Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gluten Free Dinner: Asian Food Fusion Faux Bimbimbap

Photo Credit: Rex Roof Bimbimbap
Imagine that it's a hot summer night. You have leftover, browned ground turkey and last night's white rice. What can you do to amp up the nutrition, cut time in the kitchen and stay cool?

Photo Credit: Open Cage Bimbimbap
Blogger Shannon from Just as Delish displays a true Korean Bimbimbap recipe on her site.

Whereas, my recipe is a mix of what ingredients were on sale at Diablo Foods and some guidance from my sister, Sabrina, who is a healthier cook than I am.

Sabrina, my younger sis, is the first one to serve me a superior version of this gluten free dinner bowl.

Here's an easy gluten free dinner that I served him on Wednesday night:

Gluten Free Asian Food Dinner Bowl

pre-cooked brown or white rice
1/2 pound pre-cooked ground turkey
1/4 cup raw shredded carrots
1/3 English cucumber cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup rinsed mung bean sprouts

1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 TB powdered sugar

2 fried eggs
2 TB canola oil

Optional add-ins:
1/2 TB toasted sesame seeds
1 TB sliced green onion
1/4 tsp sesame oil
Photo Credit: Flickr Pen Waggener Bimbimbap
1/4 tsp crushed garlic

Step 1: Mix powdered sugar and soy sauce in a medium sized bowl.

Step 2: Reheat rice and cooked turkey in microwave.

Step 3: Fry the eggs in canola oil.

Step 4: Layer the rice and protein topped with raw veggies into a bowl.

Allow each diner to pour as much or as little sauce on top of  his/her serving.

Note: This can be made without turkey or eggs and substituted with plant protein such as tofu for vegan diets.

The result? The glory of texture! The contrast of hot and soft with cool and crisp! A delight for the eyes. Bright orange and fresh green! Elegant silver sprouts in a sweet dark sauce!

Photo Credit: Tyra Banks's Modelland
If you like sprouts solo, you might like Blogger Eating and Living's Mung Bean Sprouts recipe. Comment below to tell me your favorite gluten free dinner in the summer.

In Tyra Banks's Modelland, this is what would appear in Eatz for me! I'm reading this book, Modelland, for summer. Banks's characters may prefer pomegranate juice-drenched oysters or neverending whipped cream but I'd ask for this gluten free dinner every day, three times a day.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Vegan Pumpkin Coffeecake: Vegan Dessert Recipes with Pictures

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Bake Sale Items
Summer brings too many low-fiber, eggy, fatty sweets.

Just count how many neighborhood bake sale and lemonade stands you've stopped at. How many overpriced cookie boxes have you purchased from scouts outside the grocery store?

If you are willing to introduce a fall flavor this summer, then this is a comfort food vegan dessert recipe to try: homemade vegan pumpkin coffeecake. 

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Vegan Pumpkin Cofeecake Dessert Recipe
It's fat-free with protein and fiber. Plus it has a lofty yet dense pillowly texture that is satisfying. Drizzle with a vegan icing and you have dreamy breakfast coffee cake for pennies.

Vegan Cake
3 cups bread flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 TB cinnamon
5 TB pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp cloves
2 TB baking powder
1 TB yeast
1 1/3 cups soy milk

2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp rum
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 TB soy milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Vegan Pumpkin Coffeecake Slice
Mix dry ingredients together. Heat soy milk in microwave for 1 minute and mix with pumpkin puree. Combine the liquid with the dry mix. Spread the thick batter into an 8x8" oven safe glass pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake for 32 minutes.

Combine rum, soy milk, powder sugar and sea salt in a small bowl. Mix with a fork and drizzle over hot cake.

Amazing loft without eggs because of the baking powder. Moist because of the puree and soymilk without any oil!

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Non-vegan cookie lollipops
Enjoy your healthier dessert! I purchased a vegan cookbook from Kaiser Permanente to make a gradual lifestyle change. If vegan desserts taste this good, I wouldn't mind ditching my signature non-vegan sweets.

