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Snow Bunting

Just chanced upon this blog post:

The Birds are Back in Town!

Honestly, I didn’t know what a bunting is. But looking at the bird, its cuteness is way off the chart. She looks as round as an Angry Bird, almost like a snowball. She looks all puffed up to brace for the coldness.

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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Animals

 

Lake Worth Street Painting Festival

I love going to the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival.  It’s amazing to watch the artists creating such beautiful works.  The paintings by themselves are an accomplishment, not to mention the stamina and dedication required to kneel or lie on the asphalt, under the intense Florida sun, painting with little stubs of chalk, for two days.  The artists get all my respect.

lake worth street painting

Artists draw grids on their paper original so they can reproduce the work correctly on the asphalt.

I suppose the sunny weather inspires tropical theme.

manatee

manatee

This sea turtle painting is truly gorgeous!

sea turtle

Classics are popular too.

Not exactly a classic, but rather an impressionist painting of Darth Vader.

Darth
Yay, Harry Potter! Befittingly sponsored by the library.

I am curious. Will the artist’s wife be swooned over this painting, or will she complain that she looks fat/old/whatever in it?

This artist used his dog as the model. Sitting next to the painting, the dog seems quite pleased with the work.

We also saw a booth with palm frond art.

I have to say the camera doesn’t quite capture the beauty of these works. Really you have to see them in person.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Florida, photos

 

Turnip Cake (Azuki Cooking Series #5)

Turnip cake, 蘿蔔糕 lo pak go, is one of my favorite dishes for Chinese New Year. True, you can eat it year round, and many restaurants offer them as dim sum, but for me it’s the childhood memories of new year. Of my mom making them a few days before the new year, of eating the steamy cake straight off the stove, of visiting relatives and being served it, of adults comparing notes of who makes it best (so-and-so’s is too hard, so-and-so’s falls apart…)

I enjoy making turnip cake. I got this recipe from my mom, and is probably the closest thing to a heirloom recipe I own. My husband loves it so much, he doesn’t even order turnip cake at restaurants anymore (my recipe uses a lot more turnip, while the restaurant version is usually mostly flour.) This year I gave some to my boss, whose parents are from Taiwan, and he reported that they said it was the best ever turnip cake they ever had.

So, I decide I should post my recipe here, for posterity.

Like most of my recipes, I do not use exact measurement.

First, the ingredients. Traditionally, dried mushrooms, dried shrimps, dried scallops and dried sausages are used. Some also used dried pork belly. Vegetarian version calls for veg ham, mushrooms and carrot, but it’s not common. Here’s a recipe. As my hubby refuses to eat the veg version I make mine with the traditional ingredients.

You can easily get these at most Chinese grocery stores. If you can’t get the real thing use ham. For the more health conscious there are sausages with chicken meat or less fatty cuts. Soak dried shiitake mushrooms, scallops and shrimps. The mushrooms and shrimps usually require just an hour to a few hours of soaking, depending on size, but the scallops need overnight. When soft, chop them up into small cubes. Shred the dried scallops.

ingredients

sausage

mushroom

scallop

Stir fry the ingredients in a wok. Season with soy sauce, cooking wine, salt and sugar.

scallop

Next, the daikon turnips. I use about 5 lbs for a 2.5 quart Corning casserole dish. Wash, chop off ends, peel, and cut into big chunks.

daikon

daikon

While my grandma used to shred her turnips by hand, my mom and I benefit from modern technology. A food processor helps make this a breeze…

daikon

Gently squeeze the juice out of the turnip, set aside a bowl-ful of juice. Add the turnip shreds to a wok and stir fry. Add a little white pepper. I also add two chicken or vegetable bullions for flavor.

daikon

When turnip is cooked and turns a yellowish shade, add in the mushrooms, suasages, etc. Mix in well.

daikon

Now the flour. I use half cornstarch, half rice flour, with liquid from the turnip or the water soaking the mushroom. Please note that the rice flour I use is 粘米粉, milled from long grain rice. It’s different from 糯米粉, made from the short grain sweet/sticky/glutinous rice. 糯米粉, or mochiko in Japanese, is used to make the chewy, sticky, stretchy stuff in mochi, dango, niango, rice dumplings, and all that delicious stuff. Anyway, for the flour, more rice flour will make the cake firmer and more cornstarch will make a softer cake that falls apart easier. Half and half is about right. I usually use one cup of each, mixed into a thick yet pour-able paste.

I put the stir fried mix of turnip shreds and mixings into a corning ware, or any deep baking pan you may use. I pour the flour paste in and stir. Depending on how moist your stir fried mix is, you may end up needing more or less flour paste. Generally, I will stir in enough so that the turnip shreds are like orange peels in a marmalade. If you prefer a cake with less turnip and more flour, you can make more paste and stir it in. But don’t just add water as the cake will become too soft.

lo pak go

Now your cake is ready to be steamed. You will need a big wok, or a very deep pot (like a dutch oven or a soup pot) with a steamer rack like this:

Fill the pot with water just below the rack, and when water boils, put your baking pan in, cover the pot with lid, and steam on high heat for 45 min to an hour.

To test, insert a chopstick into the cake.  If it comes out clean the cake is cooked.

Sprinkle sesame seeds and cilantro on top.  Put the lid back on for 10 sec so the cilantro “cooks” into the cake.

lopakgo

I love eating fresh lo pak go. It will be on the soft side, very delicious with a little sirracha and oyster sauce.

