June 23rd – “Slow down today — you are right on track and you have nothing to worry about.”

It’s been a busy month. I have a two projects I am working on, so I’ve put the blog aside for the month. I can do two things at once, but not three!

As predicted by my horoscope, June has been a beautiful month for devoting more time and energy to passion projects, learning, and extra-curricular activities.” I’ve been doing all three and I am already experiencing some of the rewards!  

The end of month deadline is closing in on me and there’s still so much work left to do. I started worrying about it yesterday, but today is a different day. So what if I wasted time and worried yesterday? I don’t have to do that today. With each new day comes new challenges, new ideas, and new attitudes. For example, yesterday there was no cake in the office. Today, there was cake in the office.

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Is 10:00 a.m. too early to eat cake? I don’t think so!

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If cake isn’t a sign to slow down and stop worrying, I don’t know what is!

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Tomorrow is the beginning of pride weekend and my boss brought this understated cake to the office. The outside is simple, but the message it conveys is crystal clear. I think there is something for me to learn here.

I have been trying to add more adventure and excitement to my story and I don’t think it needs that. The story is a simple one. It’s not supposed to be a drama filled with twists and turns, betrayals, reversal of fortunes, or evil twins. No, that was never the intent. My tale is about the everyday life of people who are not often seen.  If my story were a cake, I think it would have ten or twenty different colors underneath the vanilla frosting. Thank you for the sweet lesson today, horoscope!

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May 28th – “Hold yourself and the company you keep to high standards.”

 

Whenever I have the time, I like making things from scratch. I think that’s a pretty high standard. Lucky for me, today was such a day! Well, sort of.

We had a carton of tomato soup that needed to be consumed because it was close to expiring and we wanted  grilled cheese sandwiches to go with it. There was store bought bread with all the preservatives and yucky stuff that keeps it intact for weeks sitting in the frig. We did not want to have that. Homemade bread is MUCH better!

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The best part about homemade bread is that you can cut the slices to any thickness you like!

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Our sandwich was completed with 2 slices of Gouda.

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White Sandwich Bread

2 ¼ teaspoon yeast

2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons honey

1 ½ cup warm water

2 ½  cup flour bread flour*

 

1 tablespoon butter

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 ¾ cup flour (or wheat flour)

2 tablespoon and 2 teaspoon honey (optional)

 

Some butter (for the crust when the bread is done baking)

 

*If you don’t want to buy bread flour, you can get wheat gluten separately. To make bread flour, substitute 1 tablespoon of flour with wheat gluten.

 

Directions:

  1. Mix first 4 ingredients together. Let rise for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the next 4 ingredients. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Put dough into an oiled/buttered bread pan. Let rise for about 1 hour or until the dough has risen just above the pan.
  4. Bake in preheated oven of 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Take bread out of the pan and let cool on rack. For a soft crust, cover top with butter.

 

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May 24th – “You’ll awaken today with one question on your mind: How can I get my daily allowance of potassium without all the sugar in bananas?”

Really, that’s the one question I have on my mind? It’s not, “Why do I have to get up so early” or “Why do I have to go to work?” Whoever wrote today’s post has a funny sense of humor. Perhaps I should get that into the business of horoscope writing. I’m sure I can come up with some weird suggestions for readers to follow! 

Nutrients are the last thing on my mind and I have no problem eating all that sugar in bananas. I have a banana almost every morning with yogurt.

My horoscope further instructed me to have some celery because it “three stalks of celery contain the same amount of potassium as one banana without all that pesky sugar.. I hate celery, but thought that I should try something new for a change. I went to work with a couple of stalks of celery in lieu of my banana.

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It was pretty bland on it’s own, so I had the celery sticks with a side of raw honey I keep for emergencies like this. So much for skipping sugar!

May 23rd – “Nature nurtures your soul to its very roots.”

IMG_9073[1]Seven years ago, I spent four months in Hong Kong. It wasn’t my first trip overseas, but it was my first time staying in the city for more than two weeks. It was then that I realized that I did not want to live in a city anymore. I lived in the suburbs of Hong Kong and even that was too crowded for me. Yes, it was convenient place filled with all sorts of amenities, but I would have traded the air conditioning for peace and quiet. A New Yorker I met  once described Hong Kong as “New York on steroids” and I think that it’s an accurate description.

I’m sure my city friends will be annoyed at me for saying this: I think there is something dehumanizing about city life. The city eats away at my soul. It makes me wait in endless traffic, rush from one place to another, and buy $3.50 croissants and teas for breakfast without hesitation.

San Francisco is much slower than Hong Kong, but sometimes when I’m there I feel like I am disappearing into the masses, and the city is using my soul as its energy source. Perhaps I don’t have the same defenses I once had when I was young, or maybe Hong Kong broke me.

On the days that I’m home, I spend my time admiring the flowers and plants I help grow. I have been planting vegetables for the past five years and only started bringing flowers into the mix last year. Boy, it makes a huge difference!

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The little fig trees I have aren’t flowering yet, so I too some dried figs to make a new recipe.  

