comment 1

What Easter means for me

gospel

Colossians 1:9-14

..you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

In half an hour, we will be welcoming Easter Sunday. A day filled with church-going activities, dressed up brunch events, egg hunts, bunny costumes on every child, an occasion for gathering of families. But, at the end of this celebratory day, what does Easter really mean for me?

This passage is from the Bible in 1 year reading plan that I’m following, and it summarized the Gospel very well. Our Lord, the one who created us and all around us, has delivered us from our sins through the death and resurrection of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, so that we can have redemption, the knowledge of his will, and the ability to bear spiritual fruits. It’s easy to put this passage off as a church-y lecture, but it actually is embedded with so much truth and wisdom to guide my life as a Christian. I am to seek to be filled with the knowledge of God. And with that knowledge, I can begin to understand his will, with the help of the Spirit, so that I can begin to steer my daily actions in a direction that is pleasing to Him.

How do I even begin to fill myself with knowledge of my God? Well, it’s quite impossible to do on my own. When I first became a Christian in high school, I struggled with understanding what was taught in Sunday school and soon I lost interest in reading the Bible since there was so much that I didn’t know about. In college, I joined a Christian fellowship and slowly began reading parts of the New Testament again. Even then, I still had little motivation to really explore the story of God’s creation. It wasn’t until my discipler at the end of college went through the book of John with me chapter by chapter, that I finally grasped the entire picture of the gospel plan and the significance of the salvation I had in Jesus Christ. Since entering medical school, I’ve been blessed with a welcoming bible study small group, and we’ve grown together in studying the words of God, and carrying them out in our lives, constantly being accountable for each other. As I grew more in my understanding of God’s salvation plan, my desire to increase in my knowledge of Him and to bear spiritual fruits became stronger. This was exactly what this passage had said! I just realized that the Spirit has been urging me and helping me all along to get to this point.

Now reading this passage and looking at at my journey with Christ, I feel so blessed that I’ve been offered salvation and grace and I was never forsaken, even when I lacked interest and motivation. So, in light of all this, I hope that tomorrow will not just be a chance to dress up at church, or to pinterest Easter themed recipes, but I hope that we can reflect on the true meaning of God’s resurrection, and His salvation plan for us.

I would love to hear about your walk with Christ, or your doubts and questions. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts with us!

Advertisements
comment 1

Celery tofu stirfry with water chestnuts

This week has been a little insane since I started a new rotation on Monday at the children’s hospital in infectious diseases. First of all, I started the week with insomnia, for the second time in my life. Now let me preface this by saying that I am the deepest sleeper you have probably encountered. For the record, I slept through three fire alarms in college dorms. Yes…the next morning, everyone was asking me where I was last night. And in bed I was, soundly dreaming away in fairyland.

So when I experienced insomnia for the first time, I was a little shaken. Granted it was the night before my medicine board exam, the most important test I had ever taken in life, one that would determine what specialty I go into, what caliber of residency program I can apply for. I had enough excuses to be a hot mess the night before, but as I laid in bed for 7 hours straight tossing and turning, counting sheep, counting in Chinese, trying every method I knew to fall asleep but couldn’t, it was the most tormenting 7 hours of my life. I began to understand a bit about what some of my patients go through with insomnia. The luckiest thing is, I happened to still do alright on my board despite not sleeping a wink.

So when I couldn’t fall asleep again last Sunday night, I felt a deep fear brewing inside about what was to come in that 7 hours of darkness. I guess I was subconsciously nervous about starting a difficult and hectic rotation after months of non-clinical work…or that I’m getting old. Either way, it was eye opening to see the idols in my life that I subconsciously prioritized, like academic success and approval from others. Into dawn, the only thought I carried with me was- I must purchase melatonin the next chance I go to the grocery.

Anyway, back to celery. I was never a fan of celery. It seemed that no matter how I ate it, dipped in ranch, dipper in peanut butter (urrgh), dipped in hummus, it was simply seeking another exterior to cover up its naturally bitter and acidic taste. But no more! My ingenious mother taught me the perfect combination of stirfrying celery and dry tofu. Dry tofu does not look like regular tofu by the way. It’s processed differently and is drier and fuller than regular tofu. You can find it packaged in a block in any Asian grocery. Below is how it looks like when cut.

Chinese dry tofu

 

Somehow the soy-ness of the dry tofu balances out the tart celery, and I added a spoonful of Shacha sauce when stirfrying to further take away the acidity of the celery. More on cooking with Shacha sauce here. I also added a few water chestnuts into the mix for fun. Water chestnuts is a totally different animal from chestnuts. It’s an Asian vegetable that resembles a chestnut in exterior. Once you peel the skin off, the meat is white, crunchy and slightly sweet, reminds me of sugarcane. It can be eaten raw and mixed into a salad or dessert, or you can stir fry it with meats, snow peas, carrots…the options are endless.

water chestnut

Celery stirfry with dry tofu (2)

Celery Tofu Stirfry with Water Chestnuts

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • celery, 4 stalks, chopped
  • dry tofu, 4 small blocks, sliced
  • 5 water chestnuts, peeled and roughly chopped
  • garlic, minced
  • 1 large spoon of Shacha sauce

With oil in the pan, add minced garlic and stir fry until fragrant.

Add celery and stir fry for 3 minutes. Then add dry tofu pieces and stir fry for another 3 minutes. Cover for 3 minutes, until celery has lost its tartness. Add water chestnuts and Shacha sauce and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

comments 3

Taro rice balls and sweetened red beans

The Taiwanese are known for being unbearably cute. On my trip to Taipei two summers ago, it seemed that every corner I turned, I’d see something cute and cuddly that I want to squeeze and own. They have cute fashion, cute bookstores that function also as tea houses, cute Hello Kitty themed restaurants, especially cute are their desserts. 芋圆, or glutinous taro balls, can be found in every dessert shop in Taiwan. It’s slightly sweet and very chewy, made from taro and tapioca flour. It’s typically served in a sweet soup with red beans or grass jelly or tiny tapioca balls called sago.

