Tomato Bitter Melon Soup with Egg Drops

n3_Bitter Melon SoupOur vegetable garden produces a lot of fruits this summer. We have bitter melons, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and long beans. Not a lot, but more than enough vegetables for me and Lynard, I almost have to cook everyday in order to catch up.

I have made bitter melon soup before, but always with a can of Campbell soup. This year I decided to try something different. Not too difficult to make. Here is how:  Saute some onion, garlic and ginger first, then add bitter melon and tomatoes to make the soup. I use store bought chicken broth, low sodium. Cook the soup on medium low heat for about 30 minutes, season with salt and pepper as needed. At the end, beat an egg and swirl on top, cook until set, really pretty. Tastes a little bitter and sour, interesting flavor.

n2_Bitter Melon Soupn1_Bitter Melon Soup

— Tomato Bitter Melon Soup with Egg Drops  —

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Adventure Of A Brownie Presentation

I was so frustrated trying to figure out how to put a presentation in my blog. It took me three days, I finally got it right. For those of you needing a little help to create your presentation, I like to share my experience with you.

To start, go to Posts, Add new post. Give it a title, say something about your new post. Start on a new paragraph, write the codes for the presentation like I did here (see the snap shot below.) Remember, each slide’s content is enclosed by a pair of slide & /slide to signal the begin & end of the slide. Don’t put too much content in one slide, it won’t show the extra text. You can always break it down to a new slide. AND, each presentation is enclosed by a pair of presentation & /presentation to signal the begin and end of the presentation. I know, it gets pretty tricky for us non-programmers. Here we go. We begin our little demo.

This slideshow could not be started. Try refreshing the page or viewing it in another browser.

In order to see the on screen arrows and the icon on the lower right corner, move your mouse pointer over the presentation. You can navigate the slides, or expand the screen.

The presentation background color is set for the entire presentation, not just for one slide. Awesome! You can get the color code by playing with the background color in Appearance, Background.  Just don’t save it for your blog.

————   Here is the snapshot of the shortcodes I used in the brownie demo.   ————

Slide Demo

— The End —

The Happy 15 Habits

o6_HabitsA Japanese doctor who published a book in Japan called The Happy 15 Habits. RI YE YUAN ZHONG MING (the author) is 98 years old. I think we can agree that when you live to be 98 years old, you know a few things about living longer and staying healthy. So what do we do to achieve a long, happy life?

Ming suggested that not only you should have positive outlooks for life, but also you should exercise and practice these theories regularly, on a daily basis, until you can do it in your sleep. Ming’s theories are so simple most people are familiar with them in some shapes or forms. The only difference is whether you can exercise those theories religiously. Action is the key here. Do it often, do it right.

Unfortunately I can not find an English version of this book. Here is the Chinese version for my Chinese friends and family who can read Chinese. I wanted to translate these 15 habits into English for my American friends. But, I could not do it right. Shame on me.

[presentation bgcolor=#fff7fc]

快樂的15個習慣

日本名醫 日野原重明

九十八歲的日本名醫 日野原重明 寫的《快樂的15個習慣》,分享他快樂長壽的秘訣。書中介紹他一直視為寶物的十五個習慣。乍看之下都是再簡單不過的事,卻全是讓心靈、身體變得純淨、健康的好習慣。相反地,壞習慣會動搖一個人的身、心、靈,繼而產出身體與心靈上的疾病。也就是說,一個人乃由習慣所造就,身心皆然。

1)  心中永保「愛」的習慣:日野原之所以充滿活力,一個根本的原因就是愛存在於心中。他的座右銘:[第一是愛人及被愛的能力;第二是不要忘卻能夠創造新奇事物的創造力;第三是挫折困頓時,仍能咬緊牙忍耐、繼續奮戰的能力],他向來相信喜悅或歡樂只要有人分享,快樂的程度就會更加擴大。更喜樂的生命,必須包含更多的愛。

2)  抱持「一切都會變的更好」的正面想法:那些願意克服自己的缺點或弱點,並習慣存著「一切都會變得更美好」的正面想法的人,在人生中的任何時刻,都能夠展現樂於堅持的強大毅力。

3)  挑戰新事物:若想永遠保持年輕的心,就要試著對某種事物保持高度的關心。而且,還要試著去挑戰看看。只要抱持這樣的心情,老不老一點都無妨,就讓向前行的勇氣,好好地發揮能量。

