{Tao’s Lunchbox} 肉末雪里蕻 | Pickled Mustard Green stir-fried with minced pork

Chinese mustard green, or Kai Choy, is a much-loved vegetable in many southern provinces of China. It has a bitter, peppery taste and a crunchy texture which make it perfect for pickling.  Pickling the mustard green is a simple process requiring minimum effort – only 4 steps:

  1. Wash the mustard greens and put them in a salad spinner to remove excess water.
  2. Put mustard greens into a good size container in layers and salt each layer generously. The ideal proportion between mustard green and salt is 10:1.
  3. Let them sit for about 3 hours and squeeze the salted mustard greens until most of the liquid comes off.
  4. Put into a zip-locked bag, or container with lid on, refridge for at least 12 hours.

voilà – you now have perfectly pickled mustard green ready for cooking..I was chatting with Tao the other day that why many Americans eat less vegetables than Chinese. One of the reasons might be Americans prefer eating raw vegetables and Chinese love both raw and cooked ones. Actually Chinese eat more cooked vegetables than raw ones. It would be hard to imagine eating one pound raw vegetables at once but it is much easier to do so when cooked. You get the cue now, right. :)

Pickled Mustard Green stir fried with minced pork is a favorite family-style dish served in many Chinese restaurants. If you don’t bother cooking, you can always dine out to try it. Cooking-ready pickled mustard green is also available in almost any Chinese supermarkets. I often buy them directly. Since I made my own this time, it deserves a feature on my blog.Ingredients:

  • 0.5 lbs – Pickled mustard green, washed, drained and chopped.
  • 0.5 lbs – Minced pork, marinated with 2 tbs of ShaoHsing cooking wine, 1 tbs of soy sauce, 1 tbs of minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of white peppercorn powder or a tiny bit of crushed black pepper, 1 tbs of thick corn starch water mixture to tenderize the meat.

Process:

  1. Add chopped pickled mustard green into a heated pan, and stir to bring out the excess moisture in it until fragrant. Put it into a serving dish for later usage. Note that no cooking oil is added at this time, otherwise it would be very hard for the water to evaporate.
  2. Use the same pan and heat until hot, add cooking oil, and then add marinated minced pork, stir constantly for a minute and half until fragrant, break the lumps if necessary. You can splash a bit of water or cooking wine on the outer circle of the pork and bring off the brown bit on the bottom of the pan (if not using a non-sticky pan.).
  3. Add in cooked pickled mustard green, some chili pepper flakes, and stir everything together for 1 more minute. Usually, you won’t need to salt anymore.
  4. Finish with 1tps of sesame oil.

Enjoy!

 

{Beauty Favorites} Makeup tutorials

I am not a makeup girl and my work from home further reduces the need for it.However, when I go out for client meetings or social occasions, I often feel helpless and end up spending too much time in my powder room with unsatisfactory results.

I recently came across two sources with world-class makeup artists video demonstrating how to apply makeup from basic to glamorous.

1. Lisa Eldridge based in UK. Her website is incredible with information from makeup demonstration, skincare basics, to product information showcased in her videos, and more.

2. Saemmool Jung, a South-Korean artist. She uses creative techniques to help Asian women applying makeup effectively. She is also awesome in hairstyling.

“There are no ugly women in the world, just lazy ones.” CoCo Chanel said. I hope we are neither of them.:)

庆元宵| Celebrating Lantern Festival

元宵节,包汤圆,猜灯谜,重温传统的中国习俗,让远离故土的我们,仍能感受到浓浓的春节味道。

汤圆馅儿有芝麻、红豆、猪肉菜脯,女生们齐上阵,虽然都没怎么包过,露了馅儿就打个补丁,横竖都要把馅儿揉进去,搓个圆滚滚,下到开水里,齐刷刷全沉到底,不一会儿就浮起来,点一两次水,就好了。虽然味道不算很好,却很好玩。

吃饱喝足,上灯谜。一家为单位,得分最高者,有小礼物一份。有意思的是,每天在英文和键盘的环境里,很多中国字在记忆里都模糊了,猜字谜还真是费劲。

J同学虽然猜谜得分不高,却是联想奇才,就这”三八多面手” 打一《红楼梦》人名,谜底是巧姐,她答出个”贾宝玉”,推理是,他被众红楼美女前呼后拥,应大家的说法,应该加十分。

笑声连连,祝大家新年满有神的祝福和恩典!

Photo credits to Qihui Zhang.

 

慢炖海参 | Slow-cooked sea cucumber

中国城,买急冻猪婆蔘一包,慢炖,做个滋补的菜。海参无味,取辅料的鲜味和肥腻,才能变得软糯可口。

急冻海参已经处理干净,只需冲洗,沥干水分,切段,放入炖锅。

加入干贝、鸡腿肉、咸肉(bacon 亦可)、五花肉(刚好家里没有,放的是有肥肉的风干猪肉)、冬笋、泡发的香菇和木耳、红枣、葱、姜、八角。

淋上上好的黄酒、酱油,加水至没过食材。

开大火至沸,转小火慢炖一个小时,厨房便香气四溢了。

【Chinese Xiaochi】粢饭团| Sticky Rice Roll

Sticky rice roll is a breakfast frequenter for people living in Shanghai and surrounding regions.Similar in making as the Japanese Sushi roll, the sticky rice roll is equally delicious and can be easily prepared. There are many versions of filling (savory or sweet) for the roll, we made a savory version – most represented on the local’s tables.

