Black Pepper Tofu

January 12, 2013 § 3 Comments

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It is currently only the 10th day of 2013, which means that I am still fulfilling most of my New Year’s resolutions. What are some of your New Year’s resolutions? One of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat a healthy dinner every night, instead of something filling but nutritionally unbalanced, like a giant bowl of chocolate ice cream with sprinkles…although that does sound nice. In my defense, my best friend, who is very intelligent, says that if I eat a banana with a bowl of ice cream, the banana will cancel out all the sugar and fat.

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This black pepper tofu dish is my idea of a perfect weeknight dinner, since it is easy, quick, and cheap to make. This is my idea of comfort food, and you won’t feel weighed down afterwards. Serve it on top of some jasmine rice with some steamed bok choy, and it makes a wonderfully balanced and flavorful meal. It has a kick from both black pepper and red hot peppers, all smoothed out by the subtle sweetness of garlic, ginger, shallots, and leeks.

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I typically crush the black peppercorns and make the sauce with a mortar and pestle. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, I have attempted to make this sauce by crushing the peppercorns with the back of my cleaver, but that ended up with an awful amount of time chasing the peppercorns rolling around the kitchen. If you do not enjoy aerobic exercise while you cook, you can simply grind the peppercorns in a pepper grinder and then mix in the rest of the ingredients.

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I just warn you though, this dish is good for every night except for a date night. You will end up with pepper bits all up in your teeth, and your breath will smell like garlic… « Read the rest of this entry »

Blood Orange Chocolate Muffins

January 3, 2013 § 8 Comments

Do you want to hear a joke. Of course you do.
Q: What did the apple say to the orange after its rind was cut off?
A: What a pith-y!

Orange you glad you heard that joke? hahahahahahahaha! I am sometimes surprised that my friends have not all left me from the terrible-ness of my puns.

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Sometimes I daydream about being a robot, because then I would be of utmost efficiency and never waste precious time. Robot Wanda would be entirely systematic and would not endlessly forget where she put her keys or the TV remote. Robot Wanda would always remember to fertilize and water her bonsai tree, Maximilian. The 24 hours in a day would seem like 36 hours because of the increased productivity!

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Where was I going with all of this? Oh yes. Efficiency. Productivity. Streamline. This is my New Year’s resolution: to be Robot Wanda 2013, with 4x efficiency! Sometimes people tell me how efficient I already am, and then I smile, because what they perceive as efficiency is actually just laziness. I aspire to spend as little time as possible doing things I dislike (laziness/efficiency) in order to do things I do like doing, like updating my blog.

The first step to streamlining my life is to make breakfast more easily accessible. You see, as much as I love and respect breakfast, I am usually a sludge-like monster in the morning. I allot myself exactly fifteen minutes to wake up and get out the door every morning, so I am quite impressed if I manage to get dressed and gosh, I feel like awarding myself a fancy blue ribbon if I remember to brush my hair in the morning. So as you can see, these rushed fifteen minutes do not leave much time for breakfast. Skipping breakfast can often lead to decreased levels of concentration for me, since I will incessantly think about lunch instead of work.

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What’s the solution? On one day of the week when you have extra time, make a healthy breakfast for yourself that will last all week. My breakfast solution has been blood orange chocolate muffins. These are beautiful jewel toned wonders are a breakfast that you will love waking up to. You can freeze the ones that you will not eat right away.

To prepare the blood oranges for baking, you should cut off ALL of the rind and pith from the oranges because the cooking will make the essential oils taste extra bitter, and you don’t want to be biting into your muffin and getting a bitter chunk. Remember also to remove the white fibers from the center of the orange. There should be no white stuff remaining when you are done. You also can remove all the white stuff painstakingly by hand, but I just like to slice it off with my cleaver. The trick is to rest the knife edge where the pith meets the flesh of the orange, then use a back and forth sawing motion while rotating your knife to follow the curve of the orange. It’s much quicker and neater.