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Fig Bars

Filling

⅔ cup to 1 cup water

8 oz pack of dried figs, diced

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup

 

Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients in pot and gently boil for about 7 minutes on low heat. The filling is ready when it is a thick jam consistency.

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Dough

⅓ cup shortening

⅔ cup maple sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¼ cup flour

1 ¼ cup wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

A few dashes of salt

1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cream shortening, sugar together until smooth. I didn’t do a good job on mine, so there were little specks of shortening!
  2. Add vanilla and eggs and mix until combined.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined. If dough is dry, add a teaspoon of water one at a time until the dough sticks together.
  4. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  6. Roll dough into a 14 x 14 inch square. Cut into four long pieces.
  7. Add filling to middle, then fold both sides to cover filling.
  8. Place bars seam side down, and bake for 14 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice.

Original recipe here.

May 13th – “Being of service to others is the best medicine!”

 

These days, I don’t have much to offer to anyone. I am wrapped up in my own world, spending hours lost in my imagination. The only service I seem to be able to provide is cooking for others.

Today, we had surprise guests coming for lunch and only 30 minutes to prepare something. There was leftover duck from two nights ago, so I made duck tacos for everyone.  I had planned to make fancy wine country duck tacos with blueberry sauce and goat cheese, but there was no time!

It’s a good thing that ducks are fatty and flavorful on their own. I just added onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, salsa, and a squeeze of lime juice. 

Lunch was prepared and consumed quickly. That’s why there aren’t any pictures!

Afterwards, I offered everyone coconut oatmeal cookies. I made them 2 hours before I knew that we would have guests and was secretly relieved that they finished the cookies. I ate 5 of them when they came of the oven and would have probably have had the rest by dinner time. That’s what I call a “win-win” situation!

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Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

1 stick of butter (½ cup), softened

⅜ cup maple sugar (it’s halfway between ¼ and ½ cup)

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 egg

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 ¼ cup rolled oats

1 cup whole wheat flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

chocolate chips (optional, but highly recommended!) If you do add them, decrease the coconut in the recipe. The batter should still be pretty dry, but still easy to roll into a ball.

Directions:

  1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar.
  3. Mix in vanilla and egg.
  4. Then add the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined.
  5. Roll into golf sized balls, then slightly flatten.
  6. Baked for 10 to 12 minutes.

Original recipe here.

May 11th – “Skip the cooking and go to a raucous Tex-Mex joint for enchiladas and mucho chili verde!

There aren’t any Tex-Mex joints in my area, but we do have plenty of Californian Mexican food. Here, we just call it Mexican food. Many Californians know that it’s probably a far cry from what they serve in Mexico, but Cali-Mex just sounds weird!

It’s been months since I’ve gone to a burrito joint, so I had no problem following this horoscope.

My friend got tacos and I got a burrito.

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The burrito doesn’t look very appetizing, but I promise you it was. I was too busy finishing the entire thing (tortilla included) in one sitting to get a better shot! I got a super burrito so it was filled with all the fatty extras: guacamole, cheese, and sour cream.

I think I may do this more often!

May 2nd – “Are you spreading yourself too thin? It’s time to take a cold, hard look at your resources, emotionally, financially and mentally.”

My tarot reader said that I need to take care of myself this month and she was right. April was not a good month for me and my health suffered as well. Mercury in retrograde really didn’t help! She said that I would feel fatigued in May, so I am heeding her advice.

I’m very tempted to agree to any fun shenanigans that come my way, but I know that if I don’t schedule my activities wisely, I’ll find myself drained. For now, I putting off making any future commitments until Thursday, when Mercury is no longer in retrograde. I’ve already have a June deadline coming up and May is the busiest month of the year at work. I don’t need more on my plate!

What I have been putting on my plate are a lot of vegetables for lunch. Yesterday had brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Today I had Chinese broccoli, regular broccoli, and carrots. It’s not very exciting, but it leaves room for more interesting food for the rest of the day.

When I got home, I had a slice of rhubarb pie with Greek yogurt.

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Rhubarb Pie

¾ cup maple sugar

3 cups chopped rhubarb stalks

1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries

2 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoon cornstarch

2 pie crusts

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2.  Mix sugar, rhubarb, strawberries, flour and starch together.
  3.  Put into pie crust. Cover pie with second crust and seal edges. Cut holes to let steam  out. 
  4. Bake for at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Over rhubarb pie, I took a cold, hard look at my resources.

Financially and emotionally, I’m doing fine. Last month’s expenses and communication issues were abnormal, so I’m not worried about that.

The one thing I am lacking in is my mental capabilities. I’m not processing things as quickly as I used and need to work on improving my intellect. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I think I need to exercise my academic brain more. That means spending less time reading fluffy news articles that provide vague, inaccurate information about the world and reading more stuff written by experts in the field. 

April 25th – “You’ll want your life to be straightforward and unadorned today, refreshingly free of flamboyancy.”

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California rolls are a staple here in the bay area. It is sushi, but it’s not fancy at all. Next to the cucumber and carrot rolls, it is one of the plainest roll there are. I had leftover rice in the refrigerator, so I made some quick sushi for lunch.