What you need:

  • 3 cups of sticky rice
  • For the filling:
  • 1 thin stick of Youtiao (Fried dough stick), cut in half
  • 1 package of Zha Cai (Chinese pickled vegetable )
  • 4 tbs of Rousong (pork floss)
  • 2 tsp white sesame seeds, toasted

HOW-TO:

  1. Soak sticky rice in 3 cups of water for at least 2 hours, drain, and steam in a steamer over medium heat for about 25 minutes until well-cooked. You may want to sprinkle some water over the rice while steaming to make it moist enough.
  2. Lay a piece of aluminum foil (about 12 inch long, 7 inch wide) over the sushi roller.
  3. Spoon half of the steamed sticky rice onto the  foil. The ingredients make two rolls.
  4. Add filling on top of sticky rice.
  5. Roll tightly and save foil for the next roll, cut in half.

 

TIPS:

All ingredients can be easily find in Chinese supermarkets or even online.

I prefer using aluminum foil over plastic wraps for health reasons.

Pair with soy milk for a good breakfast.

 

 

A Home-made Valentine’s Day Dinner

A happy Valentine’s day isn’t about gift, is about the love behind it.When I went shopping this sunny afternoon, I saw many people buying flowers. What caught my eye in particular was a men with his baby in stroller carefully picking up roses. So sweet!

I was also on a mission-get some seafood from Wulf’s Fish Market , pick up fresh baguette from Clear Flour Bread, and go home to cook a special Valentine’s dinner. Giving love shouldn’t make us feel stressed, but I want to do a little bit extra to make it memorable as it’s our first Valentine since married.

Firstly, set up a beautiful table. I used three sets of candles: 2 floating candle in a tilt glass bowl from Crate and Barrel, two pink Ikea tealights in NEGLINGE tealight holders, a set of five Thai elephant candles gifted from friend. Candles, when paired with glass and water, easily creates an romantic environment. Next up is to decorate the plates. I shaped napkins and tied red ribbon bows to secure them. When Tao arrived home, I used two roses on each napkin to make them pop.

Secondly, cook something special. It really can be anything, pizza, noodle, etc. Anything your loved one will enjoy together with you. Here is my Dinner Menu:

Appetizers: (1) Oysters drizzled with lemon juice (2)Scallops in basil garlic sauce ( the photo was mysteriously gone from my iPhone-I guess the scallops are too shy. :-) )

Entree: Slow-cooked squid in red sauce

Dessert: Marsala poached pear stuffed with cream cheese

Wine: Trader Joe’s Sara Bee Moscato

Thirdly, change my pajamas into a easy dress and turn on some music. I actually totally forgot about the music until half-way on our dinner. :-)

Happy Valentine’s day everyone! Treasure every bits of life, and enjoy God’s blessings.

P.S. Tao is happily sleeping on the couch now- obviously he drank too much Moscato. It’s such a delicious wine to empty the flute.

 

【Tao’s Lunchbox】苦瓜炒风干牛肉 | Bitter Melon and Air-dried Beef Stir-fry

It’s New England Winter-cold and dry. Our humidifier is working 24*7 but my skin still feel itchy sometimes. The weather, however, is more than perfect to make air-dried beef.

Grew up in Hunan, China, I love eating smoked pork. Every winter, my grandma would buy large pieces of pork belly, wash, dry, cut them into long strips, salt them for several days in a pot, and then hung them on the ceiling over the fire pit in the kitchen. In the 80s and early 90s, people living in the countryside like my grandparents would use wood branches, pine cones, etc as fuel for cooking. When they lit a fire in the pit, smoke arises-people who are not used to it would immediately burst into watery eyes. The smoke and heat linger around the hanging pork, and after 15-20 days, the salted pork turn into a delicacy for cooking.

Pictures credit to here and here.

Having only gas stove in my apartment, it’s impossible for me to replicate my grandma’s kitchen miracle. I decided to make something similar but without the smokiness-air dry marinated beef.

The process is quite simple.

  1. Wash, dry, and cut 3 pounds beef into long strips, about 2 cm thick.
  2. In a pan,over medium-heat, stir 2/3 cup of salt and 2 tbs of Sichuan Peppercorn until hot and fragrant.
  3. Pour over beef and massage into them for about 3 minutes. Let it cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. Then marinate salted beef with 3 tbs of Shaoxing cooking wine (better use 1 tbs of Chinese Baijiu as it has a strong aroma), 3 tbs of soy sauce, and 2 tbs of brown sugar.
  5. Refrigerate the beef in a pot or zip-lock bag for 3 days, turn the beef upside down everyday.
  6. After 3 days and the beef strips are well-marinated, cut a whole in each of the strip and hung them closer to the windows to let the cold air dry them for 1 week or so. (It’s okay to leave the peppercorn on the beef strips. Make sure you put paper town on the window sill right under the hanging beef to catch the dropping sauces and fat.)
  7. Then you get air-dried beef like this in  below. They smell so good even without the smokiness!

