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 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 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.

April 22nd – “It’s important for you to get into the earth today, so roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.”

We are well into spring here in the West Coast, so it’s time to fill the garden with tomatoes, peas, and broccoli.

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These green onions have been in the soil since fall. They didn’t get eaten in the winter because I was waiting for them to get bigger. I thought they were yellow onions! Doh! That wasn’t a problem because I love green onions! After I pulled them out, I used them right away for lunch.

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Green onions go well with just about any salty recipe. I use them for fried rice, rice soup, steamed fish, fried noodles, and to garnish meat.  Today, I decided to have them with chicken wings and a side of brussel sprouts.

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Soy Ginger Chicken Wings

Marinade

Soy sauce

Vinegar (or another acidic liquid like orange juice)

Garlic, diced or chopped

Ginger, diced or chopped

Honey

Garnish

Sesame seeds

Green onions, diced

Directions:

  1. Mix all marinade ingredients together. I don’t measure and just do it to taste.
  2. Add chicken wings to sauce and marinade in refrigerator for 15 minutes to 2 days. It’s totally fine if you don’t marinade it for a long time, but the longer you let it sit, the better it gets!
  3. Heat up a pan, add oil, and cook chicken wings for about 20 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.

March 26th – “Oscar Wilde said the only way to get rid of temptation was to yield to it, and right now, the stars fully second that motion.”

Eggs Benedict on potato cakes is my favorite weekend breakfast dish. We’ve been eating them for a few years now at a local brunch place.

I decided to recreate this meal at home today. It’s raining, so there’s no jogging . Yesterday, I went for an 8.5 mile jog (the farthest I’ve gone in 10 years), so it was a good time to make a fancy breakfast. This recipe has a bunch of steps and does take longer than my usual 15 minutes.  I was so eager to eat my breakfast that I forgot the avocado on top! If you’re willing to put in a little more effort, it’s worth the time.

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Eggs Benedict with Potato Cakes

4 poached eggs

4 slices of tomato

1/3 bunch cooked spinach

hollandaise sauce *instructions below

1 avocado

4 potato cakes *instructions below

Directions:

  1. Make poached eggs:
    1. bring a pot of water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar to boil.
    2. Crack egg into bowl, then drop the egg into the water.
    3. Take out after 3 minutes with a slotted spoon and dry on towel.
  2. While the egg is drying, layer plate with potato cake, tomato and spinach.
  3. Add poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, and top with avocado slices.

It might look a little sloppy like my first attempt  below (where I even burned the potato cakes), but who cares?!

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Potato Cakes

2 large potatoes, shredded

¼ diced yellow onion (optional)

2 egg whites (optional, I uses this because it was leftover from the hollandaise sauce)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel potatoes, then grate them. Let set for 10 minutes. Then rinse to get all the starch and brownness out. Put them on a towel and pat dry.
  2. Throw the potatoes into the bowl and mix with the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Heat a large skillet and put large spoonfuls of the mix on the pan (about the size of an English muffin). I made 6 cakes with mine. Brown on one side, then flip to brown other side. It takes about 10-15 minutes to fully cook the potatoes.

 

Hollandaise Sauce

2 egg yolks

½ tablespoon lemon

¼ cup butter, melted

Salt to tastes

  1. Put egg yolks and lemon into blender and mix for about 2 minutes
  2. Microwave butter until it is fully melted and hot. Make sure the butter is hot so it can cook the egg yolks.
  3. Continue blending eggs yolks and slowly add melted butter. Add salt.

 

March 22nd – “All your hard work will pay off eventually, and today you get a glimpse of the reward!”

Since visiting Italy, I have had the desire to make pistachio everything! There are so many good dessert recipes out there, so I thought I would start with the easy stuff first.

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Pistachio gelato is simple to make, but there are a few more steps to it than the regular ice cream recipe. It’s a custard-y ice cream with egg yolks, so it requires cooking the ingredients before using the ice cream maker. I cooked the mixture last night and churned the batch this morning.

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This was a wonderful reward to have before my jog today. Usually, I wait until after, but who can resist freshly made ice cream?!

 

Pistachio Gelato Recipe

¾ cup whole or ground pistachios

½ cup maple syrup

½ tsp almond extract

2 cups whole milk

5 large egg yolks

¼ cup cream (optional)

Directions:

  1. If pistachios are whole, process them in a grinder or food processor until fine.
  2. Bring to boil milk and ¼ cup maple syrup. Turn off immediately.
  3. Whisk egg yolks with almond extract and ¼ cup maple syrup
  4. Slowly add the milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, then put it back into pot.
  5. On low heat, cook the mixture for 8 minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn’t boil.
  6. Then it rest until it reaches almost room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
  7. Churn the mixture in your ice cream maker for 10 to 20 minutes (mine only took 10!). If the gelato is thick, add more cream. I only had 2% milk, so I thought it needed some cream.