An aside on Asian desserts. The main reason why I love them is that they are much lighter and the sweetness is more subtle than typical in-your-face heavy creamy chocolate-y desserts in the States. They also like to serve some desserts in warm soups like red bean porridge, or black sesame paste. Warm soupy desserts? Totally unheard of in the States but so right in my alley! Asian desserts also use different ingredients, such as taro. Taro is a root, similar to yam or yucca. To prepare taro, simply steam in a rice cooker and then the skin comes right off. It tastes slippery and starchy by itself, and it makes for a perfect base for dessert taro paste or cooked into a sweet congee.

So I give credit to my friend Janet for this recipe, since she made it for me as a housewarming treat and gave me the simple recipe. In addition to taro balls, you can also make sweet potato balls and purple yam balls using the same method, and they would add beautiful dashes of yellow and purple to your dessert.

Taro rice balls with red beans

Taro Rice Balls with Red Beans

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 taro
  • tapioca flour, 2 cups
  • sugar
  • Chinese red bean (available in any Asian grocery)
  • milk
  • coconut milk

Steam taro in rice cooker with 1/2 cup of water. Peel the skin off with a peeler, and mash the taro thoroughly.

In a separate mixing bowl, add tapioca flour. Then add 2 Tbsp of boiling water and mix the flour right afterwards. It will turn sticky and pasty. Combine taro paste into flour dough and mix with your hands (suggest putting plastic gloves on since it can get sticky). Add sugar. Add more tapioca flour and mix until the dough does not stick to your hands. This can take up to 20 minutes. (be patient =))

Roll the dough into a stick of 1 inch width, and cut 1 inch thick rounds out of the stick. They should resemble little balls. You can freeze them in a container to be used anytime later. Tip: roll the balls in tapioca flour so that they don’t stick to each other when frozen)

To make the red bean: soak dry red beans in water overnight. Boil them in a pot of water for 2 hrs until soft to taste. You can add sugar in the process if desire.

Boil the frozen taro balls for 5-7 minutes until thoroughly soft and chewy.

In a bowl, mix milk and coconut milk in a 4:1 proportion. Drain the red beans and ladle some into the bowl. Add some taro balls, and voila!

comments 5

Shrimp and “Grits” with turkey bacon jam

I spent a year going to a public middle school in New Orleans where I was fed cheesy grits for breakfast every other day. It’s a Southern thing thang, grits cooked with lots of butter and cheese, and saucy shrimp with bits of bacon on top, a flavor bomb exploding in your mouth. It has been a long time since I’ve had authentic shrimp and grits, being half a Houstonian now. And the other day, I stumbled upon a bacon jam recipe, so a new idea was teeming in my head. If bacon goes well with shrimp, a little bacon jam shouldn’t hurt, right? And yes, I was so right.

A few things about shrimp. The easiest way to cook shrimp is to buy the frozen, peeled and deveined version. But trials and errors have taught me that fresh shrimp with heads and peel and everything else taste so much more flavorful and seafood-y than the ready-to-make ones. So for that extra burst of shrimp happiness, I went the extra mile of getting whole shrimps and peeling and decapitating them myself. By the way, the orange gooey goodness that ooze out of shrimp heads when you de-head them is the stuff that gives shrimp its most intense flavor. Don’t judge it by its looks, and try to preserve as much of that shrimp juice as possible. You can discard the heads afterward, or you can fry them and make stock for your shrimp congee (recipe to come). Foodies never waste a thing!

So I put quotation marks around grits because I’m halfway cheating here. But trust me it’s for the better. Instead of using grits, which is mashed corn bits, I used cream of wheat, or mashed wheat. The texture is exactly like grits, creamy and light, but it’s finer than grits, which makes for a smoother taste paired with shrimp. You can find it in any grocery store, and it’s also a very southern thing.

Now onto the star of the party- bacon jam! This is quite an unconventional bacon jam, since I happened to have some kahlua left over in the bottle. And I figured that kahlua is creamy, rich and sweet, and it should go well with the smokiness of bacon, so why not? Also for sake of cholesterol lowering, I swapped bacon for turkey bacon, which is much leaner and less greasy, but still very smoky and crunchy! Learn more about how to make kahlua bacon jam here.

shrimp and grits

shrimp and grits

Shrimp and Grits with bacon jam

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of kahlua bacon jam
  • 1.5 pounds of large whole shrimp, peeled and deheaded
  • 1 Tbsp cooking wine
  • salt and pepper
  • cream of wheat, 1 cup

Add cooking wine to shrimp in the pan. Pan sear shrimp with canola oil for 2-5 minutes, until shrimp turns pink throughout (that can happen very fast). Salt and pepper to taste.

Add bacon jam to shrimp and mix thoroughly on low heat, for 1 minute. Turn heat off.

In a separate pot, boil 3-4 cups of water. When water is boiled, add cream of wheat bit by bit and stir constantly. Keep stirring while water is boiling for 4 minutes until cream of wheat has thickened into almost a paste. Turn heat to low, simmer cream of wheat for another 4 minutes while stirring occasionally. It should thicken some more. Turn off heat when you’re happy with the consistency.