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I love these muffins because the blood orange chunks in them are a surprising filling rather than plain blueberry or raisin muffins. The little blood orange chunks will burst with juice, making your muffins wonderfully fragrant, and the chocolate will balance out the slight bitterness of the oranges. Blood oranges are in season right now, and we all know that in season fruits means cheapcheapcheap. I found these wonderful organic blood oranges for only $1.50/pound.

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If you’ve ever wondered why blood oranges are red, it is because of the large amount of anthocyanins in them. Anthocyanins are pigment molecules that are found in many plants, but they are especially abundant in blood oranges, raspberries, and cranberries. Besides contributing their vibrant color, anthocyanins are also potent antioxidants, so they will scavenge and fight free radicals in your body for you, which is correlated with a lower incidence of neurological disease and reduced aging. Now THAT is what I call a useful, and more importantly, efficient breakfast!

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Jicama Gado-Gado

December 25, 2012 § 6 Comments

Happy holidays, everyone!

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This holiday has been so peaceful for me, spending some nice relaxing time with my mom and boyfriend while it is pouring outside. The rain is fantastic because 1) I have an excuse to lounge around indoors and update my blog and 2) I have an excuse not to rake those leaves that my mom thinks I should rake! Happy holidays to me, indeed.

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I think holidays should be about sharing food and laughs with family and friends, but since most of my family is spread far across the world, I wanted to share a recipe with everyone. That way, anyone can pretend that they are spending Christmas with me, just by making this recipe!

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Mr. Jicama about to be butchered

Gado-gado is an Indonesian dish traditionally made with vegetables, fried tofu, tempeh, dried shrimp, eggs, steamed potatoes, and a peanut sauce, but I decided to veganize and California-ize this dish. It’s an extremely flexible dish that I encourage you to play with, and you can make this recipe out of old vegetable or protein in your fridge. (Unless you are serving it to an Indonesian person, in which case, I take no credit for bastardizing their dish…) Raw zucchini, roasted eggplant, and summer tomatoes are just a few ingredients that would go wonderfully with this salad. If you’re allergic to peanuts, feel free to make this with roasted walnut butter or roasted almond butter, and sprinkle some roasted cashews on top. It’s also gluten free as long as you make sure to use a wheat free soy sauce. Nothing says Christmas in California better than cool, slightly sweet jicama, warm slightly seared and crusty tofu, toasted walnuts, and a peanut sauce with a kick.

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Also, this recipe can be made with nothing more than a good sharp knife, a bowl, and a fork, so clean-up is a breeze. For those of you unfamiliar with watching a lot of Food Network, this recipe requires you to julienne the jicama and the carrots, which is just a fancy word for, “Cut into long thin strips.” This creates a large surface area for the vegetables to get coated with sauce and looks aesthetically pleasing, but if your knife skills are not up to the challenge, this salad will taste equally good in block shapes.

The jicama is a little unwieldy, so first chop off both the pointed ends, then slice in half vertically. I then find it easiest to peel the jicama by slicing off the skin with a knife rather than with a vegetable peeler because jicama is so fibrous that it clogs my vegetable peeler up. Then slice the jicama into thin half moons, then slice into sticks. Also, another quick tip: buy a small jicama, or else you will have so much julienned jicama you won’t know what to do with it. I bought a medium sized jicama and I had jicama for dinner, breakfast, and lunch, and there is still more jicama in the fridge. Another awesome tip: you can cut up the jicama way ahead of time because it does not brown after cutting it. I have left it in my fridge for two days and it still has not browned.

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Half moons of jicama, about to be cut into thin strips

Some people wonder how to get their tofu to have a nice crust on it without subjecting themselves to the horror of at-home deep frying. A lot of people complain that their tofu sticks to their pan, especially if they are not using a non-stick pan. Never fear, with my technique, you can get seared tofu with even a cast iron pan that has been treated badly!