Note: This is still a high carbohydrate dessert. If you wish, you can add oats, drief fruit or flax meal to boost the fiber content.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
I reviewed a black bean gluten free brownie recipe from Happy Herbivore and a vegan raspberry truffle brownie from The Post Punk Kitchen. I also read recipes for gluten free snickerdoodles from Betty Crocker's site.

In the end, I did not feel intrepid enough for any of these for my first summer bake sale's gluten free baked good. So I chose an American classic, the simple chocolate chip cookie.

In the early 2000s I remember buying gluten free flour mixes that were woefully savory-tasting. I remember recipe fails baking for my boyfriend on an IBS diet.

The gluten free cookies of those days were strangely salty rather than sweet and puck-like like hardtack. Unappealing.

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol's Kitchen King Arthur Gluten Free flour
To this day, I can't bear to buy a package of wheat free flour containing chickpeas.I chose King Arthur Gluten Free Flour because it relies on brown rice instead of ground beans as its base. Disclosure: I have not been paid to endorse any company, brand, product, or blog.

I'm testing wheat free cookie recipes tonight to determine if gluten free flour has improved in the past 8 years.    

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 3/4 cups King Arthur Gluten Free Flour
3/4 cups white granulated sugar
1 TB molasses
1/4 tsp sea salt

1/3 cup soy milk
1 TB ground almonds
3 TB oats
2 TB coconut oil

1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chips (conventional or vegan)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheight.

Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Combine dry into wet mixture. 

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
 Use a measuring tablespoon to form 8 cookies. You'll notice the sandy texture of the gluten free dough. Bake the first batch for 14 minutes. Adjust baking time for crisper or softer cookies for second batch. Let cookies rest on cooling rack for 30 minutes before sampling.

Note: Contains nuts, oats and soy. If you use vegan chocolate-style chips, the recipe will be dairy-free. The Post Punk Kitchen's Wheat Free Chocolate Chip cookie recipe inspired this version.

My review? The oat flavor was more noticeable than the chocolate. This was dissappointing. Also the texture was crackly like toffee on the browner edges. Unfortunately, the cookies had a dusty aftertaste. It still tasted better than the past bean-based gluten free flour and neutral rather than salty. I would rate this a B- as opposed to the F of the early gluten free flour mixes.

I don't expect the fresh batch, tomorrow morning, to sell well.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

10 Bento Lunch Boxes: Eco-friendly Meals

Photo Credit: Kawaii Bento Boxes
Imagine steamed baby carrots, hard-boiled quail eggs and sea vegetables.

Are these lunch items for an adult on a macrobiotic diet?

Add whimsical teddy-bear faced pancakes and smiling squid made from sausages and you have a different take on lunch. Melissa Sharp, blogger of Another Lunch, also presents tutorials on making lunch fun with bento boxes. Disclosure: I have not received payment to endorse any company, product, book or blog.

Kids bento boxes can be just the right portion for toddlers. What's another benefit? Good Housekeeping has hinted that this bento-style is eco-friendly too.

If your family serves seafood, you can include shredded scallop, shrimp and even imitation crab meat in Japanese bento boxes. I borrowed Kawaii Bento Boxes: Cute and Convenient Japanese Meals on the Go as inspiration for an upcoming dinner party that includes children age 3 and under.

If my toddler-friendly home decor article for La Chapstick Fanatique, I mention toddler-proofing the party of choking hazards that may appear on a conventional menu.

In this cookbook by Photographer Yasuaki Okada, I found 10 bento lunch boxes that I would recommend to readers of SmartyGirlHealthyRecipes:

I am impressed by the distribution of soy protein options and sea vegetable side dishes. When I execute these recipes I plan to use cupcake liners as mini food cups to divide food in kids bento boxes. I might choose to avoid food picks for preschoolers because of possible chocking hazards. Just as I would avoid skewered onigiri for the same reason.