4)  鍛鍊自己的專注力:一個人有專注力,看起來就會非常朝氣蓬勃。培養專注力,需要某種程度的訓練才行。也就是說,必須在日常生活中就養成注意力集中的習慣。「最糟糕的是就此意志消沉、自我放棄」為了鍛鍊自己的專注能力,日野原採用的方法是──無論多麼短暫的時間也要有效利用,絕對不可白白浪費。

5)  向心目中的典範學習:人生要如何規劃才好?日野原建議,如果實在無從下手,先尋覓一個你心生欽羨的典範也是個好主意。他也建議可以憑藉一顆溫暖的義工之心,造就出一種人格。

6) 感受他人的心情:日野原常常出國,經常看到外國人有體諒他人心情的習慣。要感受他人的心情,一定要先能讓自己寧靜下來,細細體會。

7)  珍惜有緣相逢的所有人、事、物:如果你自己架設好一組品質優良的天線與接收器,你就更有機會遇見美好的事物。正視死亡,理解生命的開始,學習尊重生命的習慣。

8) 比八分飽再少一些:日野原維持健康的方法,就是對體重的控制。「大家都知道吃飯只要吃到八分飽就好。在你吃到太撐、吃得太飽之前就要停手,內臟的負擔比較小,對健康有正面的好處,」當你覺得吃得好飽的時候,胃部已達到 200% 的狀況。吃到飽令人困倦疲勞,也是肥胖的原因。日野原說他現在超過九十歲,「六 分」左右就足夠了。

9) 對飲食不要過於神經質:每天清晨,日野原都會喝一杯加了橄欖油的蔬菜汁。這種自製飲料可以穩定膽固醇值,也令他九十多歲之齡沒有什麼皺紋和斑點。他建議對美食也不用過於敏感,多吃一點,過幾天再少吃一點,讓多出的一、兩公斤體重降下來就可以了。

10) 能走路就走路:對每天忙亂過日子的現代人而言,要額外找到運動時間,實在是難如登天。所以日野原自己就做到了能走路就走路,因此他在醫院裡上上下 下、跑來跑去,不坐電梯,走樓梯;搭捷運(地鐵)時,也盡量走樓梯,不搭手扶梯。

11) 與更多的同好者享受運動時光:找同好一起去運動,也是必須培養的快樂生活好習慣。身心之間緊密連結,互為表裡。七個健康的習慣:(1)不抽煙 (2)飲酒適量,或完全不喝。(3)定期作劇烈運動(4)保持適當體重(5)每天七至八小時的睡眠(6)每天吃早餐(7)不要吃毫無不要的零食。

12) 發現更多的樂趣:身兼心理學家與哲學家的柏格森(Henri Bergson)曾說,「人類是唯一能夠創造自己命運的動物,而人類卻遲遲無法覺悟。」日野原建議,就算面對累死人的工作,也不應該長吁短嘆、以為時運不濟,反而要振作精神、想像完成後的成就感。並且,一邊以正面思考來鼓勵自己,一邊務實地動手完成,積極進取地挑戰難關。

他經常問年輕人有何願望,答案不外是地位財產名聲,佛洛姆將這些欲望歸類 {外求的願望}。其實希望是一種內求的東西,應該經常凝視自己的內在,把希望之幼苗種在心中,這才是幸福過生活最重要的。

13) 調節壓力:沈重的壓力必須明快地紓解及調整。紓解壓力的一個方法是,不要讓憂慮的事情一件一件累積;另外一個方法是好好休息。感到壓力強大時,小跑一下。壓力不一定是壞事,若生存於無菌般、毫無壓力的環境,身體上、心靈上也終會產生病狀。生病也是一種壓力。

14) 反身要求自己(責任總是在我):建立明朗、樂觀的生活方式,設立人生的願景,隨時掌握住屬於自己的青鳥,必須常常反求自己。

15) 不要盲目、非理性地遷就於習慣:日野原一直在強調,習慣可以造就一個人,但是,並不是要大家盲目、毫無理性地固執於一件事。有時候,描繪出一幅美麗願景之後,才發現到今天為止的習慣,與這樣的願景格格不入。這種時候,彈性改變一下思考方式,再營造出另一種適合的習慣就好了。人生就是不斷檢視過往習慣的過程。萬一發現走錯路,換一個正確的方向走,選擇新習慣。百分之五十的死因是壞習慣所致。

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Out of This World Jalapeño Omelet

o1_Jalapeno PeppersThis is the first time we grow jalapeño peppers. Lynard is happy for the new additions in our vegetable garden. The four jalapeño plants are doing quite well. There are lots of green peppers growing on the plants, more than I expected.

