DSC_0515I like smoothies. It’s refreshing and healthy. I remember those high school days when Juice Club was still around before it became Jamba Juice. My friends and I would hop in a car and go there to grab our “lunch.” My fave has always been Mango-A-Go-Go. Now that I’ve moved out-of-state, it has become one of those must-go places on my list whenever I find a Jamba Juice elsewhere. Sadly, there is no Jamba Juice around me. :( Actually, it’s probably a good thing for H’s wallet.

But it’s ok. Smoothies are not hard to make. In order to help the kids get good nutrition, sometimes I’ll whip up a green smoothie for them for breakfast. Like most kids, they will not touch spinach in any form except in smoothies (that’s because they don’t know it’s spinach that’s in their smoothie! Ha!). However, as for H, (surprise, surprise) he will not come near any drinks that are green. He sure is missing out!

Green Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut water (or any juice of choice)

1/2 cup frozen strawberries

1 banana

1/2 cup frozen organic spinach

Directions:

Place all ingredients in blender. Blend. Serve. (Easy, right?!)

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Summers in Atlanta are hot. I used to dread those heatwaves in the Bay Area when I was growing up until I moved here. At least that was dry heat. In Atlanta, the humidity plus the heat sometimes really make it unbearable. I end up staying indoors for most of summer with the AC turned on and try to keep cool with “cooling” things to eat.

Chinese people know how to stay cool. Here is a Chinese dessert which one can often find in dim sum restaurants. I like this recipe a lot because it’s easy and fail-proof. I tend to prefer gelatin over agar-agar for the texture. Contrary to the name, there is no tofu in the dessert. It sort of looks like tofu, but it’s not tofu. The traditional way of making this is using canned fruit cocktail. Since the almond gelatin is already sweet, adding some fresh fruit is a nice substitute from canned fruit cocktail.

 

Almond Tofu Dessert

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

2 cups milk of choice (cow, almond, coconut…etc.)

2 cups water

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 packets of Knox unflavored gelatin (1/4 ounce powdered gelatin per packet)

 

Directions:

1. In a large pot, add all of the above ingredients except for the gelatin. Bring to a small simmer under medium-low heat. Turn heat off once the mixture begins to simmer.

2. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over the mixture. Stir gently to dissolve while trying to not incorporate bubbles into mixture.

3. Carefully pour into a 9X13 baking dish. Once cool. Cover with plastic wrap and move to refrigerator. Chill for at least 4 hours or until set.

5. Serve with fresh fruit of choice.

Things that made me smile this past week:

1. Recalling my little girl who danced at her first ballet recital last week. It was cute and sweet as she danced on a big stage in her ballet costume and stopped her routine to try to wave to us. I hate to dote on my own kids, but it was a year of hard work of bringing her to her weekly ballet class and nice to see a “result” at the end of the year. Granted it was only 45 minutes, but I had to dress her, put her hair in a bun (harder than it looks!), drag S there, keep him entertained while she was in class, rush home,  and get dinner ready quickly. Looking forward to next year!

2. I really want to try the top 2 ramen from Singapore from the Ramen Rater’s Top 10 Instant Noodles. Reminded me of my ramen-eating days whenever I visited Taiwan. I’d eat them as a “snack” late at night, or worse, for breakfast!

3. My mom’s visit last week. It’s always nice to have her come and visit. She cooked up a storm and stocked my fridge for days. It was a nice break.

4. Our local farmers market opened up its season this past week. It was fun to see and buy fresh local produce. We scored some really tasty pita bread from Best Bread Baking Company. E ate them for 4 meals straight over a span of 2 days. She asked me to go buy more today.

5. Waking up at the crack of dawn to go exercise at the gym is no fun. However, I am starting to recognize the same people. It’s nice that this one lady greets me every single time she sees me now while she works out on her machine. Genuine friendliness- we need more of this in this world today.

Happy Friday, everyone!

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This is one of those dishes which I can easily scrambled together at the last minute. Ground beef is relatively inexpensive and easily available. I usually have some in the freezer. It’s a good alternative when we need a break from spaghetti (another easy dish with ground beef).

When E was younger and started eating table foods, I would make a batch of these and freeze. I made them small enough so that they’re toddler-friendly. It’s a good source of protein, and more importantly, she liked it. When I needed a last-minute protein, all I had to do was to reheat one in the microwave. I’d serve this with a side of rice or pasta and veggies. It’s a nice substitute from those frozen, processed chicken nuggets. I still keep some in my freezer for my kids as a lunchtime back-up meat in case I don’t have anything else in the fridge for them.

A word on ground beef. I try to buy grass-fed when possible. Yes, it’s more expensive, but grass-fed ground beef is still cheaper than buying grass-fed steaks. In my experience, it’s leaner and tastier than grain-fed ground beef. I am not sure about the claims, but it does make me feel better about feeding my family beef that’s been raised more mindful ecologically and health-wise. Generally, I try to buy them locally. I’ve found the prices to be less than big box supermarkets including that big “green one” that takes up a “whole paycheck.” For those who live in the ATL area, the Farm Mobile is a good place to buy grass-fed beef.

 

Easy Mini-Hamburgers

Makes approximately 15 mini-hamburgers

 

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef or grass-fed ground beef

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

pepper

 

Directions:

1. Gather the ground beef, chopped onions, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Gently mix together with a spatula until everything is well-incorporated while making sure not to over-mix.

