Archive

Monthly Archives: March 2013

DSC_0083

H can never say “no” to steamed eggs. He can probably eat this stuff everyday. I can make it with 1, 2, 3, or 4 eggs and he will gobble it all up. E thinks this is like a savory kind of “jello,” which it sort of is. She dislikes meats, so this is one way I get some protein into her. S, well, little S is allergic to eggs, so no steamed eggs for him yet. Poor guy. He recently had a flare up of his eczema, so we are backing off on challenging him with baked goods.

Steamed eggs is sort of a dish you can find in most Chinese homes, but difficult to find in Chinese restaurants. It’s like a comfort food. Think of it as a savory egg custard. When made perfectly, it will have a smooth consistency. Some will add meats, fish cake, mushrooms…etc to it. We like it simple in our house. I make it plain with no “toppings.” I think almost all Asian country has a form of this dish. In Japan, it’s called chawamushi. I’ve had it in Korean restaurants, too.

This dish doesn’t call for a lot of ingredients and it’s cheap to make. Obviously, the higher quality eggs you use, the better this is going to taste. Fresh chicken eggs from local farms are going to taste much better than supermarket eggs. Trust me. Yes, fresh farm eggs are more expensive but it’s still cheaper than buying high quality meat, and eggs are nutritious.

Here are some tricks to make perfect steamed eggs that result in a smooth and soft consistency. Over the years, I’ve found that the best ratio of liquid to eggs is 0.5 cup to 1 large egg. This ratio and steaming it over medium or medium-low heat (depending on your stove, but over heat that simmers the water in the steamer) result in a perfect consistency: smooth and soft.

Obviously, the type of broth you use will affect the taste of your dish. In the past, I’ve used homemade pork broth, chicken broth from cartons, and even Hondashi mixed with water. It’s a personal preference. These days, I just use chicken broth from cartons to save me some trouble.

DSC_0078

Perfect Steamed Eggs

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

4 large eggs

2 cups chicken broth (room temperature or cold, but not hot)

salt to taste

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, gently beat eggs with chopsticks or whisk in a back and forth motion. Try not to introduce air bubbles, if possible.

2. If necessary, add salt to chicken broth to desired taste. Stir to dissolve.

3. Pour measured chicken broth into the beaten eggs mixture. Gently mix together with chopsticks or whisk. Again, try not to introduce air bubbles. Gently pour into a bowl in preparation for steaming.

4. Place a steam rack inside a wide pot. Be sure that the pot is wide enough so that the bowl can be easily placed and removed. Add water to pot so that the water line comes just slightly below the top of the steam rack, but not touching the steam rack. Bring to a rolling boil, then turn the heat down to medium low or medium- enough for small simmering boiling bubbles. Carefully place bowl with egg mixture inside the pot on top of the steam rack. Cover. Steam for approximately 25 to 30 minutes or the custard jiggles.

Things that made me smiled this week:

1. Realizing that I’ll never be a perfect parent and that it’s ok.

2. H brought home my fave bbq from Heirloom on our wedding anniversary. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of the rack of pork ribs and the beef brisket.

3. To celebrate our anniversary some more, we are going to this next week. Hope to meet him! I’m super excited.

4. I want to eat some of this red bean pie from McDonald’s in Hong Kong. What a great idea! Now if Starbucks can get these over here in the US, I’ll be really happy. Yum… Green tea frapuccino with red beans.

5. My little S is starting to sing this week. Yes, he now tries to sing all the kiddie songs he’s been hearing for the past 2.5 years of his life like a record player.

Happy Friday!

DSC_0617

H and I don’t really like to dine out on Valentine’s Day. In our past experiences, dining out on that evening have always felt rushed as they try to move diners through in order to accommodate all of the reservations for that evening. Food in a typically awesome restaurant can be mediocre. So we started to just dine in a few years back.

For this past Valentine’s Day, H surprised me with a little treat from Urban Pl8. You see, it was special because we had just dined there a few nights prior with our children. Because dinner was a little rushed as S got more and more restless after he quickly devoured his grilled cheese on pita bread (which was really awesome), we didn’t have much time for dessert. I eyed their dessert menu and marveled at the idea of a paleo chocolate pudding. We then rushed home without ordering any desserts.

So on Valentine’s Day this past year, I was touched that H took time during his lunch hour in traffic to pick the dessert up all the way on the other side of town so that he can surprise me later. I was nearly in tears. Sounds dramatic, but I really was. At that point, I had been really good about trying to curb my sweet tooth. So this was truly a treat!

I have been thinking about making a similar pudding at home since. Since S has his egg allergy, a pudding like this will be great for him to enjoy as a treat, too. Since I love the combination of coffee and chocolate, I decided to make my own version of this pudding. Don’t be turned off by the idea of avocado in a dessert. It has a nice texture and you really can’t taste its flavor after you mix it with honey, cocoa powder, and coffee.