Dividers such as the green "grass" often seen in Japanese take out can be made with food-safe paper. I look forward to paper craft so that will be another how-to project.

1.  Oval Onigiri Piglet. Made with rice and salmon flakes decorated with carrot ears, cheese snout and nori seaweed eyes.

Photo Credit: Yum-Yum Bento Box
2. Omelet Rice Bento. A folder omelet filled with pre-cooked easy-to-digest shredded chicken and rice. Decorated with lines of ketchup to look like a fish.

3. Blooming Tulip Bento. Dyed-hard boiled quail eggs shaped like tulips over rice. Diagonally cut pea pods to represent leaves.

4. Sushi Salad Bento. Sliced ham, cheese and carrots cut with an heart-shaped cookie cutter. Meat and vegetables over seasoned rice.

5. Cauliflower Lamb. A cauliflower floret boiled in salted water and drained. A carrot for a face with black sesame seed eyes. 2 pretzel legs.

6. Okra with Bonito Shavings. Boiled drained okra. Bonito shavings for flavor and to absorb moisture.

7. Buttered Squash. Simmer cubes of winter squash in a pinch of sugar and salt with a tiny bit of butter.

8. Simmered Hijiki Seaweed. Seaweed seasoned with dashi, soy sauce and sugar.

9. Candied Sweet Potato. Fry in vegetable oil.

10. Almond Tofu. Similar to Italian panna cotta but flavored with almonds.

For pictures of cute kids bento, I also recommend Design Swan and Creation Z Studio

For adults who haven't tried nori, this is also a fun introduction.

Happy Bento Lunch!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easy Gluten Free Easter Treats

Photo Credit: SmartyGirl Renee's Gluten Free Easter Care Package
Photo Credit: Renee Marchol's Cocoa Mochi Gluten Free Easter Treats
Photo Credit: SmartyGirl Gluten Free Cocoa Mochi Truffles
Photo Credit: SmartyGirl Gluten Free Almond Cookies

If you would like to bless your guests with gluten free Easter treat choices this holiday, consider these two easy recipes: gluten free almond cookies and cocoa mochi truffles.

Almond Cookies

1 cup white granulated sugar
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pure almond extract (optional)

Combine the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in a mixing bowl using a a fork. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake teaspoon-sized cookie mounds for 22 minutes. Allow to cool on cookie rack. Use a sharp knife as opposed to a plastic spatula to separate the cookies from the paper because they can be sticky. What is the texture of these gluten free Easter cookies? Chewy-crisp and soft. I experienced these at Bijan Persian Bakery when I went to graduate school in San Jose. You can find this type of cookie also in French bakeries decorated with powdered sugar and toasted almond slices. They are usually sold in the shape of lucky horseshoes.

Cocoa Mochi Truffles

6 TB unsweetened baking cocoa powder
2 cups of powdered sugar
12 oz of sweet rice flour
1 cup of water
1/4 tsp sea salt

Stir wet ingredients into dry mixture. Grease a microwave safe 8"x8" baking dish. Microwave the cocoa batter for 5 minutes. Remove from the microwave and stir to break up lumps. Microwave for 6 minutes. Repeat. Microwave for 3 minutes for the final time. Be careful not to burn your fingers. Use a spoon that has been sprayed with non-stick vegetable oil. Pour the hardening dough onto a greased surface such as a large ceramic plate coated with canola oil. Allow to cool for 8 minutes. Dust the dough with additional 3 TB of unsweetened cocoa powder to reduce stickiness before shaping. Use a sharp knife to cut ropes of dough into 1 TB chunks. Keep the Easter treats cube shaped or roll them into spheres. Disclosure: I have not been paid to promote any company, brand, product or blog. However, I will reveal that I used Ghiradelli unsweetened cocoa powder because I'm a San Francisco gal.

Joyous Easter!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

5 Spring Seaweed Snacks for Health

Posh Spice eats laver seaweed and so do I. I remember reading about Victoria Beckham's sea vegetable consumption for weight maintenance in 2011. Not all Chinese Americans are exposed to kelp and laver sea vegetables but it was part of my childhood diet. Yes, I lived near Berkeley but it wasn't because of a macrobiotic food trend.

