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.

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— Tomato Bitter Melon Soup with Egg Drops  —

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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!

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🙂 Jalapeño Char Siu Omelet

 

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.

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—— 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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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!

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.

 

Wake Up, Smell the Beans

The Chinese long beans grow so fast we have to check them everyday so we can pick them at their best when young and slender. They are crisp and tender when picked before they reach full maturity. They begin to get dry and tough when longer than 18 inches. So far we have only picked five long beans, not enough to make a stir-fry. I had some tasty homemade char siu left in the refrigerator. Perfect to make bean and char siu fried eggs for breakfast.


Making Breakfast

Diced char siu and chopped long beans. Chives are optional.

Beans and eggs are deliciously good for you.

Bring out the cutting board and knife. Ready, chop.


Beans and Char Siu Fried Eggs  (豆角叉燒煎蛋) 

1) Cut the beans into 1/2-inch sections. Dice the char siu. Chop some chives, optional.

2) Beat 3 large eggs in a bowl with a small pinch of salt. Heat some oil in a frying pan, saute the beans first until tender.

3) Add meat and chives to the pan, season as needed. Cook until hot. Stir the eggs and pour over bean mixture.

4) Use a fork to quickly scramble the eggs from under, to blend with the beans and meat. Remove from heat when golden brown.

5) Serve with whatever you want. Long beans are high in protein, low in calories, no fat. Taste delicious. This is going to be a good day. I can feel it.

Mums on Parade

October is my favorite month of the year. The weather is perfect. Apples are abundant.
Mums are blooming like they are on top of the world. The mums in my garden
come back every year and have the prettiest color you can imagine.

To celebrate the fall season, I have made a fabulous dish using apples. I could not resist
buying them since they are just absolutely gorgeous, at half the regular price.

Apple-Onion Pork Chops

2  boneless pork chops, 1-inch thick
Salt, black pepper, grill seasoning
1  tablespoon olive oil
1  small onion, thinly sliced
1  tablespoon sliced ginger strips
1  Fuji apple, slice into wedges
1/2  cup apple juice
1/2  tablespoon brown sugar

Season pork chops with salt and pepper, grill seasoning, and chili powder, optional.
Pan fry until golden brown. Dish out and put aside. In the same pan, saute onion,
apple and ginger, season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook until combined.

Stir in brown sugar and apple juice. Cook until thicken a little. Return pork chops
and juice to the pan, mix with apples. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 3-5 minutes
until apple sauce thicken and pork chops are fully cooked.

Delicious!