was working as a receptionist in a Chinese restaurant in the San Fernando Valley to support myself through college.  A take-out order of Mongolian Beef was never picked up and the manager let a few of his favorites eat it while we were standing in the back of the kitchen.  I found it delicious and wished I could eat it at my leisure sitting down.

The restaurant was near a beer company, and sometimes the beer executives would entertain their business associates in the restaurant.  The manager would say to his VIP diners “taking you to your seats is the number one movie star from China”, as if I wasn’t present.  And the beer executives would smile and say really, she is pretty all right.  They thought the manager was attempting at a joke that wasn’t funny.  Though I had been without money all my life, I never felt poor.  As a girl raised from generations of old world intellectuals, I believed that the pursuit of knowledge was much nobler than the pursuit of money.  But I remember feeling shabby and impoverished under their condescending stare.  And I hated that feeling. 

A classmate of mine at the time was a stuntwoman in Hollywood and when she learned that I was a professional actress in China she encouraged me to find an agent in Hollywood.  She said the pay would be 10 times more than what I earned in the restaurant.  Though there weren’t any interesting parts for me to play in the beginning, I was just really happy that I never had to set foot in that Chinese restaurant again.

Age22-23_swimsuit

My agent at the time asked me to take some sexy pictures as part of my headshot for casting directors. No wonder I was offered to play a corpse of a murdered whore as my first job. I turned it down because I didn’t want to be filmed nude.

I have ordered and made Mongolian Beef dozens of times since that first bite, and I try to perfect the dish every time I make it.  Peter told me that this was the best Mongolian Beef he’d ever had, but of course he would say that; he is my husband and he blindly adores everything I do

P1010387

P1010393

Mongolian Beef

Adapted from rasamalaysia

Ingredients:

8 oz beef tenderloin (thinly sliced) 半斤牛肉

2 tablespoons cooking oil 两勺油

2 stalks leeks/scallion 两棵大葱

1 inch ginger (finely chopped) 一寸生姜

3 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)三粒大蒜

1/4 cup beef stock or water 1/4 杯水

Chili pepper flakes to taste 少许红辣椒

Marinade: 腌肉的汁

1 teaspoon corn starch 一小勺淀粉

1 teaspoon soy sauce 少许酱油

2 teaspoon Chinese cooking wine (rice wine or Shaoxing wine) 少许酒

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (to tenderize the meat)少许小苏打

Sauce:酱

2 teaspoons oyster sauce蚝油

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce生抽酱油

1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce一点点老抽酱油

3 dashes white pepper powder白胡椒

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil麻油

1 teaspoon sugar or to taste少许糖

Method:

Marinate the beef slices with the seasonings for 30 minutes. Heat up a wok with 1 tablespoon of oil and stir-fry the marinated beef until they are half-done. Dish out and set aside.

Heat up another 1 tablespoon of oil and sauté the garlic and ginger until aromatic. Add leeks and beef stock/water, cover the lid to cook the leek until soft.  Add the beef back into the wok and then the sauce. Continue to stir-fry until the beef slices are done. Scoop out and serve hot.

P1010389

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.

P1040745

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. 

P1040756

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

P1040757山药

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.

P1040762

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.

P1040684

P1040690

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

P1040689

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.

SCAN0027

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.

06-1

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. 

MCDYEOF EC046

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

P1020855

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.

Bernardo_Bert_Jack_Nicholson_candid

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.

Last_Emperor

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.

Gluten-Free Potato Bread + Some Improv

P1040699

Remember that gluten-free paleo zucchini bread recipe we made a few weeks ago? Well today we made a delicious variation based on which ingredients we had on hand. Instead of using zucchini, we used potato. The recipe is still gluten free, although according to most sources it isn’t paleo because of the white potato (which I’ve never understood – sweet potatoes aren’t actually better than white potatoes, guys!) but if that’s a problem for you then you can always substitute some other tuber that “Dr.” Mercola gives the stamp of approval (check Wikipedia guys!).

potato-sweet-potato-A

potato-sweet-potato-B

See? Prevention magazine approves… not the best source of information out there, but I just want to justify my potato obsession

Alright, getting to the point – here is our potato bread recipe! 10/10 would eat again.

Potato Bread

1 medium-sized potato

1/2 teaspoon salt

1+1/2 cups almond flour

1+1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon guar gum

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk of choice

1 purple shallot

1 sprig rosemary

2 sprigs thyme – fresh stems removed and leaves minced

sun-dried tomatoes to taste, I used 1/4 cup

Pre-heat oven at 350

Saute sliced shallot, chopped rosemary and thyme with potato (shredded or spiralized and drained)

Mix all ingredients and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes.

P1040694

unffff

And now for the improv.

It’s so hard to write recipes for Chinese food because Chinese people don’t use recipes. It’s all by feel… a cup of oil here, a handful of monosodium glutamate there, whatever tastes good goes. The same principle of creativity that can make Chinese food heart attack fodder also allows you to make it delicious and healthy.

P1040703

P1040674

This here is some kind of Chinese gourd. It’s easy to make stir fry healthier just by omitting the cornstarch and using small amounts of oil (two to three teaspoons, which is quite small relative to most stir fry). You can also use cooking spray if you want – just remember that it isn’t really “zero” calories so it’s not a good idea to use the whole bottle in one go!

P1040683

beautiful bok choi

The good thing about Chinese food is that there’s a big emphasis on veggies, which are obviously healthy when they aren’t drenched in grease.

P1040677

Yeah that’s it. I just had some extra photos so I tacked them onto the potato bread post. I took the PSAT today so I’m tired, ok?