By the way, be careful with the caffeine and children. S was up until 1am after he had just a few spoonfuls (4 to be exact) of this pudding. I didn’t think he would be that affected by just a few spoonfuls. After that incident, I always omit the coffee in his chocolate pudding. Lesson learned.

Chocolate Coffee Avocado Pudding

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 avocados

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 teaspoons instant coffee granules

2 tablespoons coconut milk (or milk of your choice)

4 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

blueberries for garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Measure all ingredients into a large bowl. Carefully mix with a hand blender or hand mixer until smooth in consistency (You can also use a blender or food processor).

2. Chill for at least one hour.

3. Garnish with a few blueberries before serving.

DSC_0550

Some mornings can be overwhelming with two little ones, especially when we have to get out of the door by a certain time for something like preschool. One little tantrum or a missing sock can turn into a dragged-out fiasco. It’s difficult to be on time these days, but I try my best.

I have to keep breakfast simple because mornings are just hectic. I confess, if we are in a hurry, I will sometimes give my kids Larabars. It makes me feel better knowing that they are healthy and made with minimal ingredients. S loves them. I am honestly amazed at how a two year-old can eat two of these bars at one sitting and ask for more (I usually don’t give him more than two). But at $1.50 a bar, it can really add up at the rate S eats them.

With a great recipe I found from Oh She Glows, I can now make my own Larabars. The simplicity of the ingredients couldn’t have made it any easier to make a big batch of these energy bars. There are also endless possibilities of different variations (ie. walnuts, cashews, peanuts, raisins, dried cherries…etc.). I have found that Costco has the best price for dates. To make it even easier, I usually buy Trader Joe’s “Just Almond Meal” instead of grounding up my own nuts. It results in a finer texture than my food processor can allow.

E thinks these bars are chocolate bars. I am loving the fact that my kids actually love something that’s somewhat healthy and natural. H, on the other hand, has no sweet tooth, and won’t touch anything remotely “healthy.” It’s too bad because these bars are too good to be shared!

Cranberry Chocolate Chip “Larabar”

(adapted from Oh She Glows)

Makes 10 bars

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups almond meal or raw almonds

3/4 cup tightly packed dates

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons chocolate chips

Directions:

*Note: If using raw almonds, process that first instead of dates.

1. Soak dates in a bowl of water for 30 minutes. Drain and dry well.

2. Add dates and cranberries in a food processor and process until the dates are broken down into tiny pieces.

3. Add almond meal into the mixture in the food processor and process until the mixture are well-combined.

DSC_0508

4. Add vanilla and chocolate chips. Process until they are well-incorporated.

5. Line a loaf pan with a piece of plastic wrap large enough so that removing the content will be easier later. Pack the mixture from the food processor into the lined-loaf pan. Using the back of a silicone spatula, wooden spoon, or your hand, pack the mixture really well. The harder you pack it down, the better the bars will stay together and not fall apart.

DSC_0514

6. Freeze for 15 minutes. Remove and cut into 10 bars with a sharp knife. Wrap in individual plastic wraps and store in refrigerator.

DSC_0366

Unfortunately, everyone here in this house besides me are not huge fans of vegetables. I find it frustrating when I labor over dinner preparation, only to pack up a huge dish of leftover cooked vegetables which I will be the only one having to finish it sometime later. And then there’s the guilt of the family not eating enough vegetables as we all know the health benefits of vegetables.

And then I discovered this: roasted cauliflower.

Finally, a veggie dish that everyone like around here! Even H (the husband, as I will refer to in this blog from here on out) snacks on the leftover after dinner! It’s a miracle. His mama would be so proud of him, as she still constantly “remind” him to eat more vegetables along with a list of other “reminders” like drink more water.

When cauliflower is roasted, it caramelizes a little on the outside making it taste really good- slightly crisp on the outside, while soft on the inside. Believe me, you will never go back to sauté them. It’s another one of those easy stick-in-the-oven dish. I set the timer, break up a sibling quarrel or two between E and S, then come back to it.

DSC_0361

 

Roasted Cauliflower

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower

3 cloves of garlic, minced

cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

salt

pepper

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil.

2. Wash and dry the cauliflower head with paper towel. (Tip: The dryer you dry the cauliflower, the more “crisp” your dish will be. Sometimes I will wash and dry earlier in the day, let it sit on the counter, then get to it a few hours later. By then, it will be completely dry.)

3. Cut up the cauliflower into 1.5 to 2 inch pieces. (Tip: After slicing off the big florets from the main stem, it’s easier to use the tip of the knife and cut into the bottom part of the stem while carefully splitting the floret into two smaller pieces with the other hand. There will be less “crumbs” or broken pieces of the florets this way.)

4. In a large mixing bowl, toss the cut-up cauliflower florets with a drizzle of olive oil so that every piece will be coated with some oil. Then add the minced garlic, salt, pepper and toss to coat evenly.

