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Friday, April 1, 2016

Loaves & Fishes

Every two months, I recruit a group consisting of my neighbors, parents from my kids' school, friends, and my blog readers gathered in my kitchen to cook, prepare food, and deliver to Friendship Park at Loaves and Fishes the next morning to serve 300 homeless men and women.

This all started when my daughters and I decided to drop off some essentials on Thanksgiving to the homeless children at Loaves and Fishes. Now it has transformed into a recurring opportunity to serve our community.  It's not much but every little act of kindness that we create from what little time we have left in our busy schedule can mean so much to someone in need.

I hope you can join us.

Next serving is Thursday April 7, 2016 from 7:30 am-9:00 am.

Please join me in any capacity you can; you can help in one of three ways or participate from beginning to end: 

1. Food preparation 
2. Donating food/drinks 
3. Serving breakfast

Food Items Needed:

1. 300 Breakfast Burrito (sausages, potatoes, eggs) = $180 ($100 donated by Wendy Tran+ $80 by Sandy)

2. Hot Oatmeal = $50 (donated by Sarah)

3. 300 Hard Boiled Eggs = $60 (donated by HK PH)

4. 300 Granola Bars = $50 (donated by Jenny)

5. 300 Cups of Instant Noodle = $78 (donated by Kristine)

6. 300 Bananas = $55 (donated by Thuy)

7. 300 Tangerines = $60 (donated by Van Hoang)

8. 300 Bottles of Water = $50 (donated by Sarah)

9. a box of Plastic Spoon = $12

Please let me know if you need a donation receipt so I can notify Loaves and Fishes.

I leave you with some reflections from two of our recent participants:

"I had a humbling experience at Friendship Park. Just the tiny things can put a smile on someone's face. I learned to appreciate the things you get. When I looked at the homeless' faces after getting a burrito, ramen, socks or water, they had gigantic smiles on their faces. It made me feel good and I can't wait to go back and serve the community some more" 
~Simeon (12 years old)

"Got the chance to serve breakfast this morning for those who are less fortunate. Just seeing their genuine happiness for a simple bag of food and socks was a huge reminder of all of the times I took my luck and blessed life for granted. While we were serving today, I couldn't help but think that this is their daily routine, coming here for a warm meal or any help they can get, while I wake up every day in a warm bed, with the ability to choose between cooking a meal or going out for take out, or how hot or cold I want my home to be. And I don't even think twice about others who aren't allowed this luxury. A small gesture really made a difference in another person's life today and I am so glad I was allowed this opportunity to be reminded that I have that ability to do so." 
~Kristine O.

I couldn't do all this alone without the support of all the donors, dedication and hard work of many wonderful volunteers.  Thank you!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lẩu Vịt (Duck Hot Pot)

Nothing makes a chilly day and cold night more bearable than something hot, spicy and hearty like a hot pot. Hot pot and its communal cooking process is ideal to be enjoyed and shared with good company.

Irrespective of the weather, I serve hot pot to my family quite often, especially when the vegetables start to flourish in our garden. I have to incorporate them into our meals. You can't go wrong with hot pot, romaine lettuces, mustard greens, napa cabbage, edible chrysanthemum, but water morning glory (aka water spinach) is one of my favorite  to pair with a duck hot pot.

What I love about duck hot pot is the earthy ingredients of ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, water spinach, and taro imparting their unique textures and depth of flavors to the hot pot that make you want to keep on eating.  It's a fabulous way to keep your cooking connected to nature.
RECIPE: Duck Hot Pot
1 duck about 5 lbs, fresh duck available at Costco
1/2 cup fish sauce 
about 1 lb taro
2 stalks lemongrass
1 whole garlic
3 shallots, thinly sliced
 about 7 cups water 

for color and spicy oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 fresh red chili pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne or paprika powder
2 tablespoons annatto oil
2 tablespoons cooking oil 

assorted mushrooms
morning glory aka water spinach 
mustard greens

for ginger dipping sauce 
ginger, 1/2-inch piece
2 cloves of garlic
fish sauce
1/2 lime,  juiced 

Preparing Duck

Rinse a duck under cold running water. No need to rub duck with ginger or alcohol to eliminate the gamey flavor. Pull away and discard any excess fat from the duck. Trim the excess skin near the bottom of the legs and around the edges. Chop duck into big chunks of about 2-inches.

Preparing Lemongrass, Ginger, Shallots, and Garlic

Cut each stalk of lemongrass into 3 pieces, smashed.  Peel garlic and slightly smash each one to release the flavor.  Slice the shallots. 

Preparing Taro

Cut taro into big chunks, set aside.
Cooking Duck

In a large pot, saute oil, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallot until fragrant.

Add duck to the pot and cook until brown.

Add enough water to cover the duck and bring to a boil. Add fish sauce.

Simmer it for about 1 hour or until duck is soft. Skimming duck fat occasionally.  Add taro. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until taro is half way cooked. Taro breaks down and becomes gooey and thickens the  broth if it cooks for too long.

Taste and add more fish sauce if needed.  Toss in the spicy oil to add color and spice to the broth.
Preparing Spicy Oil

In a sauce pan, cook garlic in oil on medium low heat until fragrant. Turn of the heat, and take the pan off the heat then add cayenne (less spicy) or paprika powder (more spicy), and fresh red chili pepper. Mix well. Pour it into the duck pot. Chile peppers, cayenne and paprika are particularly sensitive to heat, and become bitter when burnt.

