[RECIPE] Curried Coconut Lentils

With only an hour to spare from when I get home and when I need to leave to go to hot yoga, I am always struggling to figure out what to cook for dinner. Luckily, I decided to make this on my “off day” from yoga. That’s not to say it isn’t quick and easy – it is!!! – but I love not having to rush and actually getting the chance to enjoy the food.

However, because it was an “off day”, I decided that I still had to stay on the healthy track… so when I found this recipe for lentils, I thought it held a lot of promise: full of protein and nutrients and fairly quick to whip up! To be quite honest, what probably took the longest was putting together my mise en place (or basically getting all my ingredients together and in one place). Observe the spices:

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Beautiful, isn’t it? One of my favorite things to do is opening my spice cabinet (which is almost completely full) and getting that first whiff. I have quite the collection and it’s always growing…

Now, this would be my first time cooking lentils so a part of me was hoping it would turn out well, mainly because I had no idea what to expect. Is it hard to believe that I don’t ever recall eating this before? I already had the strong hunch that my BIL (brother-in-law) wouldn’t like it all that much and my husband is 50-50. However, if I didn’t like it, then that would most definitely be a major bummer, because I would be stuck eating something I made that didn’t agree with my taste buds. The thing is that lentils made this way have been on my to-do list for quite a while, so I was also pretty excited! After all, culinary adventures are awesome! Though some are rather daunting (I still haven’t made French macarons or a good souffle yet, but I imagine I should be doing it soon… ish – maybe).

I wasn’t wrong about my BIL but my husband actually liked it a bit – he liked how the lentils were soft and creamy even though curry (and Indian food in general) isn’t his favorite. Something about giving him a degree of indigestion due to the sheer amount of spices; his stomach simply isn’t used to it. In accordance with the recipe (unfortunately, I don’t have the source because I wrote it down), I also made a sauteed side of kale and tempeh to go with – and it was perfect! Kudos to the brain behind this!

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[RECIPE] Gluten-Free Clementine Cake

I admit it: I love food and I love making it (as if you couldn’t tell). No matter how tired I am, when it comes to prepping for any elaborate menus I decide upon, I would be there to do it. After all, a good portion of the time you put into cooking (and baking but to a lesser extent for the most part) goes into the prep work. I would be the one in the kitchen past midnight on a weeknight prepping for the next day’s dinner. With yoga, I only have roughly an hour to cook from the time I get home until the time I have to leave for 90-minutes of yoga so time is something I do not have.

I regularly browse cooking blogs and I came across a pretty interesting recipe for a citrus-based cake – a clementine cake, to be exact – a while ago and had printed out the recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t have the source readily available because it didn’t print out with the recipe. However, I thought it looked great – it used whole ingredients (literally) and was somewhat on the healthy side. It also had me do something I had never done before: boil fruit of the orange/citrus variety. I almost immediately decided that I would try it out one week for one of the weekly family dinners at my parents’ place and I finally got the chance to do it this weekend (mainly because I finally found some clementines).

As a note, clementine and mandarin oranges are in the same family but there are some differences (another site says that clementines don’t have seeds as they’re sterile but the ones I had contained a grand total of 1-1/2 seeds…). I won’t get into the technicalities, mainly because I am far from qualified to do so, but I may try this recipe again with mandarins (then tangerines) and see if there are any major differences, though I suspect there may not be to my inexperienced tongue. The only main issue is the amount to use. The original recipe’s amount of citrus to use did not match up with the clementines I got so I re-adjusted the recipe, because I didn’t particularly want to cut up a clementine to get exactly what the original recipe required. Plus, their recipe only made enough batter for an 8-inch cake and I only have 9-inch pans. I suppose it all works out in the end, but that is why the quantities under this recipe are a bit more flexible.

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The True Meaning Behind Valentine’s Day

Like most people, I love holidays – even when I don’t actively celebrate it. Perhaps it’s the festive atmosphere or the fact that everyone just seems happier. I would also say I love how you get some of those holidays off of work (or school), but I only get the major holidays off – mainly about two weeks for Christmas and New Years and, of course, Labor Day. The occasional July Fourth is off as well, if my bosses decide to go that route. Quite honestly, though, I still work from home on those days or at least am required to routinely check my work email, so getting holidays off doesn’t quite hold the same clout for me.