5. Spread the cauliflower evenly in one layer onto the lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. At about halfway through baking time (15 minutes), carefully remove from oven and flip the cauliflower florets using a spatula onto the other side so that both sides will caramelize evenly.

DSC_0567

This week, I have been challenging my son, S, with baked goods with eggs in them. He has been allergic to eggs. Granted his reactions have not been life-threatening, it has been challenging avoiding food with eggs. The great thing is that he has been ok with baked goods this week! It has opened his eyes to all the delicious sweet treats like cookies since he’s never really had them before. The allergist did tell us that baked goods are generally not as allergenic because you only use a few eggs for a big batch and the high temperature in baking alters the molecular structure of eggs even more so than just cooking.

So this week, I whipped out my mom’s recipe for oatmeal cookies. It’s relatively healthy, not too sweet and packed with a lot of oats, making it easier for me to allow the kids to have them as treats. These cookies kept me fed during my college days. My thoughtful mom would bake a bunch of them for me and send them with me so that I could have something fast and ready for breakfast before my early morning lectures, especially since I had a hard time waking up in time for breakfasts at the dining hall. Then again, it was probably a good thing I didn’t make it to so many of those meals they served in the dining hall. They served a lot of unhealthy options back-in-the-day.

DSC_0558

The original recipe called for 1 cup of oil (!). It tasted really good with that much oil. It really did. But to make it a little healthier, I lessened the oil and substitute it with applesauce. You can use rolled oats or quick oats. Use rolled oats if you prefer more of a nutty texture.

DSC_0562

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Dairy-Free)

Makes approximately 28-30 cookies

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup applesauce

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 and 1/2 cups flour

3 cups oats (rolled or quick-cook)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

1.    Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease cookie sheets or line with silicone baking mat like this.

2.    Mix eggs, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt together in another bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Lastly, add oatmeal to the mixture, followed by raisins, walnuts (if using), chocolate chips (if using).

3.    Drop rounded spoonfuls (about 1.5 inch in diameter) onto the greased cookie sheets. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or when cookies are slightly browned. Remove and cool on wire rack.

DSC_0403

There is something comforting about eating bento boxes (bian dang) that they sell all over Taiwan.

Perhaps it’s because I spent a large chunk of my childhood there. It’s like fast-food Taiwanese-style. You can get them in train stations, eateries that specialize in just selling bento boxes, to convenience stores like 7-Eleven which seems like they are on every street corner. They often come with a meat, a few sides of veggies, and some pickles all served on top of freshly steamed rice. The contents are compacted into these small rectangular paper take-out boxes with rubber bands to hold the lid down.  It’s like eating a home-cooked meal out of a box, packed with love. Ok, I’m sure they weren’t pack with love like mama would have, but close enough.

This chicken dish reminds me of my childhood days eating out of a bento box in Taiwan, as this is often a type of the meat you would find in a bento box. It goes well with rice and a squeeze of a lemon wedge, served with steamed rice and a few sides of veggies.

A chicken leg quarter usually consists of a drumstick, a thigh, and sometimes part of a back. It’s an inexpensive cut. I try to buy humane meats from my local stores. I’ve found that they actually taste better than “regular” factory-farmed poultry. The trickiest part to the recipe is probably deboning the chicken. You’d be surprised how little meat is actually there after you debone the leg quarter. Leave the skin on. It helps retain moisture in the meat. Browning the meat before baking also helps to maintain maximum moisture and flavor.

 

Baked Garlic Boneless Chicken Leg Quarters

serves 2 adults and 2 children, or 3 adults

 

Ingredients:

6 chicken leg quarters

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon rice wine

2 bay leaves

3 garlic cloves, sliced into halves

1 tablespoon cooking oil (I use olive)

lemon wedges

 

Directions:

1. Debone the chicken leg quarters. If you have never done this, here’s a good video to get you started: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrGYaVN_T_0

2. Make 1-2 cuts about 1 cm deep over the thickest part of the meat (not the skin-side). This helps to cook the meat more evenly.

3. Marinade the chicken with soy sauce, black pepper, rice wine, and bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to a maximum of 6 hours. Re-distribute the meat in the marinade as needed during this time so that every piece can marinade evenly.

4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.

5. Remove chicken pieces and let the marinade drip off of the chicken. Place on a plate.

6. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced garlic. Cook the garlic for about 30 seconds before adding the chicken pieces skin-side down onto the skillet. Let them sear undisturbed for about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip over when there is a light brown color to that side, then brown the other side for about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces skin-side up in one layer onto the lined-baking sheet. Place them with at least 1 inch spacing from each other.

7. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or when the meat reaches 165 degrees in a meat thermometer.

Optional: Serve with a squeeze of a lemon wedge

%d bloggers like this: