Lunch and Dinner

Stir-Fried Eggs with Tomatoes for Mid-Autumn Festival

I envy bloggers who are in touch with their culture and its food and traditions, much like the ladies at The Glorified Tomato. Despite being half Chinese and actually growing up for 14 years in Hong Kong, I still can’t say I know much about Chinese food and culture. But this weekend is Mid-Autumn Festival according to the lunar calendar, and I’m feeling inspired to think about my roots.

I celebrated this every year as a kid, and loved it. We would eat mooncake (pictured above), a Chinese pastry filled with a sweet paste, usually lotus seed, and a salted egg yolk in the middle. Don’t let the ingredients fool you–this is not a healthy dessert. An average sized mooncake is about the size of my palm but has about 1000 calories! We would serve them in small slices, washing down the dense, sweet dessert with hot black tea. At night we’d go out with lanterns and admire the full moon. My favorite part was burning candles down in an empty mooncake box until you ended up with a huge cake of wax–thrilling for a child.

I did buy a box of mooncakes this year, but felt compelled to cook some Chinese food for myself, even if the dish had nothing to do with Mid-Autumn Festival. I pulled out my dusty wok and made the very first dish I ever learned how to make: stir-fried eggs with tomatoes. This dish got me through college. It sounds absurdly simple, but try this classic comfort dish served in the homes of many Chinese families. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Stir-Fried Eggs with Tomatoes
Makes 2 servings, or part of a multi-course meal

Note: I’m not an expert in stir-frying, but what I do know is you cook quickly, over high heat. Make sure you have all ingredients measured out and ready to go before you start, and that you use an oil with a high smoke point. If you waste time fumbling for ingredients, you may end up overcooking your food!

4 eggs
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 scallion, white and green parts chopped and separated
2 medium tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
Pinch of sugar

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the sesame oil and salt.

Heat a wok (or large skillet) over high heat. Swirl in the peanut oil, coating the base of the wok. Add the garlic and white part of the scallion. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, sprinkle sugar over them, and stir-fry for about 1 minute until the tomatoes start to soften. Pour the eggs in and stir-fry for 1 minute until the eggs are set but not overcooked. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with green part of the scallion. Serve over rice, or part of a multi-course meal.

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Random

Watch Harvard’s “Cooking and Science” Lectures Online

It’s funny to think how much science goes on in the kitchen. I’ve just started watching Harvard’s popular Cooking and Science lecture series, which I read about on The Kitchn. If you enjoy lectures and want to get your geek on too, you can watch the Cooking and Science videos by downloading them for free on iTunes, or streaming them at Harvard’s YouTube channel by entering “Science and Cooking” in the search bar.

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Growing Food

My Apartment Garden: …And That’s a Wrap!

It’s officially Fall in New York City. We’ve been having that awkward  transition weather, where a few uncharacteristically hot days give you false hope that summer is still lurking around. This past weekend I finally admitted defeat and packed up my balcony garden, thus ending  my 2012 gardening experiment. I did leave the strawberry plant out to see what happens, and moved my herbs indoors to let them cling to life for a few more days, but yanked out the big zucchini and tomato plants.

Now that it’s over, can I say my first stab at growing food was a success? I would say so! Considering I had zero knowledge going into this, I’m proud of my very steep learning curve. I may not have gotten any strawberries, enough arugula to make a full salad, nor any full sized tomatoes, but I did eat several delicious zucchinis and squash blossoms, and managed to prevent my basil, thyme, and rosemary from dying, enjoying fresh herbs all summer long. Before this experiment, I put gardening in the same bucket as knitting or owning lots of cats–boring old lady stuff that is so uncool. But I was wrong. There is something deeply satisfying and meditative about creating and maintaining life, and literally enjoying the fruits of your labor. Hopefully next year I will have access to some outdoor space again, and grow even more food! Goodbye for now, apartment garden.

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Breakfast

Joy the Baker’s Roasted Plums with Olive Oil, Thyme, and Yogurt

I was inspired by Joy the Baker to do something a little different for breakfast. I picked some plums up at the farmers market, made some homemade granola, and assembled a Roasted Plums with Olive Oil, Thyme & Yogurt dish for my Saturday morning breakfast.

How I adore roasted fruit. The oven makes fruit juicier, sweeter, sexier. Olive oil and thyme with plums may sound a little odd at first, but it’s an elegant pairing. It’s salty, sweet, and savory all at the same time. If you’re in a breakfast rut, check out Joy’s recipe and make this easy but classy meal for yourself. The only thing I would change? No non-fat yogurt. Non-fat anything where there is supposed to be fat is a huge mistake.

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Health and Nutrition

Finding the Balance: How to Be Healthy And Still Enjoy Life

I guess I don’t need to tell you that a healthy lifestyle is very important to me. I did start a blog about clean eating, after all. But I don’t believe in taking things to the extreme. There is room for the occasional treat if you’re eating nutritious food, exercising, and sleeping 7-8 hours most days.

The truth is, it’s a struggle. Good habits sound so straightforward, yet if they were truly easy to do, we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic, so many deaths caused by smoking, or credit card debt. Doing all the right things all the time comes naturally to some, but the majority of us are constantly trying to find the balance between acting responsibly and living a full life.

Considering where I was just a few years ago, I’m very satisfied with where my health is these days. I quit smoking, made sleep a priority, eat clean food (most days), and started running. I could definitely do more strength training and eat less sugar, but my true downfall is alcohol.

I really don’t drink all that much, and moderate alcohol consumption can have some health benefits. My problem is sticking to the recommended one drink a day. It would be great to be able to blame it on peer pressure, but really, I just love drinking. I admit it. I don’t do it at all most days, but when I do, it usually involves killing half a bottle of wine. When going out to bars, even worse–I’ll knock back a few stiff mixed drinks. You may find my little rant amusing if you know true heavy drinkers. Just remember that even if others are doing comparatively worse, it doesn’t make an unhealthy habit OK. I would like to get to the point in my life where if I do choose to have alcohol, I stop after one glass. Or two, if I’m feeling extra saucy. I’m just not there yet. I do occasionally feel guilty about my alcohol consumption, but I’m having fun in my youth and trying to strike a balance.

What’s your downfall? How do you struggle with finding the balance?

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Lunch and Dinner

The Bloody Mary, Now In Salad Form!

I’m not sure when or how my love affair with Bloody Marys started. But knowing me, having a vegetable as the base of this lovely cocktail probably has a little something to do with it. I share this Bloody Mary passion with my boyfriend. One day he came up with an ingenious idea: how about I make a Bloody Mary salad? What a fantastic plan, an edible version of our favorite drink!

But like most would-be super original ideas, the internet rained on our parade, letting us know that loads of people had already thought of it. I was bummed for about two seconds, but with the knowledge that it has been done and it works, I felt more driven than ever to make a Bloody Mary Salad. I made mine like how my boyfriend makes a Bloody Mary–with olives and bacon. Pair this salad with a stiff Bloody Mary. Awww yeah. Cheers!

Bloody Mary Salad
Makes 1 main course, or 2 appetizers

Adapted from Running with Tweezers

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon prepared Horseradish
Tabasco
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of ground celery seed (optional)
Salt and pepper
2 slices of bacon
2 large handful of your favorite salad greens
4 ounces blue cheese, sliced
1/2 cup sliced, pitted green olives
2 stalks celery, sliced crosswise (save the leaves for garnish)

In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, a dash or two of Tabasco,  lemon juice and zest, and optional celery seed. Stir to coat all tomatoes with marinade. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

Place bacon in a large skillet and heat it up over medium-high heat. When bacon begins to brown and curl, flip over and cook until both sides are done. Transfer bacon to a paper towel covered plate. Set aside.

When ready to serve, start with your salad greens on your plate. Then top with sliced blue cheese, olives, and sliced celery. Crumble the bacon over the salad. Finally, add the tomato mixture and drizzle remaining marinade over the top. Garnish with celery leaves and serve immediately.

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Lunch and Dinner

Didn’t Get Your Lobster Roll On This Summer? It’s Cool, Make Your Own

Like many of you, I may not have achieved the elusive Best Summer Ever. But I’m still pretty happy about Summer 2012. I worked hard, played hard, and even found time to slow down to enjoy some me-time. I only regret two things: 1) not eating any ice cream (whaaaat), and 2) not eating more lobster rolls. I foresee a random, inappropriate ice cream craving sometime this winter. But the lobster rolls? I can take care of that craving now.

The one lobster roll I did have this summer was from Red Hook Lobster Pound at Smorgasburg. I got the Connecticut style lobster roll, smothered in warm butter. Good lord, it was divine. But in the real world, i.e. my kitchen and not an amazing market of gluttony, I need at least one thing that resembles a vegetable on my plate. Or else I’ll get a panic attack. So I opted for the Maine style lobster roll at home (mayo, celery, spices), with a few extra greens. Nothing like freshly toasted buttered buns stuffed with homemade mayo and chilled, crunchy lobster filling after a long day. Now go make your own before autumn officially arrives.

Lobster Rolls
Makes 2 rolls

8 oz shell-on lobster tail, thawed
1/2 celery stalk, minced
2 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise (see below for recipe)
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 hot dog buns, preferably top-split buns
Small handful of your favorite salad greens

In a large pot fit with a steamer basket, bring 3 inches of water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high. Place lobster tail in steamer basket and cover with lid. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, until shell is red, and meat is pink and firm. You’re better off slightly overcooking this than undercooking. Remove lobster tail and let it cool to room temperature. Using a lobster cracker or just a big chef’s knife, crack open the shell and peel it off. Remove and discard the vein running down the length of the top side of tail with a paring knife, if you see one. Roughly chop lobster meat into small chunks.

In a medium bowl, combine lobster meat with celery, mayonnaise, chives, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Spread butter inside hot dog buns and toast roll until golden brown. Line buns with salad greens, then stuff with lobster mixture. Serve immediately.

Homemade Mayonnaise
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Adapted from Stonesoup

1 whole egg at room temperature
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt
1 1/2 cups canola oil

Crack egg into a medium bowl. Add mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and a pinch salt. Whisk to combine.

Keep whisking (with your strong arm!) while you slowly add the oil. Start with a very thin stream and slowly pour more at a time until most of the oil is incorporated. Only then can you stop whisking.

Pour mixture into food processor. Give it a few pulses and it will finally look like mayonnaise. Season to taste. If the mayo is too runny, add a little more oil. If too firm, add a little water.

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Lunch and Dinner

Spaghetti with Mushrooms and Pine Nuts

I’ll be the first to admit it. Mushrooms are weird. They grow in the strangest places and conditions. They’re funny looking. And something about eating fungi is just not sexy. Yet they are low in calories, rich in nutrients, and one of the rare foods that are a natural source of Vitamin D. Mushrooms are pretty darn tasty too.

Usually used as a garnish, mushrooms often feel more like an afterthought than the star of a dish. But let’s change that. In an effort to get my ‘shroom on more often, I’m trying to think of more mushroom-based recipes. The easiest option is probably making a nice, clean mushroom burger. Or, The Stonesoup’s Anti-Cancer Mushroom Soup looks good and is on my to-make list. But this week, I made mushroom spaghetti.

I was delighted to find an Open Lasagna of Mushrooms, Pine Nuts and Thyme recipe in The Produce Bible (Amazon affiliate program link) by Leanna Kitchen. Her real last name surely can’t be Kitchen…can it?! Anyhow. I found the idea of an open lasagna too fussy, plus I had spaghetti on hand, so I adapted her recipe to make this lovely dish. With bacon, mushrooms, and pecorino cheese, it’s like an umami bomb in your mouth. Ohhhh yeah.

Spaghetti with Mushrooms and Pine Nuts
Makes 4 servings

Adapted from The Produce Bible by Leanne Kitchen

1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups your favorite assorted mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 slices of bacon, cut into pieces of similar size to the mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
4 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pecorino cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put spaghetti in and boil for about 10-11 minutes uncovered, until al dente. You can start the next steps while spaghetti is boiling, but remember to drain pasta as soon as it is done.

Heat the butter in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Heat up another small, dry skillet over low heat and toss the pine nuts in. Add the mushrooms and bacon to the large pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring often. Simultaneously, shake the skillet with the pine nuts frequently to ensure even browning.

Add the garlic and thyme into the pan with the mushrooms and cook for a minute. If your pan is looking very watery, carefully pour out some of the liquid. Then take the pine nuts off the heat and add them to the mushrooms along with the heavy cream and extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste, taking into account that you will be topping this with salty pecorino. Stir to combine. Remove from heat.

Divide the spaghetti into 4 servings and evenly distribute the mushroom mixture over the servings of spaghetti. Top each with a generous amount of freshly grated pecorino and serve.

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Health and Nutrition

Download HBO’s “The Weight of the Nation” Documentary for Free

When it comes to health, sometimes we need to look beyond ourselves or our families. Sometimes we need to think about what we’re going through as a country. I’ve been watching HBO’s documentary The Weight of the Nation. It’s really good. If you’re interested in public health and and the obesity epidemic, check it out. It’s informative/heart-breaking/uplifting/fascinating all at the same time. Best of all, it’s free. Search for “The Weight of the Nation” in your iTunes Store and download it.

 

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Breakfast

How Watching Scrubs Leads to Baking Blueberry Muffins

OK I realize I’m over a decade late with this one. I recently discovered how awesome the TV show Scrubs was. Hey, better late than never right? This summer I went through a bit of Scrubs obsession, only giving up really late in the seasons when everyone became parents and it got weird.

I don’t really eat muffins. They’re often almost the size of your head, and I find it’s like having a giant cake for breakfast. On the other hand, if you consider it a dessert, well, there are better options than muffins. Bottom line, I never see an opportune time to eat them. They’re usually too sweet or stale anyhow. I have a muffin tin and yet choose to make duck prosciutto egg cups or mini sweet potato, kale, and egg bakes in it instead.

But once I got to the part in Scrubs where Dr. Kelso won unlimited muffins for life at the hospital cafe, I couldn’t help but have muffins on my mind.

Then I saw these blueberry muffins on Not Derby Pie. I knew it was time to use that muffin tin for its true calling. I bought some beautiful blueberries from the farmers market and decided to bake them with crème fraîche instead, which is just so much sexier. Once they cooled a little, I took a bite of my very first fresh-out-of-the-oven muffin. Oh man. Now I get it. When they are fresh, are well-made, use seasonal fruit, and are the appropriate size, muffins are awesome for breakfast. I was surprised at how quick and easy they are to make too. Freshly baked muffins is a must next time I host brunch!

Crème Fraîche Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
About 280 calories per muffin

Adapted from Not Derby Pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing tin
10 ounces crème fraîche
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin tin with butter.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg in a second medium bowl, then add the sugar and whisk until thick and homogeneous. Add the 4 tablespoons of butter; whisk to combine. Add the crème fraîche, whisking just to combine.

Add the berries to the dry ingredients and gently mix to combine. Add the crème fraîche mixture and gently fold it in with a spatula or wooden spoon until the batter comes together and the berries are evenly distributed.

Divide batter among the muffin cups. Bake until light golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through the baking time. Check if they are ready by inserting a toothpick into the center of a muffin–it should come out clean. Invert onto a wire rack and let them cool for 5 minutes.

Bonus: Have leftover muffins? Check out this cool post on storing muffins I found while trying to figure how to transport them to my sister’s place.

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