Preparing Condiments

Wash and cut vegetables.

water spinach

mustard greens

king oyster and enoki  mushrooms

Cook your choice of noodle according to the directions. If you prefer sweet potato starch clear noodle, soak noodle in water until serving. Clear noodle cooks very quickly in hot pot.

rice noodle

sweet potato starch clear noodle
Preparing Dipping Sauce

Smash the garlic and ginger together using a mortar and pestle until smooth. Add sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice.  Mix well. 

Transfer duck, taro, and broth to an electric skillet. Place it on a table along with vegetables, mushrooms, noodle, and dipping sauce. When the broth is boiling, toss in vegetables and swirl your raw ingredients in the boiling broth until they are cooked. Using a slotted spoon to scoop out cooked ingredients without taking too much broth. Ladle it over your bowl of cooked noodle and eat with a side of ginger dipping sauce. Yum.
Eat well.  Stay hungry. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Mì Bí Ngòi Xào (Zucchini Pasta Medley)

Listening to the raindrops, as my dear husband suggested, didn't help me fall asleep. I should have known better not to drink warm tea too late in the day, but I needed something to help stimulate my digestion after dinner. It's pass 1:00 a.m and I am wide awake. So I blogged hoping that I will find myself waking up in the morning with the laptop on my stomach and nothing has been written about the zucchini pasta. No such luck.

Last month when I saw a KitchenAid spiralizer attachment commercial on tv, it reminded me of the zucchini noodle dish that I had at La Toque in Napa.  I knew it had to be the next dish.

As my girls watched me spiralized zucchini into noodle, their faces lit up; my little one's mouth opened in astonishment. It was like a free magic show - well, sort of. That evening, all we had for dinner was the zucchini pasta medley. The zucchini noodle absorbs all the yummy flavors from  the tamarind fish sauce; the sweet bell peppers; the seared shrimps and salmon; the sweetness of bean sprouts, and the nutty flavor of roasted peanuts. By far, this is one of my healthiest, favorite, delicious Asian-inspired noodle dishes. 
RECIPE: Zucchini Pasta Medley 

4 zucchini
1 large piece salmon
1/2 lb shrimps
2 cups bean sprouts
2 large bell peppers
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 eggs
2 teaspoons milk, for the eggs
roasted peanut 
1 tbsp garlic

for the sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce 
6 tbsp brown sugar 
3 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic 
Preparing Zucchini Pasta

Cut the zucchini into long pasta by using a spiralizer tool or a vegetable peeler.  Set aside.
Preparing the Sauce

I purchased this box of tamarind stir-fry paste at Bel Air store but you can also get this huge jar of concentrate cooking tamarind paste below at any Asian store for  a lot less.

Place all of the ingredients for the sauce into a bowl, whisk together.  Heat the oil in a sauce pan set over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it’s just fragrant.  Add the sauce.  Mix well. Set aside.

Preparing Scramble Eggs 

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk. Heat the oil in a skillet set over medium heat.  Pour the egg mixture into the hot skillet.  Do not stir immediately.  Wait until the first hint of setting begins, using a spatula to push eggs toward center while tilting skillet to distribute running parts.

Continue cooking until the eggs are as soft or as firm as you like them.  Break apart large pieces as they form with your spatula.  Avoid leaving the scramble eggs on the heat too long as it will become dry, and rubbery eggs.

Preparing Bell Pepper

Cut the bell pepper into thin strips. Set aside. 
Preparing Salmon and Shrimps

Slice the salmon into strips about 2x1-inch pieces.  Peel and devein shrimp, leaving the tail on.
Frying Salmon and Shrimps

Bring a skillet over high heat.  Add in oil.  Place salmon pieces on a hot skillet and cook until both sides are crispy.  Do the same to the shrimps.

Preparing Peanuts


Pan roast the peanuts over medium-low heat until golden brown. Place peanuts in a ziploc bag and slightly smash them. Set aside. Using Planters dry roasted peanuts would save you time.   
Cooking the Pasta

Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add in oil. Toss in pasta and cook for about 2 minutes until soften. Don't overcook the pasta. Transfer pasta to a colander and let it rest for a few minutes to allow the moisture to release.  Drain the excess liquid.  Set pasta aside.

Bring the same skillet over medium heat.  Wipe the skillet with a paper towel to remove the excess water.  Add in oil, and garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant. Add bell peppers and cook for a minute, stirring frequently.

Toss in the pasta. Pour the sauce over the pasta.  Stir to combine until heated through.

Add shrimps, salmon, and egg.  Mix well.  Turn off the heat then add cilantro and roasted peanuts.  Save some cilantro and roasted peanuts for garnish.

Plate pasta onto a serving dish.  Garnish with peanuts and cilantro leaves. Serve with lime wedges.  We actually ate directly from this iron skillet.

If the zucchini pasta medley isn't enough carbs for you, this Japanese noodle (udon) will satisfy your taste buds and belly. This dish is made with the same tamarind sauce in zucchini pasta medley PLUS mushrooms, asparagus, basil leaves with the udon noodle MINUS zucchini, salmon, cilantro, and roasted peanuts.

Eat well. Stay Healthy.