I have been making these home-made oatmeal cups for my family for years and I saw that many delis and supermarkets in my neighborhood have started selling them last year. I missed out on a great business opportunity! It’s really very quick and easy to make and especially if you do several jars at the same time in an assembly-line style on a Sunday night, it saves you a lot of time and you’ll get to enjoy a healthy breakfast for the rest of your week. You can even bring the jar to the office and eat at your desk. It is that simple!
Fill each jar or plastic container with several tablespoons of Instant oatmeal.
Top up with dried fruit – cranberries, blueberries, raisins etc. You may add chia seeds or flax seeds if desired.
Cover each jar tightly.
In the morning, when you are ready to eat, pour out the contents into a cereal bowl and add hot water or add hot water directly to the jar. Presto! Your breakfast is ready.
Add yogurt, fresh fruit, crunchy granola and nuts if desired.
Taiwan has a lot of beautiful scenic places with poetic names. One place which I visited recently is Xiangtian (“Facing the Sky”) Lake in Nanzhuang, Maoli County. While we were waiting for the bus, we spied several small shacks next to the bus stop selling “Maqaw Eggs”. What in the world are Maqaw eggs? It turns out Maqaw 马 告 (pinyin “Ma Gao”) is a kind of wild peppercorn that is famous in Miaoli’s aboriginal cuisine. Its scientific name is Litsea Cubeba, a plant native to Taiwan, China and Indonesia. Its fruit produces a lemony essential oil which is used in soaps and its seeds are used in cooking. The stall was selling hard boiled Chinese tea eggs specially flavored with Maqaw so we naturally had to try them (they were delicious!) as well as Maqaw peppercorn seeds. The proprietor convinced me that they are very expensive in New York specialty stores but it’s a good price at Xiangtian Lake because they are locally grown. Not one to pass up a deal, I naturally had to buy a bottle of the fragrant wild peppercorn. It is supposed to be great for tea eggs as well as pork and fish dishes. So tonight I sprinkled some Maqaw peppercorn seeds on my cod fish and they certainly added a lovely citrony flavor to the dish.
1 piece cod fish
1 tbsp black bean and garlic sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)
1/2 tbsp hoisin sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)
1/2 tbsp XO sauce
1 tbsp Maqaw peppercorn seeds
Rinse the cod fish under running water. Pat dry.
Place it on a dish, add all the ingredients on top of the fish. Steam for 10 mins or until cooked.
Sprinkle spring onions on top for garnish. Serve hot with steamed rice.
Today I forced myself to stay at home and get my tax return done (sigh… it’s that time of the year), so it’s the perfect excuse to make a comforting bowl of mushroom soup to go with toasted garlic bread.
This recipe works well with any kind of mushrooms. I had some bits of chanterelle mushroom stems which I had saved from another recipe (they were too tough to be used in a stir fry) and I added a handful of morel mushrooms to make this soup.
1/2 cup of chanterelle mushroom stems – soaked
a handful of dried morel mushrooms – soaked
1 cup low sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1 clove garlic – peeled and crushed
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1. Put the mushroom stems in a blender with a bit of water to make a puree.
2. Place the mushroom puree in a medium saucepan.
3. Add chicken stock and milk. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and set aside.
4. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir fry the garlic quickly for a few minutes until it is almost brown.
5. Add in the sliced morel mushrooms and stir fry for 5 minutes.
6. In a small bowl, make a slurry by adding a few tablespoons of the soup to the flour, stirring well to prevent any lumps.
7. Combine well the slurry with the morel mushrooms.
8. Stir the morel mushroom mixture into the soup and simmer for about 20 minutes.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
10. Serve immediately.
Note: In a pinch, open a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, and simmer with the mushroom puree and sliced morel mushrooms. The chanterelle and morel mushrooms really jazz up canned soup! 🙂
Tofu Cheese? It’s fermented tofu (腐乳 or “fu yu” in Cantonese), sold in little glass bottles in Asian grocery stores. It’s a form of preserved tofu, made from soybeans. The other ingredients on the bottle list salt, rice wine and sesame oil. There’s a regular version and a spicy version which has bits of chili in the brine.