Photo Credit: Chenhai Laver
For me fungus as kitchen staples such as snow lichen and black wood ears were as common as having chicken, on hand, for dinner.

My grandma was known for her steamed chicken with light soy, shitake mushrooms, black wood ears, and ginger slivers. It helped warm my blood during winter when I ate this with jasmine rice.

How did our family get their supply of seaweed in the 1980s? Grandma traveled to San Francisco to buy groceries for my parents. She'd return laden with plastic Asian grocery bags full of fresh produce and discs of laver sea vegetables. In the 1990s, my parents moved closer to Oakland so the commute for Asian groceries became less difficult. 

If you are interested in seaweed to buy for cooking, you can find roasted nori in the ethnic aisle of most chain supermarkets. In 2012,you can find freshly packed seaweed salad at Whole Foods, dried sea vegetables at Sprouts and roasted seaweed at Trader Joe's. This is appealing to non-Chinese also who follow a vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free diet. 

If you don't know much about seaweed as food, you can watch a clip about a sea vegetable farmer on Chow's Obsessives. You may have already encountered seaweed as a snack at Trader Joe's if you've tried their 99-cent roasted seaweed snacks. You might have taken a sip or two of miso soup at a Japanese restaurant and tasted a hint of wakame sea vegetable. Maybe you are reading this because you are already a seaweed connoisseur and want another recipe for chucka salad.

If you believe in Chinese herbal remedies or follow Taoist dietary suggestions, seaweed is considered a cooling food. "Cooling foods" help rehydrate the body after consumption of too many fried or spicy foods. Some say this is a good diet after St. Patty's Day celebrations. 

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol's Kitchen Trader Joe's Miso Soup
3. Miso Soup

Laver Tofu Eggdrop Soup

1/4 disc of dried laver
8 cups of water
10 oz tofu
2 oz green onions
chicken or vegetable bullion (optional)
1/4 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 egg whites 

1. Soak the dried laver in 4 cups in water for 8 hours. Swish and strain to remove sand. 
2. Set 4 cups of water in a stock pot to bill. Add the cleaned, softened laver. Season with bullion if desired. Add ginger and cubed tofu. Simmer for 45 minutes. 
3. Beat the egg whites in a bowl. Pour the egg whites in a stream while stirring the soup with a wooden spoon. Ladle into bowls and garnish with green onions. 

Note: You can omit the egg and chicken bullion to make this a vegan meal. You also have the option of selecting silken, soft, firm or extra firm tofu. Avoid the crispy, deep-fried tofu if you are making this dish as a cooling tonic. 

Happy Seaweed Snacking!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Almond Tofu Dessert: Easy Spring Desserts

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol's Kitchen Almond Tofu Dessert

Last night my husband came down with the sniffles so he requested gelatin for the next day. Specifically, he asked for Almond Tofu Dessert. He experienced this easy spring dessert during our dating years, at dim sum and at my family gatherings. It also goes by another name Chinese Almond J-llo but since it is not truly a product made by Jello, let's avoid calling it that.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons NicnakW Almond Blossoms
To me, Spring is the perfect season to consume almonds. Why? Because almond seems lighter tasting than vanilla. I usually associate vanilla with baked goods and sticky, eggy custards. In contrast to vanilla, I think of almonds as the perfect partner to fresh Spring fruit. Feel free to comment and tell me your opinion of almonds. 

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons Healthaliciousness Almonds
Here is my recipe for Almond Tofu Dessert:
10 oz evaporated milk
3 packets of unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup of sugar or sugar substitute
1 TB pure almond extract (do not use imitation)
8 oz cubed fresh fruit (optional)
3 cups water approximately

1. Boil a teakettle full of tap water.
2. Mix 3 packets of unflavored gelatin powder with white sugar. Pour boiling water into the heat-safe glass 8 X 8" dish about 2" high. Use a fork to make sure all the powder dissolves.
3. Add the evaporated milk to the gelatin water. Add almond extract. Chill for 3 hours.
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons TurtleMom4Bacon Fruit Salad

Preparation Note: The prep process is quick. The waiting is 3 hrs.

