Asian Market Visit

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This past weekend we decided to go back to visit the Asian market we haven’t visited a while. The reason for the lapse was because we noticed an ever more sparsely stocked shelves. We didn’t find any other good Asian markets in the vicinity and stopped Asian market shopping all together for a while. Some time later we read in the news that the owner of the chain market was in the process of selling his stores to another chain store from NY. So we waited. This weekend’s visit was not disappointing. Yes, the shelves were well-stocked. The store was well-lit and clean. I was rather like a kid in candy land.

So, Saturday night we made turkey and napa cabbage dumplings. MM was in 7th heaven. She liked it so much, I packed it for her lunch for Sunday’s after church luncheon. Our group was supposed to divide up and each family bring parts of a taco salad. I knew MM wouldn’t like it the raw “salad” part, and so, instead of having her eating just the ground beef and the taco chips, I put the dumplings in her thermos, and she ate it all up.

Just as I patting my own back for clever planning, someone brought out the desserts: a big sheet cake smothered in thick sugar frosting, apple cookies, and a blueberry pie. Of course it was a big struggle for MM when I carefully explained that we should scrape off the frosting, and then had to enforce what I requested. I’d liken it to waiting a big bottle of whiskey in front of an alcoholic, and then tell the person that the drink was not to be had. What can I say? I know I’m on the narrow road.

Fortunately, the later part of the afternoon was a bit brighter. MM got to play with her friends. And then after we got home and played a little bit. MM watched me making the rice stick/noodle dish, and helped with shelling the shrimps. She was rather pleased with her own usefulness. This was a nice dish to make after the dumplings, since I was able to add in the unused dumpling fillings. And we enjoyed the dinner, too. As usual, I made a huge pot, enough for 2 – 3 meals plus preschool lunches.

Stir-fried Rice Stick

Game Night Hors D’Oeuvres

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Sesame-Covered Sweet Potato Balls

I finally settled on sweet potatoes. I thought I’d do sweet potato balls rolled in crushed/grounded unsalted peanuts. After searching around on the internet though, I decided to modify this recipe on Rasa Malaysia. I didn’t like the fact the original version was deep-fried, so I made mine baked. I also didn’t use as much flour in proportion to the amount of sweet potatoes, which makes the mixture messy and sticky, and cannot be formed into smooth dough. If you do it their way, you can roll the dough into a long rope, and then divide the dough into even sizes. You would also use more agave nectar or sugar since flour would lessen the sweetness.

All in all, this came out pretty good. I think the sesame seeds would taste better if they were lightly toasted in advance. However, I think next time I would revert to my original idea of using crushed/grounded unsalted peanuts instead of the sesame seeds.

sweet potatoes/yams – 2 large (the ones I used came up to a little more than 2 lbs)
whole wheat pastry flour – 6 tablespoons
agave nectar – 2 tablespoons (if you use other forms of sugar, you may need a little more)
hulled sesame seeds (lightly toasted in advance may be better) – about 6 oz
olive oil – 2 tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Don’t peel the sweet potatoes yet. Wash the sweet potatoes, and then boil for 45 minutes. (If you cut them into chunks, you may be able to use less time.) Afterwords, the peels come off easily. Discard the peels. Mash the sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Mix in the agave nectar, then Mix in the flour. Drizzle the olive oil into the mixture, and mix well. On a large plate, scatter a thin layer of sesame seeds. Form golf ball-sized sweet potato balls and coat them with sesame seeds. Repeat and keep replenish the sesame seeds as needed. (In the original recipe they just put a few on, rather than putting so many sesame seeds on that they practically looked like curled-up armadillos. Actually, one of the game night friends joked that they looked like Duncan Donuts Munchkins. Gee, thanks! Not exactly the comparison I was looking for!)

Put the sesame-covered sweet potato balls in greased baking pans in a single layer. (I used two 9×12 pans with this recipe.) Bake for 20 minutes. This makes about 32 balls.

Note: For carrying to game night, it’s safe to combine the two pans of baked sesame-covered sweet potato balls into one pan.

Redheads in Green Dresses

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"Redheads in green dress" dish

Okay, sorry if the title is a little misleading. I thought the colors in this dish make this name appropriate. Not a complicated dish to make after a long day at work, and the aroma in the kitchen is mouth-watering while the shrimps are being cooked. A tip to stir-frying shrimps is to brine them first in lukewarm water with added salt. It really gives a pleasant “springy-ness” in the mouth.