Tofu cheese is commonly used as a condiment for porridge or to stir fry kangkong vegetables (空心菜 “kong xin cai”, water convolvulus) but it makes a delicious savory marinade for chicken. It is unbelievably easy – just be sure to marinate the chicken with it long enough, so that the flavor gets into the meat. Deep fried chicken wings marinated with tofu cheese are incredibly tasty too!
I don’t deep-fry (too lazy to clean!), so here’s the healthy pan-fried version. I used the regular version of Tofu Cheese. I realized the chicken came out a bit pale in the photo – I should have fried it a bit longer to give it a more golden color.
2-3 cubes of Tofu Cheese (regular or spicy), mashed into a paste, using a fork
1 teaspoon of the brine from the Tofu Cheese bottle
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 pieces whole chicken legs
dash of salt (optional – Tofu Cheese is naturally salty)
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste (“belacan”) – optional
2-3 shallots, peeled and chopped, for frying
3 tablespoon cooking oil
1 stalk of spring onion, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces (for garnish)
1. Cut the chicken legs into smaller pieces, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, thoroughly coat the chicken pieces with the marinade and let sit it for a few hours, preferably overnight, in the fridge.
3. Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan. Fry the shallots for 1-2 minutes, then add in the chicken and stir fry until golden brown.
4. Dish up the chicken and garnish with spring onion. It goes really well with steam rice and vegetables.
(Tofu Cheese on spoon, photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fermentedchilibeancurd.jpg)
Why would anyone want to eat a bitter vegetable? Bitter gourd is very bitter but someone in my family likes it so I have researched ways to make it less bitter and I think I have finally acquired the taste for this nutritious and unique vegetable. It is very low in calories and an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fiber. It is even good for getting rid of acne.
Bitter gourd is often used in a stir fry with pork or beef with black beans, steamed with pork spare ribs or cooked in soup. It can even be served as an appetizer – very thinly sliced raw bitter gourd on a bed of shaved ice and eaten with honey as a dipping sauce – the cool, sweet taste makes it very refreshing.
Here’s a tip to remove the bitter taste:
First, cut the bitter gourd into half (see photo) and slice each half lengthwise. Then, using a tablespoon scoop out all the seeds and as much of the white pulp as possible. Next, slice it horizontally. Place the slices in a bowl and sprinkle 1 tsp salt over them and mix thoroughly. Let the slices sit for half an hour in the bowl. Lastly, squeeze out and discard as much of the juice as possible. This takes out most of the bitter taste.
1 bitter gourd, sliced and bitter taste removed
200 g (1/2 lb) pork, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp of light soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp water
1. Marinate the pork slices with light soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, corn starch and water for half an hour.
2. Blanch the bitter gourd in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and put aside.
3. Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan, stir fry the minced garlic until fragrant (don’t let them turn brown), then add in the pork slices and stir fry until it is almost cooked.
4. Add in the blanched bitter gourd slices and stir fry together with the pork. Add in one tbsp of oyster sauce and 1-2 tbsp of water. If you find the bitter gourd is still too bitter for your taste buds, add in 1 tsp sugar. Stir fry until the water evaporates.
5. Serve with hot rice.
One interesting thing about Taiwanese is – they love their small eats (小吃 or appetizers) and there are a lot of them. In practically every noodle or dumpling restaurant, there is a glass display case where patrons can choose their side dishes – pickled cucumbers, string beans, cabbage salad, braised wings, and a wide variety of tofu dishes like braised tofu, deep fried tofu, tofu skins etc. It is not surprising since tofu products are readily available in the local markets.
When I came across some amazingly beautiful, fresh tofu skins, I had the sudden urge to try my hand at making this healthy vegetarian dish. It turned out quite well. The tofu ribbons had a smooth, creamy texture. The edamame beans provided spots of color and bite, and the snow cabbage gave it a wonderful zest. It is light, yet packed with protein. It goes well with rice or it can be eaten like a pasta. This recipe is a keeper!