Decoration Tips: Cut the almond tofu into attractive cubes. Decorate the dessert with fresh fruit such as kiwi slices or fresh peach. Be creative. You can even use gelatin as a canvas for Easter bunny scenes. How? Use cookie cutters or sculpt the Almond Tofu in a bunny mold.

Diet Notes: If you prefer canned fruit cocktail choose the one with pear juice instead of corn syrup. Also if you are allergic to cow's milk swap the dairy for a nut or soy-based milk. Contact me if you can share a Kosher substitute for gelatin.

I enjoyed some of this dessert as a light snack. I would like to learn how to make Almond Flan, next, as described in the children's book Esperanza Rising.

Read future tutorials on how to make DIY beancurd and almond nutmilk.

Welcome Spring!

Monday, March 5, 2012

3 Spring Chinese Herbal Remedies

Photo Credit: SmartyGirl's Kitchen Rock Sugar and Fresh Pears
"No spells," says my German Lithuanian husband when he hears me opening kitchen cupboards and muttering in Cantonese about rock sugar, barley, green mung beans and bean curd skin.

He is joking. However, I can understand how my tonic making can seem a bit like sorcery. Sometimes the smell of dong quai, a bitter root can be overwhelming in the winter. Other times, he is intrigued by my red bean dessert soup and asks me to if I'd be willing to freeze the red bean dessert into popsicles for him. I am an anomaly but so was my grandmother who taught me these holistic remedies.

Though she was the daughter of a Western-medicine trained surgeon, my maternal grandma took an interest in Chinese herbal remedies unlike her siblings who became conventional doctors, nurses and hospital administrators. Originally she was on the nursing track because of her parents' wishes but they allowed her to become a teacher and later a businesswoman instead because she became woozy at the sight of blood.

Photo Credit: SmartyGirl's Herbal Therapy Rock Sugar Poached Pears
Sivia, my grandma, was interested in preventative health and herbal therapy. When I had nosebleeds as a kid, she'd make a simple syrup out of Chinese rock sugar, barley grain and bean curd skin to help me rehydrate. I don't fully understand why but it was more hydrating than plain water and more natural than Gatorade or Pedialyte. I enjoyed the taste too. She would chill it in mugs for me to drink after school. While others drank juice or versions of Kool-Aid, I drank my grandma's tonics instead.

Photo Credit: Flickr Jon Mountjoy Barley
I didn't share this with my junior high peers but I had a fondness for snow lichen in and dried scallops in the winter. As an alternative to Midol, I drank my grandma's dong quai and red date chicken soup.

Photo Credit: Flickr Oncetherewasagirl Fries
Disclaimer: Please consult a traditional Western doctor before using these recipes to treat any illness or injury. I am not a graduate from natural medicine school. I am merely relaying recipes of Chinese herbal remedies I enjoyed as a child.  

If you've eaten many heavily salted and fried foods, you might feel very thirsty and irritable. When I want to "cool down" my system, I rely on rock sugar dessert soups. I am not a Taoist but I have researched that Taosists would agree that pears and rock sugar are "yin" or cooling ingredients.

Fresh Pears Poached in Simple Rock Sugar Syrup
3 cups of water
1 ripe fresh pear sliced
1" cube of rock sugar

Dissolve lump of rock sugar in water by boiling on high for 10 minutes. Slice a fresh pear, leave the skin on and simmer for 8 minutes in the syrup. Serve warm or chilled. How is this different from canned pears in corn syrup? I can't give you the food chemistry explanation. However, I can tell you that corn products are from the other spectrum of "yang" or warming ingredients. Processed foods are "yang" also.