For Tao’s lunchbox today, it’s Bitter Melon and Air-dried Beef Stir-fry.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-sized bitter melon, cut in half, seeded, and then cut into chunks
  • 1 strip of air-dried beef, thin sliced
  • 3 green chili peppers, cut in half, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chooped
  • 1 tbs of Douchi (Chinese fermented black beans)
  • 2 tbs of Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 tsp of brown sugar
  • 3 tbs of water
  • oil and Salt to your desire

Process:

  1. Heat oil in a pan, add chopped garlic and Douchi and stir over medium heat for 1 minute until fragrant.
  2. Add bitter melon chunks, stir, add 3 tbs of water on the edge of the pan, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes until tender.
  3. Uncover the pan, add sliced air-dried beef, green chili pepper chunks, and stir occasionally for another 3 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and sugar and stir for another 30 seconds.
  5. Finish by adding Shaoxing wine and stir for another 30 seconds.

Inspiration of this dish comes from Hunan cuisine.

 

{Tao’s Lunchbox} 藜麦沙丁鱼沙拉 | Quinoa salad with Sardine

We bought a bag of organic Quinoa from Costco as it’s claimed to be healthy and delicious as a whole grain.I almost always fill Tao’s lunch box with Chinese food and thought to give this new grain a try. I followed part of the recipe on the wrapping bag. It has a Mediterranean flavor with sun-dried tomatoes-not something Tao would love, so I decided to use sardine to give it a twist.

Ingredients:
2 cups Quinoa
3 cups chicken broth (may add more later if needed )
1/2 large purple onion, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 cubes Trader Joes frozen basil, or a bunch of fresh basil would be even better
several cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbs of pine nuts
1 can of sardine in olive oil
salt and black pepper

Steps:
Add Quinoa and chicken broth to a pan/pot, bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until quino turns transparent and moist.

Add the olive oil in the canned sardine to a heated separate pan,add chopped onion until fragrant, add minced garlic and stir for another 30 seconds to bring out the flavor.

Then add celery and stir for 2 minutes or so and season with salt and pepper, don’t overcook so celery would be still crunchy.

Add canned sardine and break it into small pieces,add cooked quiona,pine nuts, and stir everything together.

Turn off the heat and there you get a great salad for lunch/dinner.

【养生食疗】加味四神湯-消除小肚腩

不同于一般的四神汤,汉唐中医的加味四神湯是用薏仁、芡實、蓮子、茯苓、白朮(图片如下)等比例熬煮成的。有了这个方子,就可以在家煮了。

其网页介绍,这些都是阳性食物,可以祛湿,对于办公室一族,久坐,小腹凸起,效果非常好。

The days with flowers | 有花的日子

In the recent Apartment Therapy January Cure, the editor talked about how flowers can make a difference for us to appreciate life and beautify our lovely homes.

One of the traditions I’ve kept ever since married is picking up flowers while grocery-shopping.  Trader Joe’s usually have decent flowers with good prices. I also go to Whole Foods, and sometimes Russo’s Market in Watertown if nothing at TJs works. There are times that I can’t find any good ones at all of those places and then I just use the green plants at home as decoration.

I normally spent $4 to $10 each week on flowers and they make my work-from-home life much more enjoyable. Depending on the quantity of flowers,  I arrange them in one or more vases for living room, dining room, bedroom, or bathroom. As flowers often wither at different speed, I also re-arrange and recycle them to make the maximum usage.

 

Here are some photos of a bouquet I bought last weekend at TJ’s. Make sure you open you blinds/curtains and let the sunshine in…

For brides-to-be, these stores are wonderful resources to order wedding flowers. If you want to be hassle-free, Whole Foods can arrange wedding flowers for you at affordable prices [usually charging only 15% service fee plus the price of flowers]. For adventurers, try inviting friends/family to arrange flowers for you or even do it by yourself.  Last March, I bought all my wedding flowers  from TJs and Russo’s  and had my friend Min in church arranged them for me. I did my bridal bouquet by myself.

Last May, I had the opportunity to be the “florist” for my dear friends Jing and Xinding’s wedding. The bride loves rose, so I made the bridal bouquet with cream roses, lemon leaves, and baby’s breath. The bridesmaid bouquets were made with yellow roses and baby’s breath to complement their royal blue bridesmaid’s dresses. For the aisle decorations at MIT chapel, we arranged one blue hydrangea with three orange tulips in each of the 10 mason jars. They were reused as the table centerpieces at the dinner reception. Photos can be found at the below link:

http://www.fatorangecatstudio.com/blog/2012/05/mit-chapel-wedding-2/

Enjoy flowers in a beautiful new year!