Although jalapeño is America’s favorite chile pepper, it is fairly new to me. As I start eating more jalapeño peppers, I absolutely fall in love with the grassy, green flavor. I discover new ways to eat jalapeño peppers in my main dish, appetizer, dessert or side dish. You can saute it, fry it, grill it, bake it, pickle it, or eat it raw in salads. I love the special-kick it adds to the food. Jalapeño and chocolate are made for each other, or so I’ve heard. Will try it one day.

o1b_Jalapeno PeppersBut before I get a chance to make jalapeño brownies, I discovered jalapeño omelet. It was one of those days that I put things together just because I have it. A small chunk of char siu (Chinese barbecue pork) was left in my refrigerator begging for attentions. Seriously, nobody should waste good char siu. Lynard picked some chives and two jalapeño peppers for me. I am going to make breakfast. Or should I say brunch? Time goes really fast in the morning.

o2_Char SiuHow can I make breakfast without eggs? There are many reasons I eat eggs. Eggs are easy to get, easy to make, easy to eat and provide lots of health benefits. I diced up the char siu and jalapeño peppers, sauteed them in a small pan, seasoned it with salt and black pepper, added chives at the end. The next step was a no-brainer. In a separate skillet, I made the omelet with the char siu mixture. Wow, I would have never expected jalapeño char siu omelet can taste so delicious. I almost fell off the chair after the first bite. It was that good. Happy Fourth of July!

o3_Jalapeno Omelet

🙂 Jalapeño Char Siu Omelet

 

How do you measure happiness?

That’s a tricky question for many people who are constantly chasing after something bigger and better. Is it wrong to be ambitious? Of course not, don’ be silly. But at some point in your life you gotta ask yourself what makes you happy.

But really, how do you measure happiness? By the barrel? By the tub? By the ocean? By the truck? By the wallet? By the bag? What is it?

I realized expectations change as we get older. Young adults are eager to do great things as soon as they can. It is very important to achieve that American dream everybody is talking about. Although many people define “American dream” differently, but really it only means a few basic things: College education, marriage, kid(s), a house, cars, jobs, and lots of insurance policies.

Been there, done that. And I was exhausted and falling apart. At the end of the day all I wanted was some peace and quiet in my own room. I needed to get some sleep so I could go to work again the next day. Yes, work, work, work, and more work. Did I achieve the American dream? Yes, I did, for the most part anyway.

Let’s talk about my life for a minute. I looked at things and life differently ever since I retired from work. I appreciate simple and small things, in some small ways. Don’t get me wrong, money is still important unless you want to live on the streets. That’s illegal by the way.

What made me happy this morning? My husband made me breakfast and it was delicious. I was happy as a clam. Look at this yummy sandwich, who cares if my body is hurting and I have to do laundry today. I can’t talk with my mouth full.

Ham & Egg Sandwich

— Smoked turkey and fried eggs on French bread.

Love Me Not Apple Bread Pudding

bp_BreadLook, I bought a beautiful mixing bowl set the other day. And I can’t wait to use it. This time I want to make something that’s not on my regular menu. Even though people keep saying that bread pudding is a one-of-a-kind dessert, I was never willing to give it a try. The thought of mushy, soggy old bread just didn’t appeal to me. My husband, on the other hand, loves banana pudding. I can never understand how he can eat a big bowl of  banana pudding with a big smile. No, thanks. I will have a cookie instead.

Weird things happened. As I was pondering what to make next, I happened to see a cooking video of  Mike Symon making apple bread pudding. It looked kinda easy. He convinced me to give it a try. I had to take a deep breath. Somebody please smack me.

I made a trip to the supermarket, got the bread and apples. I am making apple bread pudding, for real this time. This one is for Lynard.

Apple Bread Pudding Recipe

6  cups 1/2-inch-cubed Challah bread (about half a 16-ounce loaf), toasted
3  medium (or 2 large) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
6  eggs
1 1/2  cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2  cups regular milk
1 1/2  teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3  cup honey
1/4  teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degree F (175 degree C). Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes in the oven until golden, nice and dry.

In a big bowl, mix together the eggs, cream, milk, honey, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Put the egg custard aside.

Make sure the oven is preheated at 350 degrees F. Bake time: about 45 minutes.
In a much larger metal roasting pan, fill with medium-hot tap water 1-inch up the side of the pan.