Photo Credit: Flickr _e.t Green Tea Ice Cream
You may find ingredients for herbal therapy at 99 Ranch Asian grocery or smaller shops in Vietnamese or Japanese stores. You are not limited to visiting a Chinese herbalist for ingredients. I think it's just a matter of time before Sprouts, Whole Foods and Trader Joes begins to carry dried roots and seeds for tonic making since mainstream consumers have accepted BBQ pork buns and green tea ice cream.

Contact me if you'd like to share your childhood stories of herbal therapy. 

Two other dessert soup recipes and Chinese herbal remedies can be found below:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gluten Free Cosmetics and Food at Sprouts

Photo Credit: Flickr Hail Merry Foods Gluten Free Mint Chocolate Tart
I've been a fan of Sprouts for over a year. I went to my first Sprouts in Thousand Oaks when I worked in Agoura Hills. After I discovered their low prices on fresh, organic produce I even drove there to shop during my lunch break. Thankfully, there is a Culver City Sprouts closer to where I live now. Disclaimer: I have not been paid by Sprouts, bloggers or any of the brands I mentioned for my review.

Los Angeles has introduced me to more healthy eating options such as: vegan cuisine, raw food diets and gluten-free goodness. In the San Francisco Bay area, these options were too expensive and the selection too limited at retailers. In contrast, Los Angeles has Tender Greens salad restaurant with my favorite vegan lunch, "the happy vegan" with green hummus and hazelnuts. I go to the Tender Greens in Hollywood. I like the taste of dairy products but I have an allergic reaction to cow milk in all forms. If you share my lactose intolerance, you may find some relief through Blogger Food Allergy Mama.

Back to Sprouts grocery store as opposed to dining out. What is the price point for Sprouts? Between Whole Foods and Trader Joes. The variety of special diet foods such as gluten-free, lactose-free items exceeds both competitors.

When I go to job interviews in Westlake Village, I stop by the town's Sprouts to check out two things: natural beauty products and gluten-free items. Sometimes these two Venn diagrams intersect in gluten-free skincare. I appreciate their vegan cosmetics too.

There are my top 10  brands for this month for both categories:

Photo Credit: St. Dalfour
St. Dalfour
Photo Credit: Amazon. com Eden Organic
Eden Organic
Photo Credit: Peacekeeper Causemetics
Peacekeeper Causemetics
Back to Nature
Lifeway Frozen Kefir
Jolly Llama
Photo Credit: Schar
World Centric
Photo Credit: Dr. Tung
Dr. Tung

Note: Sprouts also carries well-known gluten-free brands such as Pamela's. However I wanted the above list to include brands that were new to me.

If you are a parent, you might also be interested in the Blogger Gluten Free Mommy recommended by

Sunday, February 19, 2012

SmartyGirlHealthyRecipes Autobiography: A Taste of My Childhood

Photo Credit: Migrant Strawberries
Photo Credit: Amazon Esperanza Rising
You may have heard the "Entertainer" by Scott Joplin blaring from ice cream trucks in the summertime but I didn't. However, I was lucky to have fresh produce. My dad bought oranges from migrants and strawberries by the flat from roadside stands.
Photo Credit: Dad Peter Lam & Renee Marchol

I lived in a San Joaquin Valley suburb. Suburb may be the wrong label for Tracy in the 1980s. I remember my blue collar neighborhood with fondness. Kind dads would sit on their driveway in soccer chairs drinking beer after an honest day's work as plumber, assembly line worker, or mechanic. Their kids would play with me, running from lawn to lawn before dinnertime. My childhood made me appreciate stories such as Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan about the experiences of other children living in California.
Photo Credit: Renee Marchol in Tracy

Their wives worked at the cheese factory like my mom or at the Spreckles sugar plant not far down the road. My mom wore a white plastic hard hat and earplugs to her job at Leprino Foods. She worked in the dairy lab but she brought me twice to tour the factory and the mozzarella vats. Very interesting for me to watch metal paddles stir heated milk and men wearing plastic gloves press curd into blocks. I loved cheddar curds best! Heaven was eating Gina Leprino cream cheese with a metal tablespoon at home. My mom studied food science in the Midwest in the other dairy state.
Photo Credit: Flickr Stanford Tamales

I didn't eat too many non-Chinese foods at home but when mom cooked I ate enchiladas, tamales and lasagna with sumptuous layers of cheese that she purchased with her employee discount from Leprino's. Maybe all that calcium from cheese made me taller than some Chinese American girls and perhaps it gave me the healthy, white teeth my husband admires.