The popular way to serve turnip cake is to pan fry it.  Just cut into half inch slices and pan fry, then add hot sauce, soy sauce or oyster sauce to taste.  I’ve known people who dip them in sugar too… If the cake turns out softer than you’d like, a trick is to let the cake sit slightly uncovered in the refrigerator, so it dries out somewhat. For my Corning pan, I just use two chopsticks to lift the lid a bit higher.

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Asia, Cooking

 

Achoo!!

I am trying to pick up a few Korean phrases to use, and find this page quite useful:

http://www.linguanaut.com/english_korean.htm

When I scroll down the list, I chuckle when I read this line:

Bless you (when sneezing) (No reaction, as if nothing happened)

This has happened many times when my husband sneezes. Not only does he sneeze a lot, he is a chain sneezer.  When he sneezes in public places, my Asian friends and I will totally ignore him and carry on our conversations or whatever we are doing, but people around us (like people sitting at the next tables in a restaurant) will come forth with a generous outpour of “Bless You”, as if to compensate for our lack of sympathy.  Sometimes it makes me feel cold hearted, as if I won’t care less if he sneezes his brain out.  Nonetheless it has yet to become a reflex for me to say Bless You whenever I hear a sneeze, so my belated and weak response feels more like coming out of guilt than a genuine concern.   

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Asia

 

Kiva Loans

Gosh has it been that long since I last posted?

Anyway, to celebrate a nice little milestone at work, on my payday I decide to make a “specialty food” donation to Kiva.

First loan is to a cheese maker in Georgia. Georgia as in the European country, not a southern U.S. state.
This family has one dairy cow from which they make cheese and yogurt to sell, and they are hoping to buy another cow.

Next is wine. There is no winemaker at this moment, but find this 60-year-old lady making vodka. “Zoya is from the village of Akhasheni, Gurjaani District. This district is well-known throughout the country for wine-making.” Bet the wine specialists won’t know about that!! Or hmmm… did I finance a grandma’s moonshine operation? LOL

Next is for a coffee seller in Peru. This guy is not exactly a grower, but his machine is just look too curious to me, I can’t help picking him among other coffee growers. I wonder what it is for?

And last but not least, some chocolate from Ecuador! A loan to a cocoa bean farmer. Glad to be able to get a new country for my portfolio.

It’s definitely a splurge for me, but hey it’s in good cause!! And never has donation/lending been so much fun and give me such a high. I thought of trimming out one, but when I look at the pictures I just can’t. Moreover, reading about these borrowers really make me realize how much I have, or how different our living standards are. A family with one dairy cow borrowing to buy one more. An old lady making vodka at her house. It’s so different from what we are used to, huge industrial operations. It feels good to go back to the root, to see that human connection.

If you are curious, please check out Kiva!

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Sites I Like

 

My Dino Life

Well, I have been playing this game called Dinoparc since last May, and I have meant to post progress once in a while but never did. I admit I am spending way too much time there. It’s a game where you get these cute little animals that reminds you of pokemon, and train them with different skills and let them fight against other dinos.

Anyway, here’s one mega update.

First off, congratulations to Bambu. He’s my first dino, named after my hermit crab. He’s just turned 21 (level) so he can drink beer now after a fight!

In the past month I have gotten a bronze medal at Mt Dino tournament. We have a ladder within our clan so it wasn’t too difficult. I did it with 7 wins, 1 loss, used up 6 spells. Also used two pies to boost life which turned out unnecessary as I only suffered 7% life loss, and four sparkys. Total cost 6,600 coins.

Then those of us who got the bronze went on to the Zen Temple tournament. As there were not many dinos there the ladder went as planned, I managed through it with 5 wins, no loss, no sparky. However I brought in Ender to help complete the ladder, and afterwards recycle Bambu to be at the bottom of the ladder, to help the last dino of our group moved up to his bronze. That part cost considerably more than the first, totally painless part of getting my own medal. I used 19 spells on Ender and 13 on Bambu for the whole thing.

Meanwhile, Bokutama wasn’t quite as lucky at Dinobeach tournament. In one round my little dino, a mere level 16, went against a level 206 monster. Poor Bokutama was pulverized, 0:2428…

Anyway, Bokutama couldn’t get any headway at Dinobeach, never getting above one point. I tried sending in Ender, my second strongest at level 20, but that doesn’t help. Then yesterday I noticed that Leo, a level 9 dino with a very bad haircut, has a history of 3 wins and no loss while hiding in the tourny from the war. So I decided to try fighting him inside the tournament, and wow, he won. So, my little level 9 is a trailblazer, getting to 2 pts. 23% life left after 3 days, without spell protection… What a miracle. It may be too much to ask for Leo to go to 5 points, but at least now I less hopeless.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Anime/Manga/Toy

 

Moxibustion

I went to see an acupuncturist last week, on recommendation by a friend, and got my first moxibustion treatment.

The name moxibustion comes from mosuga (艾) in Japanese, mugwort or wormwood. It’s a bitter tasting plant that is used in one of my favorite snack, kusa mochi, the green sweet rice cake stuffed with red beans. The color of the rice cake comes from blanching the leaves of the yomogi plant. The leaves are considered to warm the body and improves circulation and are rolled up into a stick or cigar to smoke near meridian points.

My acupuncturist used a safer and more convenient packaging of moxa. When she lined them up under my belly button, it looked so cool I had to snap some pictures.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2011 in Body and Mind, photos