2. With clean hands, form 2 inch patties. Dent the center of the patties approximately 1/4 inch with finger. Place on a clean plate.

3. Heat pan with medium high heat. Oil pan if necessary. Gently place the individual patties down onto hot pan. Turn heat down to medium or medium low. Brown both sides approximately two minutes per side or until cooked through. (Note: Because I use a seasoned carbon steel pan and the beef releases some fat, I find that I don’t have to use extra oil for the pan.)

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I am part Taiwanese and part Hakka. I grew up in a predominantly Hakka community in the city of Chungli in Taiwan. Until our move to the U.S., I was surrounded mainly by my Hakka-speaking relatives. It’s a shame that I can barely speak the dialect now. I can still understand some though. It’s definitely a language that makes me feel at home when I hear it. It brings back a lot of the comforts of childhood. Hakka food in Chungli is phenomenal. Even in the big city of Taipei in Taiwan, Hakka food is still subpar to that of Chungli. It’s definitely something you can barely find half-decent in the U.S.

I distinctly remember eating frequently at this stall in the basement of a large public market in Chungli with my family. It was not the fanciest place. In fact, I think by today’s standards, it might not even be sanitary. However, they served this amazing fried Hakka salted pork. It’s basically cured pork belly that’s been deep-fried, then sliced. You then eat it with plain rice porridge. I don’t typically like fatty pork, but I liked this stuff. It’s funny because this was a part of my early childhood and I still have strong memories of this. In fact, I still dream about this ice shop in Chungli that we used to frequent for taro ice pops. I dream about food. I am not ashamed to say I do.

So not being able to get any decent Hakka cuisine in the U.S. nor live anywhere near my Hakka mother, I’d have to make my own. Thankfully, my mother was here to visit last week. It was a fun and a blessed week. As always, she was busy in the kitchen even if it’s not hers. She loaded up my fridge with lots of dishes to savor for later. We made Hakka salted pork together. According to her, this came about in the old days because refrigeration for food was rare, so people had to cure their meats. She recalled her grandmother making this dish with lots of salt. You can fry, steam, or stir-fry this with vegetables or bean curd. This recipe is more of a modern day version of the traditional Hakka salted pork.

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Hakka Salted Pork Belly 

(adapted from Little Bear’s Kitchen)

Ingredients:

2 strips of pork belly (about 1 pound each strip)

2 teaspoons salt

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine

1 tablespoon honey

Directions:

1. In a marinating dish, salt the strips of pork belly so that all sides are covered evenly.

2. Combine all of the ingredients except for the pork belly and salt in a small bowl. Mix well.

3. Place the two strips of pork belly into a marinating dish. Pour the marinade over the pork belly and massage into the meat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours.

4. When finished marinating, remove from fridge. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

5. Set pork belly strips on a wire rack in a baking dish. Bake for 60 minutes or when no longer pink inside. Flip the strips of pork belly to the other side halfway through baking time.

6. When finished baking, set aside to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

The Lean Green Bean

So I participated for the first time in the Lean Green Bean’s Foodie Penpals Program this past month. Basically, after finding out the dietary preferences of the other person, I sent someone a food package worth about $15 and someone else sent me another package. It felt like Christmas. H eagerly watched me open my package from Alexis at Lexi Bites. He was as excited as I was to find out what was inside.

DSC_0347Here’s what was in the box:

Sans Sucre Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix- This looks delicious and healthy. Can it be true? Low in sugar and fat?! Can’t wait to bake this for the family.

BBQ flavored Popchips- If you have never tried this, then you must. It’s a great alternative to BBQ flavored potato chips. I love Popchips (so do my kids)!

Ines Rosales Rosemary and Thyme Savory Olive Oil Tortas- These were awesome! I liked these by themselves even though it says you can serve these with cheese. You can really taste the rosemary, thyme, and olive oil.

10 Minutes Farro from Trader Joe’s- Can’t believe I live so close to Trader Joe’s and have never tried this!

Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups- Divine! I love peanut butter and chocolate.

Duplo Chocolate Bar- Chocolate, wafer, hazelnut cream. Need I say more? Yum.

Raw Honey from Y.S. Eco Bee Farms- This is like a gourmet candy. I can eat this by the spoonfuls.

Like Alexis said in her card from her package, it truly was a nice mix of “sweet and savory,” “healthy and sinful.” It was a great first experience! Thanks, Alexis!

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Things that made me smile this week:

1. Watching my little girl dance at her ballet stage rehearsals in her recital costume. Another ballet mom told me how she cried her eyes out at her eldest daughter’s first ballet recital. Now I can understand why. Looking forward to her recital next week!

2. Looking at a picture of the Cinderella castle from Magic Kingdom at Disney World. I know, I’m a kid at heart. Growing up on the west coast, I’ve frequented Disneyland. It was my first time to Disney World and I loved it. I can’t wait to go back. My husband thinks I’m crazy.

3. My new baby came home this week! I am loving it in my house! (Not an actual baby, but a piano. :))

4. I added a new place I want to eat at the next time I travel. Although it’s a bit far, I do miss my dear friend L who lives there. She has been an inspiration and a great encouragement to me.

5. I am a fan of anything hazelnuts and chocolate. My thoughtful friend B came over with a box of chocolate rochers from Fauchon this week. They were divine. My kids thought so, too.

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