Photo Credit: Flickr Gourmand Breaks Blog Spanish Churros
Did you know that I grew up in a rural factory town full of silos, grain elevators and fields of corn? One of my classmates was popular because his family was known for growing asparagus. Instead of sugared cereals, I craved tender asparagus. I also liked to play with cornsilk. In elementary school, before my mom's graveyard shift at the factory, she volunteered to help make cornhusk dolls in my class. My friends were Spanish speakers and my most of my mom's friends were Portuguese. This meant that I ate churros, Christmas tamales and Portuguese sweet bread. I am such a lucky gal.

When my parents were away at work, my mom's mother would babysit me. She's sing hymns, knit and play Pop-o-Matic Trouble with me. It was a good childhood. In the afternoons, a musical truck would circle our neighborhood. My grandma would walk to the front yard with me and hand me cash to buy fish! Yes, fillets! Nope, not ice cream. A Portuguese-Italian fish truck would play music to alert my neighbors that he was coming through with freshly caught halibut, ling cod or salmon. My favorite Chinese American kid's dish was ling cold with steamed white rice and ketchup! My grandma would take a dark skillet, fry green onions and ginger matchsticks. Then she'd grill the fillet perfectly so that it had a bittersweet char in some spots.

Photo Credit: Flicker Acts 2 Hot Pot
Photo Credit: Renee Marchol & Grandma Sivia Chen
On weekends, I'd accompany grandma on a Greyhound bus to San Francisco. We'd stay the weekend with her friends.

They were happy people from Swatownese Chinese Church, a cool chapter that also immigrated from Hong Kong. At their homes, I'd be part of wonderful hot pot style seafood dinners. If you haven't experienced such a thing, please put that on your bucket list! You use golden baskets to lower thinly sliced meat and vegetables into a communal cauldron. This pot is filled with aromatic broth. You eat fresh vegetables such as dark leafy baby bok choi. You sup on glass noodles. You taste the freshest lean meats and seafood. You do this together as a friends and family during the winter.

I grew up where food was grown so I delight in Farmers Markets in Los Angeles and take interest in nutrition for children. Also I am interested in First Lady Michelle Obama's remedy to "food deserts"and Alice Waters's efforts to reform school lunches. My husband and I volunteer through Feeding America to do fresh produce sorting at a local food bank. Eating at Chez Panisse is on my bucket list. I also aspire to write about food and travel as well as Chef Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential

I'll share more in future posts. Until then, please contact me to share your favorite writers about food and health.

Best wishes!

Easy Healthy Salmon Recipe

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol's Kitchen Salmon
Photo Credit: Sashimi Salmon Image by Creative Commons Flickr Boo_licious
Yesterday I took a drive on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to hike with my huband at Point Mugu State Park. On the way there, we watched the ocean and began to crave fish.

At Vons in Santa Monica, I purchased fresh salmon for $7.99 per pound today. I only bought two servings because of my budget. I wanted to feed my husband some healthy omega-3 fatty acids to start the week. Thankfully the best deals seem to be on Sunday mornings. I know this Vons receives some unfavorable reviews on Yelp because of its run-down location. However, the staff are helpful and they keep the store clean.

My fresh salmon with a light, sweet ginger soy, smells like warm maple syrup and pancakes according to Nik.