California Roll

1 ½ cup of cooked sushi rice

A few teaspoons of rice vinegar

Half a package of imitation crab meat, shredded or diced

¼ of an avocado

¼ of cucumber cut into thin logs

2 seaweed sheets

Sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, add vinegar to rice and mix until combined. The rice should be sticky, not dry. If it’s not sticking together, add a little bit of water.
  2. Using half the rice, spread a thin layer of rice onto a seaweed sheet, leaving two opposite (short) edges clean. Add sesame seeds.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut the seaweed sheet in the middle.
  4. Place the cut sheet onto a piece of plastic wrap with rice side facing down.
  5. Add crab, avocado, and cucumber to middle of sheet.
  6. Roll the sheet starting from the side with the most rice. Tuck in filling while you roll. Once rolled, gently run your fingers over the roll to help it stick together.
  7. Take out of plastic wrap. Cut into pieces with knife by carefully “sawing” the roll. Recipe makes 4 logs of sushi.

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April 23nd – “Music, art, bold patterns and accessories—adorn your life with whatever makes you feel most joyful.”

 

I started the day off with a big serving of waffles. I made regular ones for my partner and had oat flour ones for myself.

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It’s excellent topped with Greek yogurt, berries, and maple syrup. I actually like it better than whipped cream!

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I like to eat mine like a sandwich.

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Oatmeal Waffles

¾ cup oat flour

1/ teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

3/8 cup soymilk

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup

A few dashes of cinnamon

 

Toppings: Greek yogurt, berries, real maple syrup

 

Directions:

  1. Throw all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
  2. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Cook in waffle iron.
  4. Top with Greek yogurt, berries, and maple syrup. This recipe makes about 1.5 waffle or 2 small ones. Perfect for 1 person. They’re softer than normal waffles, but has more flavor.

Here is the original recipe.

 

After breakfast, I did some reading. I finished The Haunting of the Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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and started on a collection of short stories by John Steinbeck.

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The two writers could not be more different. Jackson is obsessed with giant mansions and socially inept women who live in a world all their own (aka crazy women). Steinbeck is interested in the lives of ordinary folk (aka working class) who don’t live in big houses.

However, based on the two books I read, Jackson and Steinbeck do have some things in common. They are both great at creating vivid pictures of their characters and there is a strong element of violence that invades their stories.  In The Haunting of the Hill House, the story ends with the main character killing herself by purposefully driving her car into a tree. In 3 of the 4 short stories I’ve read by Steinbeck, one man falls to his death, a white quail is accidentally killed, and a scientist murders a cat and dissects its body.

After the cat story, I put the book down. Morbid or terrifying stories like these don’t bother me if they are written well. I enjoyed reading both writers, but I had enough time inside and wanted to get out into the sun!

In the afternoon, I went to the farmer’s market and bought more vegetable starts for the garden. I planted the starts and harvested rhubarb.

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They’re a bit thinner and longer this year, so I’ll need to split the plants up this fall to replant. When rhubarb plants have enough space to grow, their stalks grow thick. Tomorrow, I’ll use these rhubarb stalks to make mini pies! Stay tuned!

 

April 22nd – “Treat yourself to some well-deserved decadence.”

 

Today’s the first day of eating normally again. I’ve been overeating for the past week and it must end! My body is rebelling and needs to recover.

I’ve been eating out a lot and not preparing my own meals. The most memorable meal so far was vegan sushi. It was sooooo good!

“The Candlestick” Roll: spicy bean curd, avocado, tapioca, cucumber, seaweed pearls, and fire. It was artistic, tasty, AND entertaining. Who doesn’t like sushi with a side of fire?!

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Coconut Green Tea Ice Cream: with fried banana, strawberries, and blueberry compote. The 3 of us shared one dessert. I won’t judge if you order one just for yourself!

Coconu Ice Cream

Last week, I also bought a box of buns. They were filled with egg custard, red bean, and bbq pork.

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My intention was to leave them in my freezer and take them out (one at a time) when I had a bun craving.  It turns out I have a bun craving every day! There are only 3 left.

It’s time I get back to making my own junk food.

I know it’s no longer pumpkin season, but I still have canned pumpkin in my pantry and I need more vegetables in my diet. I searched for some recipes and decided on this pumpkin cookie recipe that looks pretty healthy. It uses oatmeal instead of flour and has very little sugar. I substituted the processed sugar for maple sugar and used 100% (unsweetened) cocoa.

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This isn’t the most delicious (or sweet) recipe, but it did the job. The texture is cakey and it fills the void once occupied by the crispy creamy cloudlike buns.

Next time, I’ll replace the chocolate with apple juice sweetened cranberries or raisins. It’s perfect as a breakfast cookie!

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie

Dry Ingredients

1 cup oat flour

Dash of salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

½ cup unsweetened chocolate

Wet Ingredients

½ cup of pureed pumpkin

1 egg

2 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoon maple sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions:

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix all wet ingredients.
  3. FOLD (not mix) wet ingredients into dry mixture.
  4. Let dough sit in refrigeration for about ½ hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Drop cookies into walnut sized rounds. Flatten.
  7. Bake for 8 minutes.