However, there is one holiday that I frankly have mixed feelings about: Valentine’s Day. America is notorious for turning holidays that originally had this deeper meaning and turning it into this overly commercialized thing where people put more worth into physical displays of the meaning that may or may not hold anything deeper. This is somehow exacerbated during this day that is saturated in roses and shades of red and pink everything… or at least this is my opinion, though I’m sure I’m not the only one to share this thought.

It’s the Monday after Valentine’s Day and everyone I met today asked me one common question: What did your husband do for you for Valentine’s Day? Although a small part of me likes little gestures like giving flowers (I’m mainly stuck on getting chocolate…. and good-quality chocolate – none of those overly, sweet excuses of brown-colored sugary cocoa butter), I’m honestly not that much of a romantic and my husband? Less so. Much less so. Not to mention the fact that before Valentine’s Day, people would ask what your plans were for that particular day. I don’t know about you, but it seems as if they’re unconsciously comparing — whose plans trumps whose? Who is the better couple? Should I be jealous or – better yet – you’re the jealous one?

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[RECIPE] Braised Tofu & Oyster Mushrooms

Although I am Asian by ethnicity, I was born and grew up in the States. Unlike most other families with immigrant parents, my mother was a stay-at-home mom and she was in the PTA. Our neighborhood while growing up, though predominately Caucasian, was still made up of a lovely mixture of cultures and ethnicities and with my mom being a part of the PTA, her friends were not of the usual Asian variety (there were some, but they weren’t her only friends). Honestly speaking, though, she didn’t have to learn how to cook until she got married so though her baklava was pretty good, I still remember her first attempt at making pizza from scratch.

About 70% of it was burnt. We ended up eating out that night.

I actually didn’t get into cooking until I was in college, mainly because it was most convenient, being a vegetarian (my family became vegetarian when I was around 14 years old)… and one that didn’t eat onion, garlic, leeks, and chives, all of which are almost always used in American vegetarian cuisine. And hing (asafoetida)… but that’s not as common unless eating Indian cuisine. I wasn’t even a foodie until I got older. I don’t know what happened, but when I was growing up, I didn’t like to eat. Now, I wish my parents didn’t make me finish everything in my bowl; perhaps then I wouldn’t feel the need to do so till this day and, consequently, gain weight so easily.

Once I got into cooking, though, I made a point not to make a lot of Asian food. My family is Vietnamese-Chinese so though my mom does like venturing into other cuisines, it was still mainly of the Asian variety. They make it well, I thought, so why should I make a mediocre attempt at it? Well, since I got married to a Taiwanese guy and his older brother lives with us for the time being, I have been cooking a lot more. Yay! However, it’s been mainly of the non-Chinese variety, because these two guys can cook and they only cook Taiwanese food. Occasionally, I have been toying with the idea of making Asian food because these two guys apparently prefer it. My husband’s more open-minded but the other one… let’s just say I have a lot of leftovers on the days where BIL (brother-in-law) doesn’t like the food as much. Plus, after staying in Taiwan for a month and eating Taiwanese food about 98% of the time, I suppose I can’t “deprive” them, either. Taiwan is great at their vegetarian food, but after eating almost the same thing day after day, I was having intense cravings for non-Chinese cuisine.

However, like I said, Taiwan is a great country to visit if you’re vegetarian. A good 10% of the population is full-time vegetarian while a portion of the remainder may go vegetarian for a couple of days a month for religious (Buddhist) reasons. As such, there are a lot of choices there. While there, I bought two Taiwanese vegetarian cookbooks. I came across a recipe one day while designing the menu for a Chinese-themed dinner. It seemed pretty easy. Too easy, one might say. It was essentially tofu and oyster mushrooms. How did one make it? You lay it in a pan, pour the sauce over it, cover it, then forget it for 12 minutes. Done.