Arrange toasted bread cubes and diced apples evenly in a nice 2-quart baking dish. Whisk and pour the custard mixture over the bread and apples.

Gently put the baking dish into the warm water bath, put in the oven. Bake until the pudding is firm and the top is golden brown, ready in 45-50 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

bp_Pudding( Tips: To make it fancy, drizzle some rich, thick homemade caramel sauce on top. I am thinking about chocolate taffy apples. Will try that next time. )

The bread pudding has a very delicate flavor. You may want to add sugar to the recipe. But Lynard liked it without sugar, a lot healthier. Two thumbs up. That’s what home cooking is all about. You cook what your family will eat, not what people will eat.

bp_AppleIt was a good learning experience for me. I forgot about the warm water bath at first. Good thing I looked at the recipe again after I put the bread pudding in the oven. My husband helped me to fix the crisis in a hurry. Better late than never. I bet I won’t forget next time. Oh, yes, I will make banana bread pudding for Lynard. He will love it. Blueberry banana bread pudding that is. I have to find out how to make it first. Who knows, maybe I will like it. For some reasons I feel good about it. Will see.

I Made Those Cupcakes

bc7_CupcakesOld Man Winter has finally decided to leave us, thank goodness. I wanted to make some delicious cupcakes to welcome spring. After searching for the internet, I found Gina’s Banana Cupcakes to be the most affordable and easy to make. As usual, I skipped the sugar-loaded frosting. I made the first batch for Easter and it was pretty good. The texture was really good and I loved the banana flavor, moist, not too sweet.

However I did have a little problem with the cupcakes due to my lack of skills in baking. My cupcakes looked like defeated little kids. I proceeded to make six more batches of these banana cupcakes in the last two months. Each time I made changes here and there. I have also improved my skills in making the batter. In terms of texture and taste, each batch turned out a little bit different. They freeze really well. You can frost them when ready. Actually, they taste good without frosting. A simple dust of powder sugar will make them look like gourmet cupcakes. Love it! I have some in the freezer right now.

My banana cupcakes are still not perfect, but good. It is really a good recipe, so simple. As long as you have bananas, you can make cupcakes. You control the sugar and calories. I like to use yogurt instead of sour cream whenever possible. And as always, less sugar is better.

To begin, I get all the ingredients ready. Measure the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, then make the batter.

bc1_readybc2_ovenbc3_panbc6_platebc5_plate

—— Here you have these yummy, most delicious little cupcakes awaiting for you.

Banana Cupcakes Recipe

1  cup all-purpose flour
1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1/4  teaspoon fine salt
1  stick (4 oz) butter, softened
1/2  cup granulated sugar
1/4  cup sour cream
1 1/2  teaspoons vanilla extract
2  large eggs
2  large ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
3/4  cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin pan with paper cupcake liners. (You can grease the muffin tins instead. I do that all the time.)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the butter and granulated sugar. Beat with a handheld mixer until combined. Add the sour cream and vanilla. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time. Incorporate the dry mixture and wet mixture together until thoroughly combined. Add the bananas and 1/2 cup walnuts. Don’t overmix.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake liner three-quarters of the way full. Bake in the oven until the tops turn golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean, about 20 to 21 minutes. Let the cupcakes stay in the pan for 5 minutes. Then transfer them to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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A Lonely Fall Day

Who can argue that fall is the most beautiful season of all. The temperature is just right and the leaves turn red, yellow, brown, orange, or every color in between. Little by little these leaves fall off the trees, exposing the branches and everything around. It rained last night. I heard thunder.

Don’t Ignore Jalapeño Peppers

Jalapeño is a medium-sized chili pepper. Most jalapeños are produced in southern New Mexico and western Texas. The growing period is 70–80 days in hot weather. When mature, the plant is about two to three feet tall. Typically, a jalapeño plant produces about 25 to 35 pods. During a growing period, a plant will be picked multiple times. As the growing season ends, jalapeños start to turn red, which have less flavor. Green jalapeño peppers have a lot of tiny lines on the surface when they are extremely hot and ready for picking.

A mature jalapeño fruit is about 2 to 3½ inches long and is commonly picked and consumed while still green. Once picked, individual peppers may turn red on their own. The flesh has a mild flavor close to a green bell pepper. The heat is concentrated in the membrane surrounding the seeds, which give the spicy flavor we all love.

When preparing jalapeños, don’t rub your hands on the eyes. Capsaicin, the chemical in jalapeños that makes them hot, can cause painful burning and redness. Fresh cut jalapeños can give your hands a burning sensation for hours. I found that out myself.