Serve bacon jammed shrimp over cream of wheat. Enjoy every bite!

comment 1

I am the bread of life!

gospel

In the book of John, Jesus taught his disciples about the difference between manna, the bread that the Jews ate while in exodus, and the bread of life, which is Jesus himself. The Jews were so stubborn about how manna was their lifesaving bread that came down from heaven, and they refused to recognize Jesus as the ultimate savior. I am like the Jews at times, so wayward in my insistence that academic success, or approval from peers, or living a life of means are my manna. I chase after them, even though I intellectually understand that they’re empty idols that will ultimately disappoint me. I have to remind myself again and again that I can only find eternal rest and joy in Christ.

John 6:35-37

Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

Learn more about how to read the Bible in 1 year!

 

comment 1

Chicken Yakisoba…and what to eat for Lunar New Year

Happy Year of the Rooster! This weekend, billions of people of Chinese descent around the world celebrated Lunar New Year through family reunions, sharing meals together, giving each other Red Envelopes of “lucky money”. For the first time, hubby and I celebrated the occasion together officially as a family in Los Angeles.

[I must digress here, that I’ve been a lazy blogger for the past 2 months. Besides having back to back busy months working in the hospital, there have been some life adjustments as well. Now let me fill you in on the update- “drum roll”- Y officially moved from Dallas to LA in November and is now working from home, finally ending our long distance relationship and marriage of the past four and a half years! So now in 2017, Day7Kitchen is officially back and stronger than ever. Sneak peek content:  some of Y’s recipes will be featured in the near future.]

Back to the topic of how to celebrate Lunar New Years in Los Angeles. Besides all the festivities I just mentioned, the most central element of the celebration is food. There are a few symbolic dishes that everyone eats during Lunar New Years that is relatively simple to recreate in your own kitchen, with a few trips to the local Chinese grocery.

The most well known dish is dumplings. Dumplings are traditionally made on New Years Eve and eaten on the first day of Lunar New Years as a symbol of wealth and prosperity in the coming year because they are shaped like gold ingots from the old days. You can buy dumpling wrappers from the local Asian grocery, but you have to make your own filling, and that’s where the fun begins. Few of the well-tested combinations are: Chinese leek +ground pork, onions+ ground pork, minced shrimp+ scrambled eggs, cabbage+ ground pork. To season the filling, I typically add minced ginger, cooking sherry, sliced green onions and salt. Once the filling is mixed, the rest is manpower. Assemble a team of friends and wrap the filling into each wrapper, and now you have dumplings that taste much superior to their store bought cousins.

Also present on the Lunar New Year dinner table is fish. Fish in Chinese is pronounced similarly to the word “extra”, and fish symbolizes that in this coming year there will be extras to go around for everyone. The fish that should be prepared here is not your swai or tilapia fillet from the frozen section. This is typically a whole fish purchased from the grocery complete with head and bones (live is better than frozen) and can be prepared steamed or pan fried and simmered in soy sauce. Key ingredients for cooking whole fish both ways: ginger, scallion slices, cooking sherry and minced garlic.

Another authentic Chinese New Year dish is stir fried rice cakes, or “nian gao”, translated to New Year Cake. There are actually multiple versions of nian gao out there, but I’m mainly talking about the sliced oval shaped rice cake that you can buy in packages at the grocery, not the sweet, tooth-sticky dessert. Rice cakes can be stir fried with sliced cabbage, octopus legs, green onions, minced pork, or really anything you want. Before you drop them in a wok, be sure to soak them in a warm pot of water for one hour so that they are soften. Beware, these chewy little devils are essentially carb bombs, so eat sparingly.

chicken-yakisoba

Last but not the least, Chinese people like to eat noodles during Lunar New Year, since long noodle strands symbolize longevity and health. Noodles can be prepared in a soup broth or stir fried, it can be light and refreshing or pungently spicy. The recipe I prepared here is for chicken yakisoba. Though it’s Japanese, the same ingredients and concept can be replicated for any chow mein or stir fried noodle dish.

chicken-yakisoba1

chicken-yakisoba2

Chicken Yakisoba

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of fresh lo mein noodles
  • 1 large piece of chicken thigh, diced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cabbage, sliced
  • 1 small carrot, sliced
  • 4 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 stalks of green onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoon Worcester sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp mirin
  • black pepper, to taste

Loosen the fresh noodles in a bowl of hot water.

Mix the sauce together in a bowl and set aside: Worcester, oyster, ketchup, soy sauce, mirin.

In a pan, heat up 2 Tbsp of canola oil over medium heat. Add chicken pieces and stir fry until cooked through for 5-6 minutes. Set the chicken aside in a bowl.

In the same pan, heat up canola oil again over medium heat and add onion, saute for 3 minutes until translucent. Add carrot, mushroom and cabbage, stir fry for another 3-4 minutes until mostly soft.

Add back chicken and noodles to the pan. Pour in the prepared sauce. Stir fry until noodles and vegetables are well mixed, and sauce is evenly coated, for 2-3 minutes. Add black pepper to taste. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Enjoy!

comment 1

Mapo Tofu… and all you can eat in LA

Sometimes, the work life of a resident physician consumes all 24 hours of my day and my life gets cooped up within a 2 mile radius of my neighborhood in East Hollywood. But the occasional venturing out has blown me away with the diversity and variety of neighborhoods in this sprawling metropolis known as the City of Angels. Of course, when I say that, I really meant that I am blown away with all the eateries unique to LA. In my brief four months here, I’ve already compiled a long list of favorites. So if you’re ever visiting, be sure to make time for these yummies!

Porto’s Bakery & Cafe: This Cuban bakery is half of the reason I visit Glendale. Every time I go to Americana or Galleria to shop, I somehow end up in front of Porto’s at some point. They make sweet and savory rolls and pies. My favorite is the fried potato balls, they are golden crunchy balls of mashed potato and savory juicy meat in the center. Their guava and cheese strudel is to die for! They also carry a variety of sandwiches and tortas for the lunch crowd. Paid parking is in the back lot.