I was skeptical, but I decided to try it out. Also, it was on the healthy side, which is something I need. The Taiwanese people are all about hospitality and I was fed wherever I went, even when I didn’t want to be fed. I was fed so much that when I returned to the States, I found out I gained 5 pounds. Great. Good thing the engagement photos we had done was at the beginning of our stay there…

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Mini Kim-Jang 2014

As I prepare for the long trip to Asia, one of the things on my to-do list was to make a decent-sized batch of kimchi so it would have time to ferment by the time I return. Ever since I returned from my one-year stint there as an English teacher, I still miss good old Korean food from time to time, one of which is kimchi. While in Korea, I was lucky enough to get the chance to be invited over to a friend’s house whose mother-in-law showed me the basics of making kimchi during their kimjang, a get-together in the winter months (usually in November) where a family makes huge batches of kimchi for the following year. Although kimchi is usually eaten as a side dish for essentially every meal in Korea, I prefer cooking it in dishes like Kimchi Fried Rice and Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew), which requires sour kimchi. This requires a longer fermentation time so I don’t eat the kimchi I make until at least 2 or 3 months after I make it. I sometimes even wait for up to 5 months before I even think about opening the container. As I said, I like my kimchi really sour.

When I returned to the States, I found myself craving the stuff. Sure, you can find them in the refrigerated sections of the Asian market, but they were either (1) not vegetarian and/or (2) had loads of garlic in it. As such, I did some research, as all Asian mothers tend not to use measurements, and made up a recipe of my own for my Vegan Kimchi – sans the garlic. Since I’ve returned, I make around 2 batches a year.  Continue reading

Traveling Through Post – X

Has it really been that long since I updated my postcard wall?

Why, yes, it has.

Even though I don’t keep up with posting them up online in a prompt manner, I always do a little happy dance when I find another one in my mailbox. :) It’s not the cheapest hobby, but it’s definitely cheaper than actually traveling! …Quite honestly, I’d love to be there in person.

Alas, the woes of being an adult!

I just love how they’re all different; I wonder if I will ever receive repeat postcards…

An Expedited Thanksgiving

It’s amazing how time flies these days. It’s already November!

Even though my favorite time of the season is fast approaching, I find myself a little sad, because I’m caught up in this whirlwind of “adult” things (this will be reserved for a separate post… if I ever find the time for it). How did Halloween sneak up on me?? Then again, I really didn’t do it much justice – instead, I scheduled our family’s Thanksgiving 2014 Dinner the very next night.

This was mainly because I would be leaving the country the week of the actual Thanksgiving Day and I refuse to not have Thanksgiving Dinner this year. My family didn’t really care too much – they just enjoyed the fact that we would be getting together over food so they were pretty excited. Who am I kidding? I was most definitely excited as well. Food: the magic word. Now, I wouldn’t say our Thanksgiving Dinners are terribly traditional, but they are most definitely epic on their own level. Okay, quite honestly, they became more epic starting last year, because it was my first Thanksgiving with me married (Hah! That still rings odd in my mental ears.) and I wanted to have a legit Thanksgiving Dinner. Plus, it turns out that my other half never had a real Thanksgiving celebration and I was determined to change that. Before this, they were small, normal dinners with my immediate family and we might even have dessert (I live in a family of health nuts). Even before that during my childhood in California (and before my family became completely vegetarian), my parents would buy ready-made Thanksgiving Dinners and we would eat at home.

Last year’s Dinner was ridiculous. I put it together so I did most of the cooking and, of course, I insisted on making everything from scratch (except for the veggie “meat”). I don’t quite remember the menu but I remember cooking from the day before up until the actual dinner itself. There was vegetarian “turkey” (it was disturbingly in the shape of a chicken mold including the head), biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy, veggie meatloaf, Cornbread stuffing, Grapefruit tart… my Asian family also brought over more Asian fare.

This year, we all had our roles, which is a big relief when you work full-time and my family Thanksgiving dinners means you cook for around 15 people. (The sad thing is that if we had one with all of my family members not in town, we might as well be a restaurant.)

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