3 sheets of fresh tofu skin (or similar amount of dried tofu skin)
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 -5 Tbsp preserved snow cabbage (雪菜)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup edamame (soy beans)
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1. Rinse the fresh tofu skin. If you are using dried tofu skin, soak them in warm water for 30 mins, drain the water and rinse. Cut the tofu skins into ribbons and set aside.
2. Boil the frozen edamame beans for about 2 to 5 mins.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan, using medium high heat. Add the preserved snow cabbage. Stir for 20 seconds.
4. Add 1/2 cup water and the tofu skin ribbons. Allow it to come to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add in the edamame beans, oyster sauce and cornstarch, stirring all the ingredients together until they are well mixed.
I saw this recipe in the newspaper a while ago and it reminded me of a mouthwatering dish I had eaten at a fancy Japanese restaurant. I found the original recipe a bit too sweet and too salty at the same time, so I modified the recipe by reducing the amount of miso paste and sugar. I like this version a lot better and besides cod is full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and it is wonderfully buttery when cooked. You will need a few specialty Japanese ingredients but they are worth getting and keeping in your fridge. This makes an easy, elegant dinner for guests or a quick main dish for a lazy, rainy day.
2 black cod fillets (about 1.5 to 2 cm thickness)
1/2 Tbsp sake
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp white miso paste (actually brownish in color)
1/2 tsp sugar
1. Wash and pat dry the cod fillets and put aside.
2. Line a baking dish with aluminium foil, with extra foil hanging outside the dish.
3. In a small bowl, make a paste with the sake, mirin, miso paste and sugar.
4. Brush both sides of the cod fillets with the paste and place it in the baking dish. Cover it with the remainder of the aluminium foil.
Allow the fillets to soak in the marinade in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Open the aluminium covering to expose the cod fillets and bake for about 30 minutes or until the top browns and blackens in spots.
This is one of my favorite dishes – simply because it is so easy to prepare! And it takes only 8 minutes to cook. I like to use either a red garouper or green garouper or a sesame garouper. A pomfret works well too. I also like to steam it together with tofu – makes for a more substantial meal and tofu goes so well with the steam fish gravy!
In Hong Kong street markets, the garouper is often sold live (swimming in a fish tank). You pick the one you like by pointing at the fish, then the fishmonger will scoop it up, weigh it and gives you the price. If you are ok with the price, he will de-scale and gut the fish for you.
1 piece soft tofu (optional) – cut into cubes
1 small piece of ginger – about 1/4 inch thickness – cut into narrow strips
1-2 stalks spring onion – sliced into 1 inch strips
light soy sauce or Lee Kum Kee brand flavored soy sauce for seafood
1-2 Tbsp cooking oil
1. Trim off part of the tail and all the fins.
2. Wash the fish under running water for a minute or two until there are no more water bubbles.
3. Place the fish on a plate, with sliced ginger strips on the top and arrange pieces of soft tofu around it.
4. Steam the fish and tofu for 8 minutes.
5. While the fish is in the steamer, heat up 1 or 2 Tbsp of cooking oil.
6. Check the fish after 8 minutes. It might take a bit longer if your fish is big. The fish is cooked when you poke a bit of its flesh and it is white and opaque. It is important not to overcook the fish.
7. Immediately turn off the stove. Sprinkle the spring onions on top of the fish, drizzle with soy sauce and sizzling hot cooking oil.
A few days ago I made Lotus Root Soup but had bought too much lotus root so tonight I decided to cook the unused lotus root together with some sweet peas. An unusual combination but it turned out quite well – the lotus root added an interesting crunch and flavor to the dish. This is a really simple dish to prepare.
About 2 inches of lotus root, sliced thinly
1 packet of sweet peas, with the ends cut off and the veins along the sides stripped
1 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
salt to taste
1. Blanch the sweet peas in a pot of boiling water for a minute.
2. Heat up 1 Tbsp of oil, stir fry the lotus root with a bit of salt, about 2 minutes.
3. Add in the blanched sweet pea and stir fry together. Stir in hoisin sauce and oyster sauce.