Ruen Pair: One of the most authentic Thai places you can go to outside of Thailand is down the street in Little Thai Town. Their coconut chicken soup, served in a brass hotpot, is bursting with flavors or fresh lemongrass, lime and mint. If you dare, order the papaya salad with raw crab legs. It’s so spicy that you almost forget for a second that there’s raw crabs in the dish. It’s cash only, but don’t sob because you’ll end up only paying $15 for a meal for two.

Meals by Genet: Dressed up Ethiopian food with crisp white linens and wine glasses clicking away. Roll up your sleeves and dig your hands into a giant injera twice the size of your face and their 10 samples in the veggie combo and tender fall-off-the-bone darawot chicken. The whole restaurant is dimmed lit with candles for an intimate date atmosphere. Free parking on the street on Sundays!

Pine & Crane: This is your neighborhood hipster Taiwanese restaurant in Silverlake. And this time, hipster does not automatically equal inauthentic. Try their dan dan noodles, mildly spicy with savory minced pork and refreshing cucumbers with peanut sauce. They also serve sides of various Taiwanese cold appetizers, like bean curd salad, wood ear salad and pea shoots. The hipster element with their chalkboard menu and minimalist wooden decors add a contrasting flair.

Cauldron Ice Cream: This baby is a drive away in Santa Ana of Orange County, but trust me, every minute of the drive is worth it. It’s ice cream blended using liquid nitrogen served in a warm and fluffy puffle cone. Can you say no to flavors like earl grey lavender and milk and cereal? It’s a hot and cold and creamy and fluffy party in your mouth. Plenty of free parking in the lot.

mapo-tofu-2

Okay, enough talk about food made in other people’s kitchens. Let’s get down to business about our recipe of the day: mapo tofu. I’m sure you’ve had the dish before, either in a Orange Chicken and General Tso’s takeout Americanized Asian restaurant or in a dingy hole-in-the-wall that your friend took you to in Chinatown. The recipe I will introduce here is more in line with the second kind but with a hipster presentation photographically.  The most important ingredient here is the fermented bean paste and the mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorn, found in any local Chinese grocery such as 99 Ranch. Don’t skip any steps in the recipe because the reward is far worth the trouble!

mapo-tofu1

mapo-tofu2

Mapo Tofu

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • medium firm tofu, 1 block, sliced into 1 inch squares
  • 2 Tbsp fermented bean paste
  • 1 tbsp chili oil
  • 1 cup of minced pork
  • a handful of Szechuan peppercorn
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • corn starch, 1 Tbsp
  • green onions, chopped

Heat up canola oil in a skillet. Stir fry minced pork until golden, for 5-7 minutes.

In the same skillet, add canola oil and bean paste and saute for 1 minute. Add Szechuan peppercorn, chili oil, black pepper and 3 cups of water. Simmer for 7 minutes.

Add back minced pork and tofu. Cover the skillet and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 1 tablespoon of corn starch and 1/2 cup of water together. Add mixture to skillet. Stir to combine well. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle green onions on top. Enjoy over a bowl of steaming rice!

comment 1

Chicken with Cranberry Cilantro Rice… and on Yosemite in October

I was never a outdoorsy kind of girl growing up. Nor was anyone in my family outdoorsy. Whenever my Chinese parents took me on family vacations, they mostly involved Disney World or venturing out in new cities, shopping or trying new foods. Even if we were going to places like Yellowstone, the vacation would revolve around my mother demanding my father to take glamour photos of her against various picturesque backgrounds like lakes, snow-capped peaks, forests or valleys, then driving the car to the next photogenic look-out point. In fact, the farthest hike my parents endured in Yellowstone was 3 miles, and it broke them.

Since I’ve moved to Los Angeles, however, a whole world of hiking possibilities were opened up to me. The San Gabriel Valley mountains in the east, the Santa Monica mountains in the west and Runyon, Griffith, Hollywood Sign, everything in between, kept me coming back hike after hike. I was getting addicted to the new hiking business. So on my week long holiday recently, I planned a vacation to Yosemite and took my parents on possibly the most outdoorsy vacation we’ve ever gone as a family. By the way, if you haven’t gone to Yosemite yet, go in late September/early October, when the crowds are long gone after labor day weekend and before the roads close and winter hits in November. Plus, it makes for 60-80 degrees perfect weather, for hiking of course.

On the first day, we hiked 2 hikes and 8 miles in total. At the famous tunnel view where Yosemite Valley sits between Half Dome and El Capitan, where tour buses and tourists lined up in troves to take photos of this iconic Yosemite view, we hiked on the mountain right next to it and got a much more serene and exclusive view of the valley on the hilltop dubbed Inspiration Point, where of course, my mother forced my dad to take countless photos of her in different poses against the valley. Some things just never change. In the afternoon, we hiked to Sentinel Dome and came to the top of this giant round rock. The 360 degrees view was breathtaking, and we saw Glacier Point and snow-capped peaks on one side, the lush evergreen forest tumbling away  on the other side and a canyon cutting through mountains the other way. My mom and dad were dazzled away and thought it was a fair trade off for all the work they had to endure on their way.

In the following days, we hiked to remote waterfalls and then to the top of waterfalls, through steep mountain switchbacks, and on altitudes of 10,000 feet. Except for one time when my dad really had to sit it out midway through the hike because of altitude shortness of breath, my family successfully accomplished all the hikes I planned out for the trip. They enjoyed every part of it, and I consider my secret mission to convert them into outdoors loving folks a success.

chicken-with-cilantrol-rice-and-cranberries

Today, I want to share with y’all a one pot dinner recipe that a dear friend gave me. It combines dry cranberries, cilantro, lime juice, fresh orange and Dijon mustard, and you are probably doubting in your head what that combination of flavors would ever produce. Juicy, refreshing goodness- that’s what you’ll get in return! Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: Chicken with Cranberry Cilantro Rice.

chicken-with-cilantrol-rice1

Chicken with Cherry Cilantro Rice

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 3 large chunks of chicken breast, diced into small pieces
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 3 slices of orange
  • 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1.5 cup uncooked rice
  • 1/4 cup dry cranberries
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 dash of salt and pepper

Cook the rice in a rice cooker by adding 1.5 cup of water.