Easy Healthy Salmon Recipe

1/4 tsp crushed organic ginger
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup white sugar or 3 TB honey or other sweetener
1/4 cup chopped green onions
olive oil
2 TB unsalted butter (optional)
2 servings salmon filet with skin

1. Place salmon skin side down in a skillet with olive oil, green onions and browned butter.
2. Cover fish with lid of skillet and cook on medium high for 10 minutes.
3. Mix sweetener, ginger and soy sauce in a measuring cup. Pour 1/2 over fish. Turn down heat for 15 minutes and keep covered.
4. Flip fish so that skin side is up. Pour remaining sauce.
5. Check to make sure the sweet sauce does not burn. Cook for another 5 minutes until fish flakes easily.

Serve with brown rice, polenta or greens!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Dinner New Orleans Shrimp Gumbo Recipe

Photo Credit: Flickr Kent Wang Gumbo
I visited NOLA twice before Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans stole my heart and I've talked about its decor, food and people ever since. Since NOLA is on my heart today, this is my Valentine's Dinner dish. 

I also recommend that every former girl scout go there. Why? Because if you are a former Bluebird or Brownie, you already have a patriotic streak. I am a child of immigrants so this means that my parents signed me up for scouting to increase my love for my country. One of the highlights of my dad's career was being sent to New Orleans to train French chemists visiting America.

Photo Credit: EvilTomThai Oyster
My siblings and I love Arnaud's for its Oysters Rockefeller and Turtle Soup.

Photo Credit: Flickr Cote Crayfish Omelette
We also love Copeland's on St. Charles street before they became a brunch-only restaurant.

One of my brothers was a fan of Copeland's sour cream and lemon pasta. Can't beat Bananas Foster for dessert. 

Going to New Orleans will make you feel even more proud to be an American. I am a Chinese American with an appreciation of African American culture. Go to the birthplace of jazz. Visit African American museums. Taste the melting pot of dishes inspired by the French, Spanish and Africans. See NOLA rebuild and witness its spirit of resilience.

Photo Credit: Flickr Aghrivaine Jambalaya
Photo Credit: Renee Marchol's Kitchen Gumbo
Yes, Southern food is not light fare. However, you can lighten gumbo for low sodium and high fiber diets.

Lighter New Orleans Shrimp Gumbo

2 andouille sausages sliced into half moons
28 oz tomato paste or 10 fresh tomatoes
2 TB dehydrated onion granules
1 tsp crushed garlic

10 oz frozen sliced ozra
6 oz clams with natural juice
2 TB all purpose flour
2 TB dried basil
3 TB unsalted butter or 2 TB margarine and 1 TB olive oil

4 cups of water
16 oz deveined, pre-cooked, peeled shrimp
4 cups cooked brown rice
1 TB condensed beef bullion
1/4 tsp white pepper

Step 1: Create the roux by browning the flour with the fat in a tall stockpot. Add the okra and fry the vegetables for 5 minutes.

Step 2: Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil and bullion into the pot. Pour in the water. Stir the roux to combine with the liquid. Simmer for 45 minutes.

Step 3: Add the pre-cooked sausage and pre-cooked shrimp. Heat through for another 10 minutes. Serve the soup over brown rice.

Photo Credit: Flickr J.E.N.N.Y Okra
Note: Gumbo can burn easily because of the roux base and the stickiness of the okra. Resist the temptation to turn the stove on high. Simmer.

Seafood is naturally higher in sodium so reduce salt in this recipe by using fresh tomatoes rather than canned tomato paste. You can also rinse the clams before adding to the mixture and omit the clam juice.

Serve the hot soup over brown rice rather than white rice for higher fiber. The soup itself is low carb with veggies such as tomatoes and okra. Shrimp and clams provide lean protein.

The use of clams and the addition of sausage is not traditional. White pepper and basil are also my touches. Use parsley, green bell pepper and bay leaves for seasoning for a traditional flavor. I used basil and white pepper to compensate for the lower sodium.
Photo Credit: Flickr SweetFixNYC Bananas Foster

Let the good times roll!