Jalapeño peppers can be used green or red in Mexican and American cooking. Chipotles are smoked, ripe jalapeños, a Mexican favorite.

I have only discovered jalapeño in Chinese cooking recently when I needed some chili peppers to make black bean garlic ribs (豉汁排骨). The results were wonderful. Four pounds of baby back ribs disappeared quickly. Wow, I can think of many ways to use jalapeño in my cooking. Oh, yes, I will definitely grow jalapeño peppers in my vegetable garden next year.


How To Make Pizza At Home

If you have to work all day and don’t have time to cook, then having frozen pizza at home is very convenient. The problem is they don’t taste all that good. I keep changing brands hoping to find one I like. They are either too salty or too sweet, too dry or too wet.

Lucky for me, I found a Pillsbury refrigerated pizza dough crust in the refrigerator section and decided to give it a try. That means I am going to make pizza myself, sorta of. My husband helps me in the kitchen. I have some grilled chicken left and I like spinach. So here we go… making spinach pizza at home.

The result was better than I expected. I have since tried it with different ingredients here and there. They were all good. Follow the instructions on the can and add your favorite pizza toppings. Thin pizza crust is definitely a better choice. I don’t like the classic pizza crust, too soft.

Make your favorite pizza at home on weekends because it takes time to get everything ready. But you can always use leftover meat and frozen spinach to save time. I do that all the time. My homemade pizza usually tastes really good. It is a big pizza, enough food for two days. Warm up the cold pizza in a frying pan and cook on low heat for a few minutes. Lunch is ready!

Shopping in Chinatown

One of my favorite things to do in Chicago is shopping in Chinatown. There is a strip mall called China Square on Archer Avenue just a short distance from Wentworth Avenue, which is the older part of Chinatown but still very popular. Most people have to walk from store to store because it is hard to find parking here.

The newer design of Asian structures can be seen through out the strip mall. Local residents and people from all over the city come here to eat at their favorite restaurants. I have always enjoyed getting some delicious Chinese barbecue from Barbecue King. Don’t forget to buy some Chinese pastry and dim sum to take home. They are good. I always buy more than I can eat.

While I was shopping, Lynard took these pictures for me. They turned out pretty good.

Making Char Siu One More Time

Although I cook Chinese food at home, there are certain foods only Chinese restaurants can do right. Tried as I dared, I couldn’t make dumplings or dim sum, nor could I make the famous char siu (Chinese barbecue). I decided to make char siu one more time after I saw a lively food blog. The guy did a great job showing us how to make char siu at home. I thought, why can’t I do that? It looks delicious and easy.

I have tried many char siu recipes I got online, not good at all. Maybe I found the char siu recipe I have been looking for. I followed his instructions on the website, at least I thought I did anyway. I used pretty much the same ingredients listed there. Except I don’t think pork shoulder is the preferred choice of meat. But what am I supposed to do? It’s not like I have a friend working in the meat department. We can only get what’s available in the store. Regardless, I was confident that I could make restaurant quality char siu this time.

After working in the kitchen for a whole afternoon, I could not be more disappointed at the char siu I made. Although it wasn’t all that bad, it certainly did not have the right flavor of real char siu. It didn’t look like the restaurant char siu either. So what do I do from now on? I buy char siu when I go to Chinatown in Chicago.

Stir Fried Spicy Beans

 

One good thing about the extreme hot weather is that our long beans are growing fast and furious. Last week we had only 5-6 beans every morning. Today we picked at least 20-30 beans. We have cooked a lot of beans lately. I cooked this dish with two new sauces. It is not the flavor I have expected. But it is very easy to make, lots of flavor. A little too spicy for me. I think I can get used to it. Next time I will add some onion and garlic to give more flavors. This is a northern Chinese dish. A lot of people like it.


Chinese Long Beans


Stir Fried Spicy Beans  ( 炸醬炒豆角 ) 

2  cups Chinese long beans, 2-inch long pieces

2  tablespoons bean paste

2  tablespoons (or less) chili oil

2  tablespoons (or less) hoisin sauce

2  cloves garlic, chopped

1  small onion, chopped

Saute beans, onion and garlic for about 5-8 minutes over medium heat. Add bean paste, chili oil and hoisin sauce. Quickly stir fry until fragrant. Add about 1/4 cup water, cover the pan and cook another 5-8 minutes on medium low heat until beans are soften. That’s it. A nice side dish.