While rice is cooking, Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Freshly juice lemon and lime, add to the chicken. Add Dijon mustard and brown sugar to chicken, and toss thoroughly to combine so that every piece of chicken is marinated in sauce. Leave the chicken marinated for 1/2 hour.

Heat up canola oil in a pan and saute chicken until fully cooked, for about 5-7 minutes.

When rice is cooked, add a dash of salt and pepper, dry cranberries, orange slices and chopped cilantro to rice. Mix well and cover the rice pot to let the flavors rest for 10 minutes.

Add chicken pieces to rice and mix. Enjoy!

comment 0

Disciplines of a Godly Woman

Recently, I’ve found a women’s bible study group at a local church that I’ve fallen in love with and have gone back to week after week. Along with a group of 5 other girls led by the pastor’s wife, we are going through a book called “Disciplines of a Godly Woman.” Every week, we read up and share about one discipline: worship, prayer, good deeds, witness and so on. What had touched me the most was the chapter on the discipline of perseverance.

First of all, why do we persevere? James 1:4 tells us that perseverance is produced by suffering and produces character so that we may be mature and complete. Suffering produces endurance, character, and hope in God. Often I have found that it is in the most difficult or uncertain periods of my life that I’ve come to grow the most in my faith and learn to rely fully on Christ. For instance, in my recent move to LA, I’ve come to realize what a great sacrifice I’ve made. I’ve removed myself from the closeness of friends, the intimacy of a church group, and the nearness of family, and I’m trying to root myself in a new and foreign environment. It is not easy at all. Some days are good days where I discover a glimpse of the new city and fall in love with it a bit more. Other days, I just want to rewind my life back to Houston, when I was surrounded by people I love and who know me through and through. But what is encouraging, is my knowledge that Christ is in control, and that He has allowed the trials and temptations to confront me. And he is praying for me through my suffering.

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. Luke 22:31

Before the sifting comes, it first passes through Christ’s prayers and the merciful hand of God. Knowing this grows my confidence tremendously. God’s purpose for the sifting is to prove and perfect my faith. And in days when my own hope fails or when other people fail me, I know I can rely on my hope in His plan for me.

comment 1

Saucy Creole Shrimp…and the real life of a MD

Almost two months into residency, I’m starting to get used to and learning to roll with this rhythm of life, of working days and nights on end, of getting too comfortable in the hospital call rooms, of squeezing eating into 5 minute intervals. Here I would like to share a few tiny glimpses into the real life of a MD in training.

#1 skill needed for residents- to be able to fine tune the biologic clock of your body so that you can sleep whenever and wherever you can and have time to. Since my call schedule involves working day shifts then followed by 16 hour nights (7:30pm-11:30am) then going back to day shift the next day, I had to tweak my circadian rhythm to sleep from 3-5pm on pre-call nights, then after I get home from work at noon the following day, sleep from 1-5pm, and still be able to sleep that night normally so I can wake up the next day refreshed and ready for the day routine. The goal is to get back to your regular sleep schedule as fast as possible so that your body doesn’t even notice that you broke the routine. Well, I lie. My body does notice, eventually, and that often entails crashing towards the end of a work week, living in a state of mild delirium then sleeping like a dead body on my off day.

Second fact I had to come to terms with is that I will always be short on time, and no work will quite end on time. My work can pretty much be summed up as warfare. It’s a constant battle in the hospital to finish seeing my patients before rounds, to finish rounds on time, which they never do, to have enough time to put in all the orders into the computer system and to have time to pause in between and actually think about what in the world is going on with my patients. Being a MD in training is not like the rosy picture you probably imagine of a wise doctor in a white coat and a silk tie, crossing his legs laying back in the leather armchair while pondering over the pathophysiology of the disease. Maybe if I grow nine extra arms, I might be able to free up one to do that. The other reality with my work schedule is that I can never expect to clock out when the hour is up and peace out of the hospital. There has been days when my shift was supposed to end by 8pm, but when a new patient shows up at 7pm, there’s no way I’ll be able to get out before 9pm. Or in afternoon clinic, when my patient is late by 50 minutes but I still see them because they took 2 buses to get here and they might not come again for a long time, my schedule would get pushed back and I get out an hour and a half after my scheduled end time.

Because time is like gold to me, I have also learned to chow down food in five minute intervals and peck on snacks like a bird instead of having a real meal. The last time I carried a pager for my whole team and tried to go downstairs to the cafeteria to grab a quick bite, I was paged back up to the floor for a patient who started having difficulty breathing. By the time we tucked that patient in upstairs after 1 hour, my sandwich order was long gone and forgotten. For this reason, all the team rooms where we work are stocked to the brim with bananas, granola bars, pastries, donuts, crackers for residents to graze on. Of course, I have to watch what I eat or else my diet can consist purely of donuts and Pepperidge Farm cookies. That is where intern fifteen comes from. For me, I’ve made a priority out of going grocery shopping every week and cooking real meals at least once or twice a week, partly for health reasons, partly for my own sanity and this blog. So starting next post, you’ll get to see new recipes I’ve tried so far while living in LA!

saucy creole shrimp2

Today will be the last recipe I’ve made while in Houston: saucy creole shrimp. It’s a shout out to my New Orleans roots (lived there in 7th grade) and Southern cuisine in general. It’s definitely a leisure Sunday afternoon kind of recipe, soothing to the palate and the soul, and not to mention that it’s a one pot meal that contains seafood, veggies and carbs!

saucy creole shrimp1

Saucy creole shrimp

Saucy Creole Shrimp

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of turkey bacon, chopped into bits
  • 1/3 cup of flour
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can stewed tomato
  • 1 Tbsp creole seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 bottle of dark beer
  • 1.5 lbs of raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tbsp cajun seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • steamed white rice

In a skillet, heat up canola oil and sear the tuket bacon bits over medium heat until browned, for 3-5 minutes. Set the bacon aside.