Marinade:
rice wine – 2 1/2 tablespoons
salt – 3/4 teaspoons
egg white – 2
corn starch – 5 tablespoons

shrimps – 30 medium-sized
olive oil – 4 teaspoons
garlic – 2 cloves
chopped scallions – 2 tablespoon
minced ginger – 2 tablespoon
dried Shiitake mushrooms or “Wood Ears” – 8 ears
shredded carrots – 2 cups
broccoli crowns – 5 or 6 cups
water – 1/4 to 1/2 cups
rice wine – 1 tablespoon
sesame oil – 1 teaspoon
salt – to taste
coarse ground black pepper – to taste

Remove the shells and devein the shrimps. Brine them in salted water. Squeeze the shrimps until the liquid becomes foamy. Discard the liquid and repeat. Then discard the brining solution again, and marinate the shrimps for at least 20 minutes.

Soak the dried Shiitake mushrooms in a small bowl of water until soft. Slice the softened mushrooms.

Heat the pan and add 2 teaspoons of olive oil until the oil is hot. Add garlic into the pan. Stir until it’s slightly colored. About 1 minute. Now add shrimps (discard the marinade) and stir-fry them until they’re cooked through. Then take the shrimps out to a plate.

Heat 2 teaspoon of olive oil again, then add the scallions and ginger. After about 2 minutes, add the rest of the vegetables (mushrooms, carrots, broccoli). Add just enough water to keep the vegetables from getting too dry. When the stir-fry is about half-way done (the broccoli is starting to soften, but still a little tough), add the rice wine and sesame oil. When the vegetables are just soft enough (not mushy), sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Then add the shrimps back into the pan and mix them before serving.

This is enough to last through two or three meals for our family of three.

Game Night Dinner

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Navigating the social world with a different idea in food, while not having tons of time to cook and prepare the healthy alternative is definitely challenging. Going to a Game Night on Friday, and the organizer proposed that we should be there by 6:30 because we’ll have “snacks” and therefore didn’t need to eat dinner before. “Snacks are not dinners!” I couldn’t help protest. “Well, if you bring substantial snacks…I’m bringing stuffed mushroom…” Someone else suggested Pig-in-the-Blanket. Um…I put more vegetables, leafy greens, as well as non-processed food in front of my child at meal time. We’ll be eating beforehand for sure. I guess I’m just an uptight Mom. I don’t expect to break friendships because of food preferences. On the other hand, I’m seeing more needs for me to be vocal about my beliefs in healthy eating. Ideas certainly don’t get communicated by osmosis.

Now the interesting question is what will I bring to the party… Something I’ll have time to make, and that at the same time also doesn’t deviate from the nutrient-rich food I advocate… And then after that I have to prepare for a Sunday lunch. Thinking, thinking, thinking…

Nail Soup (or Stone Soup)

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I made my “Nail Soup” today. Without the nail of course. It’s from the Nail Soup story, a variant of the Stone Soup tale. There is no technique to it, just chopped-up Napa Cabbage, fingerling potatoes, if-we-don’t-cook-these-they’ll-go-bad mushrooms, and a chicken breast. Oh, I forgot the corns. Oh well, add it next time. Maybe I’ll get some tofu on the way home tomorrow. That’s what I love about it – no rules what you can put it, just whatever suits your taste. It’s a favorite with MM, since not only she enjoys for dinnertime, she can also take it to preschool with her in her mini thermos. And I love it, because it lasts us two or three meals each time I make it.

As with the majority of things I cook, I prefer to “swamp” the meat with a variety of vegetables, at least a vegetable to meat ratio of 6 to 1. I noticed long ago the meat is pretty much 80% of a typical American meal. Okay, the 80% is a number I grabbed out of the air. But I don’t think it’s far off. How many times you go into restaurant, and the menu lists some kind of meat, with sides of “vegetables”. The side dish is a tiny dish big enough for maybe 3 or 4 florets of broccoli or 5 or 6 sticks of baby carrots. Meanwhile, the “main dish” is a hunk of meat that takes center stage on the plate. Okay, there are salads. And these days, health conscious people would also order items like “wraps”. But, the “main dishes” in this country in general remain to be: meat.

Once, when I was still in school. A friend came to visit one evening and offered to cook for me, while I was doing my homework. There was a package of meat thawing on the counter, and she knew where the fridge was. Very soon, a delicious smell came from the stovetop, and soon we were ready to eat. I looked at the table, and saw that the 1 or 2 lbs of beef had been divided into 2 portions, one for her, and one for me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was planning to eat at least 4 meals out of it.

When you look at the minuscule amount of natural vitamins and flavonoids from plants ingested in this kind of diet, it’s very alarming. I’m not an animal activist. I’m not even a vegetarian. But I do see the need for a drastic change in the kind of diet we accept as normal. Synthetic vitamins are not enough. We need real vitamins from real food.