In the same skillet, add 3 Tbsp canola oil and flour, stir to combine. Cool for 10 minutes until mixture is golden. Add onion, garlic, celery and bell pepper to the roux, and cook for 5 minutes until bell pepper have soften and onion is translucent. Add 1 can of stewed tomatoes and creole seasoning and paprika. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add the beer and turkey bacon and simmer on low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes until flavors have combined well.

Meanwhile in a separate skillet, sear the shrimp with butter on medium heat until cooked through, for 3 minutes on each side. Add cajun seasoning to shrimp and toss to coat.

Add shrimp and Worcestershire sauce to the first skillet and stir to mix. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve with rice on the side and enjoy!

comment 1

Ratatouille…and how to ride a motorbike in Thailand

Back in May, I went on a trip to Thailand and inner-China with some friends from medical school. I’ve always wanted to venture out of East Asia when I vacation in this half of the world and explore Southeast Asia, so a bunch of us decided to hop on a plane to Bangkok and spend some time in Chiang Mai and a beach island. After some research and mapping, we decided on a whim to go to a small island 3 hours away by bus from Bangkok called Koh Larn. That trip was adventure-filled in every possible way, including a few near-deaths experiences from hailing a stranger’s boat from the pier of Pattaya when we missed the last ferry to the island, almost getting eaten alive by voracious dogs on the island when we groped our way to our hotel in the dark. But the most memorable, and my favorite experience, had to do with motorbikes.

Koh Larn is a very small island well known for beaches but less touristy than the bigger names in the south, like Koh Phi Phi or Phuket. The only form of transportation on the island is motorbiking, and that’s what the local Thai tourists use as well. On our first day, we went to the town square to rent motorbikes. After finding out that none of us girls had ever ridden one, the local Thais refused to rent them out to us. So we changed our strategy and approached a different renter and told him we were experienced drivers back in the US (of cars, of course, but he didn’t have to know that). After renting out one bike per person, he briefly showed us the gears and how to accelerate properly and brake. After grasping the basics, we rode around the parking lot for practice. Then we hit the road.

Well, within 5 minutes, I managed to go the wrong direction and got stranded in the middle of a busy intersection and got lost from the rest of my friends. After finally turning around my heavy bike and freeing myself from the crowd, I couldn’t find anyone else. So I had no choice but to keep going and find the beach where we had planned on going to on my own. Surprisingly after 30 minutes of twisting and turning on intersecting roads with confusing or no signs in English, I arrived at the beach. But none of my cohort was there. So I parked my bike and laid back on the sand and enjoyed the sun for 20 minutes while I waited. Still, no one came. I thought that maybe my friends realized I was lost and were waiting for me at the town square where we had started our journey. So I decided to ride all the way back. But by that time, the sun was scorching down, and that meant 105 degrees in the May humidity. I was beginning to get lightheaded and started to have a pounding headache from dehydration, but I had no money or water or identification on me since everything was in my other friend’s backpack. This was when panic set in. Suddenly, I realized I was in a foreign country where I couldn’t just ask for help easily. What if I pass out on the road? What if I don’t find my friends? No one will even know who I am? All these thoughts jumbled together. At the end, I resolved to ride to the hotel and ask the front desk for a glass of water. When I stepped through the hotel front door, I saw one of my friends coming towards me, looking as pleasantly surprised as I was to see her.  I never felt as grateful and happy to see familiar faces as in that moment! Apparently, they came back to the hotel after realizing that they lost me, and they began to get worried when 30 minutes passed by and were just praying that I wasn’t lying in a pool of blood somewhere.

Lessons that I learned from this trip: always carry water and ID card wherever you travel in a foreign country. Don’t go to Thailand in the summer. But if you do, be sure to learn motorbike riding beforehand!

ratatouille

This week’s recipe is another one of my efforts to explore the art of French cuisine. If you are also a fan of roasting vegetables like me, you’ll love the deep and rich flavor of this classic Provencal vegetarian dish. Note: this dish requires a cast iron skillet or dutch oven.

ratatouille1

ratatouille3

ratatouile2

Ratatouille

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • olive oil, 1/2 Tbsp
  • thyme and sage, 1 tbsp
  • 5 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
  • 2 yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 zucchini, chopped into 1 inch rounds
  • 1 eggplant, chopped into 1 inch rounds
  • 1 red bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped into quartered
  • 5 roma tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley leaves

Heat oven to 400 F. In a cast iron skillet, saute thyme, sage with onion and garlic for 10 minutes until onions are soft and translucent.

Add zucchini, eggplant, bell pepers and tomatoes to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer skillet into oven and roast for 1.5 hours. Turn setting to broil for last 10 minutes. Vegetables should be slightly browned.

Stir in basil and parsley. Let skillet cool on a counter top. Serve as a side.

comment 1

Oyster Sauce Drizzled Lettuce…and the art of Chinese glamour shoots

Back in April when Y and I visited his hometown and my second favorite city in the world, Beijing, we partook in what is commonly known as the wedding glamour photo shoot. This was part of our second wedding reception and festivities in Beijing, and it was something that both he and I had been looking forward to. So to introduce the concept of Chinese glamour photo shoots, let me give some background and context to this madness.

In China, there hardly exist any wedding day of photography that Americans are normally used to. Most couples, instead of pursuing a more photo-journalistic and dynamic feel to their wedding photography, prefer to take posed glamour shots before the actual wedding day so that photos can be enlarged and framed as decorations on their big day. As a result, there are thousands of glamour photo shoot studios that meet the demand. These studios offer hundreds of outfits, including different styles of wedding gowns, colorful ball gowns, traditional red Chinese wedding outfits, other ethnic outfits and much more. Studios also offer makeup artists and hair stylists who will package you along with the outfit into a almost unrecognizable beautiful version of yourself, and will take photos of you and your hubby against different indoor or outdoor backgrounds near the studio, including Korean styled ones where lace and neutral tones fill the background, European background where dark mahogany and golden frames line the background, single color backdrops where you end up looking like a commercial ad, vintage looking bathtubs and door frames, inside fake small cathedrals, and the list goes on, beyond your imagination.

What Y and I ended up experiencing was a pretty epic version of all of the above. We had 5 different outfits and 6 different backdrops to rotate through during the day, including two which were outdoor. It was quite the production. The days started at 8AM when our personal outfit, hair and makeup artists helped us to pick our gowns and outfits as well as did our makeup for the first set. Yes, I did say “our makeup”. The makeup artist did dab some BB cream and powder on Y so that his pimples were hidden and “the contour of his face smoothed” in her words. After getting dolled up, we started our first photo shoot in a small fake cathedral against the altar, where a fake stone bible laid open. If Y and I had doubts before about our photogenic ability to pose naturally before total strangers, I need not have worried. The photographer with his assistant gave us specific prompts and directions as to how to angle our chin and how to hold out our hands on our laps so that “our fingers are laced tastefully together”, yet another classic quote by him. Our only roles were to follow his directions and smile as naturally as we could, even twenty minutes into the shoot.

After a few more backdrops and changes in hairstyle and makeup, we were ready to embark on our journey for outdoor photo shoots. This was the part that Y and I were most excited about since we had handpicked our settings: against the red wall of the forbidden city and in the hutongs of Beijing’s old city, which are traditional alleyways lined with courtyard styled houses from the 1800s, both of which were unique representations of Beijing. With our gowns and outfits and props thrown in the van, we set out for the Forbidden City first. If you know anything about the Forbidden City, you’d know that it’s an extremely popular place with tourists. So when Y and I emerged from the van in my puffy wedding gown and his stiff tuxedo, everyone around us stopped in their trails and commenced staring at us. By the time we were done posing and kissing and running toward each other with the red wall of the imperial palace behind us, we had a small gathering of passerby around and became quite the scene! We went on from there and drove to an area of hutong alleyways next, and a problem immediately arose- where and how would I change from my gown into the red traditional Chinese wedding outfit that I needed to put on? There are no public bathrooms in these hutongs, and the van was too cramp a space to change in. My makeup artist, being as street smart as she is, huddled me toward a more isolated corner of the alleyway and started unzipping my gown and slipping on the traditional red robe at the same time while half covering me with a giant piece of fabric! There were a few passerby who emerged at that time, and thankfully my face was half hidden behind the wedding gown I was struggling to slip off. What a strange sight it must have seemed- a girl changing from a fancy wedding gown into a red robe from the Qing dynasty in broad daylight in the middle of a hutong! After I was changed, my makeup artist commenced to surround me with a make shift makeup studio in the middle of the alleyway with her arrangement of curlers, hair ties, makeup brushes set on a tiny table that she stuffed in the back of the van. Fifteen minutes later, complete with a heavy gold rimmed headdress on my thick braids, I was ready for the second portion of our outdoor photo shoot. Y with his black and red robe and scripted fan in one hand and me with my elaborate headdress balanced on top of my head were trotting down the busy hutongs, like actors from a period drama. Shot against the grey brick walls of the hutong and red gates of the courtyard houses, this memorable photo shoot adventure was our favorite.

After we got back to the studio, it was already five thirty, and we finished the rest of our indoor shoots. We went through role plays of mafia lady boss in daring qipao dress (don’t ask me why I did it) and Korean styled dreamy orchard backgrounds. By the time we were finished, it was close to 9PM and Y and I were utterly exhausted. Six weeks later, we received the fruit of our labor and investment in the form of a USB containing 60 photoshopped photos and intricate photo frames of various dimensions. And I’d have to say, these are some of the most unique photos that Y and I will ever take, and it was so worth it. In fact, I will even share one of our favorites here.

IMG_4506

The recipe I will share today is probably the simplest of the most simple recipes, for those of us who might be too busy to cook and finding it difficult to eat healthy and fast. I sympathize with you all. But it doesn’t have to be this way! This oyster sauce lettuce dish is a classic Cantonese vegetable dish and is both fast and delicious.

Oyster sauce drizzled lettuce

oyster sauce drizzled lettuce2

Oyster Sauce Drizzled Lettuce

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • romaine lettuce, 1 head, leaves washed and separated
  • soy sauce, 1-2 Tbsp
  • sesame oil, 2 tbsp
  • oyster sauce, 1 Tbsp
  • salt and pepper to taste

Boil water in a deep frying pan or pot. Blanch the lettuce leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds and turn the heat off. Strain the liquid off. In a large mixing bowl, add soy sauce and sesame oil to lettuce, salt and pepper. Mix the lettuce leaves so sauce is coated evenly. Drizzle oyster sauce on top and enjoy!

comment 1

Short Rib Bourguignon…and stepping into a new stage of life

I know I promised to write more about all my hilarity that ensued in Beijing and in my recent Thailand vacation in May, but I wanted to pause all those thoughts this week and focus on the here and now. What do I mean? Well, several big life events happened since the beginning of June. I turned 27, internal scream of panic “Ahhhhhh!” I moved from Houston to Los Angeles 3 weeks ago by myself. And I officially started pediatric residency last Friday, which in plain language, translates to people started calling me doctor when I go to work, which sends immediate feelings of warmth and goosebumps at the same time.

Adjusting to Los Angeles has been quite the task for me, surprisingly, in the beginning. Despite all its similarities to Houston being a diverse sprawling metropolis and having the most congested traffic in the nation, LA is still a bit overwhelming to newcomers. For instance, most of my friends in Houston lived around the same 5 mile radius, and I never had to travel more than 20 minutes to meet up with anyone. LA is a different story. There are so many suburbs inland that take at least 30 minutes, and sometimes 1 hour to drive to, that it’s almost impossible to see friends who live in a different part of town. And of course my friends actually do live in very different parts of towns. Life is never easy. I’ve also had to learn how to parallel park and become an expert at finding street parking for free in LA. So many cars and so little space mean that parallel parking has to become second nature. So far, I’ve cut down the time I take to park from 10 minutes of wiggling back and forth out of the narrow space to 3 minutes of precise angling and estimation. It’s been quite the learning curve!

Of course there are positive sides to moving to LA as well. For one, the always sunny and mild 75 degree weather here has got me questioning how I survived in the Houston heat and humidity all these years. It’s also quite exhilarating to have a Trader Joe’s at every street corner, as opposed to the only one that opened in Houston. And food, of course it goes back to food, is so much more diverse and healthy and cultural here. I live within walking distance of Thai Town and Little Armenia, where I can easily access authentic duck boat noodles and steaming kebabs at my fingertips. Not to mention the 200+ Korean restaurants that are 4 miles away in K-town, the Mexican taco stands that pop up during lunch time in every corner, and the plethora of cute brunch places that have patio seating! Outdoor seating in the summer? That is utterly unheard of in Houston, but can be enjoyed year round in the City of Angels.

Beyond transitioning to life in LA, what is much more momentous is transitioning to life in residency. Truth be told, I’ve only done two shifts so far, but it already feels like I’ve worked for months at this hospital and have been stretched in numerous dimensions. With these 12-15 hour days and only 1 day off per week, my work time has never lasted as long as now.  Nor have I had to multitask as much as I have to now, admitting new patients while responding to frantic pages from nurses and getting sign-outs from the emergency room and documenting a note on the computer all at once. I’ve never carried so many items on my body all once: several pagers, a hospital phone, a cell phone, a badge, 3 pens clipped to my badge, a stethoscope and stacks of paper stuffed into my back pocket. My patience and nerves have been tested to their limits with the fast paced workflow in the morning, having to think on the spot when my patients desaturate and decompensate before my eyes, and fumbling with a foreign electronic record system.

In the midst of it all, I’m grateful to have had a few precious moments with my patients which have kept me going. That time when I took twenty minutes to answer questions for an anxious mother and aunt who want to get to the bottom of their baby’s disease process and outlook, seeing her furrowed eyebrows gradually smoothen as the mistrust on her face melts away to that of relief, that time when I comforted a boy who was having an episode of severe abdominal spasm and put my hands on the mom’s shoulder who stood anxiously by his side, that time when I sat next to a teenage boy and listened to his disjointed story of all the hardship he goes through at school and the fears welling inside him. Each time when I come away from these experiences, I am humbled by the privileges and trust endowed to me by these complete strangers, my patients who have allowed me to share in their sufferings and their healing. My tense body relaxes for a moment, my to-do list fades away, and I am reminded of why I came into this profession, the sacredness and enormity of it all.

short rib bourguignon2

Short rib Bourguignon

So today’s recipe that I am introducing is a challenging one, to mirror the challenges I’ve recently had to adjust to. But the rewards of this beef rib bourguignon is immensely satisfying. It’s one of the most tender and juicy meat I’ve ever braised, full of herbs and aromatic vegetables. Get ready to lounge around the kitchen for 4 hours on a Sunday afternoon and simmer away!

short rib bourguignon3

Short Rib Bourguignon

  • Servings: 5
  • Difficulty: difficult
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • beef short ribs, 3 lbs, bone in
  • 4 carrots cut into 1 inch rounds
  • 3 carrots diced into small pieces
  • 3 celery diced
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • 500ml dry red wine (1/2 bottle)
  • 5 cups beef stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 stick of butter
  • a bunch of thyme sprigs
  • 3-5 bay leafs
  • 1 lb button mushrooms, sliced 1/2 inch thick

Thaw the ribs and season with salt and pepper for 2 hours. Pat ribs dry. In a large cast iron skillet, sear the ribs in butter so that it’s browned on all sides, takes around 15 minutes. Place the ribs in a separate bowl for later use.

Reduce heat to medium and add diced carrots, celery and onions to the cast iron skillet and cook until softened, for 8 minutes.

Add red wine, beef stock, thyme and bay leaf, and add ribs back into skillet. Bring the skillet to a simmer and cover with lid, cook for 3.5 hours. At the end, meat should be very tender, and the mirepoix should be mostly dissolved. Alternatively, you can braise the meat in the oven for 3.5 hours to the same effect.

Strain out the liquid so you are left with ribs, discard the solid mirepoix.

Wipe out the cast iron skillet and saute mushrooms over medium heat and canola oil until golden. This takes around 5 minutes. Add mushroom to the meat in a separate bowl.

In the cast iron skillet, add carrot rounds and braising liquid and simmer over 10 minutes until carrots are somewhat softened and liquid is reduced by one third.

Add ribs and mushrooms back to skillet and simmer until liquid is reduced by another one third. Season as needed with salt and pepper.