First, get some firm or extra-firm tofu. Anything else will dissolve into globlets of unhappiness when you try to fry it. Next, cut open the box and slice the tofu into slices about 1/2″ thick. Lay them out on a paper towel, sprinkle salt over them, cover with more paper towel, and wait for 10 minutes. The salt is important; it draws out the extra water through osmosis! The point of this is to prevent the tofu from being overly wet when you place it in the pan, because then you run the risk of the tofu slowly boiling in its own juices rather than searing and forming a nice crust. After your tofu is nice and dry, heat your pan to medium-high, pour 1-2 tablespoons of neutral oil on the bottom, and WAIT UNTIL YOUR PAN IS HOT, then put the tofu in the pan. Each side should take about 2-3 minutes. Ta-da!

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The Best Noodle Soup!

August 22, 2012 § 4 Comments

Sometimes in the summer, I get a little jealous of people who live in cities besides San Francisco. Summer does not actually exist in San Francisco; case in point, today I wore long pants and a trench coat, and I still felt chilly. It was so foggy, I think I got rained on from the condensation of the fog. It is so foggy in San Francisco that I believe I would bet a cookie that foghorns were invented here. It is like I’m constantly in the mysterious portion of a movie where the main character walks through a creepy fog, but instead of finding a last unicorn I just walk into sewers that smell very very dank.

But San Francisco is a great city beyond that! Some positives about this place? You can wear the same outfit all year round because it is always foggy! Also, if you are pale (not me), you won’t get sunburned. You never have to rake your snow! (Is it called raking snow? You can tell I’ve lived in the Bay Area for too long if I don’t know how to put the snow away.)

Also, there’s no need to ever work out for that swimsuit body because the beaches are so damned cold no one can go swimming anyways! Yay!

And best of all, it is always the season for a hot piping bowl of noodles in delicious brothy goodness. Yum yum. It gets so chilly throughout the day and then the chill settles into your bones, and all you can think of is a giant bowl of noodles. Then that first waft of noodles starts steaming away all your troubles and all your chills and everything is perfect again.

My noodle soup is made from ingredients readily available in any kitchen, but feel free to substitute anything in it! Soup is meant to be a mish-mash of ingredients anyways, and if the soup starts tasting a little “muddy” from too many flavors and ingredients going on, just add a little fresh tomato or a splash of lime juice.

I like starting this broth with just a little bit of fresh tomato to give it some pizazz and spark, and then adding a bunch of savory items like mushrooms and onions and garlic, then finally some color on top with some fresh vegetables. This is also great because it’s a one-pot dish, and it’s gluten free as long as you use rice noodles (rather than udon or regular wheat noodles). This is a yummy lunch or dinner, and it is extremely filling. If you need a little extra protein, you can drizzle a little unsweetened soymilk (trust me, it’s a weird technique, but it works), or just add some slices of grilled tofu on top.

For the rest of the world who doesn’t live in cold-as-nipples-on-an-icecube summertime, just save this noodle soup recipe for when you or a loved one has a cold. I promise it will make all your worries go away.

Oh wait, before the recipe, this is my 50th recipe on this blog! Yayyyyy! I can’t believe it’s been so long, but I really love creating each post, and I love everyone who comments and reads this blog as well.

To celebrate the 50th recipe of this blog, I want to tell you that I will be writing a food book with one of my best friends Anna over the next year! (If I don’t announce it in a public forum, I’ll never do it…) Anna recently graduated from a prestigious art school, and as an artist, one theme that she explores is the intersection between memories, food, and culture. You should really check out her website; her art is at once playful and evocative and utterly beautiful. We still have no idea what we will be writing about, or how it should be done, but we’re open to ideas. Tell me about your ideas for this wonderful food book we should create.

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Raw Corn, Avocado, & Heirloom Tomato Salad

August 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

Growing up, I never had soda or a Whopper or even fries. My uber health conscious mother banned me from ever eating fast food and discouraged me from eating sweets. To her, dessert is a fruit platter, or 1/6 of a cheesecake slice, and dinner is a steamed fish with rice and vegetables.


This ran in direct opposition to my father, who simply loved to eat for the sake of it. He attributes it to the fact that he was always starving when he was growing up, so when he finally came to America, he couldn’t help himself when he was surrounded by food so cheap and plentiful and delicious. When my mother wasn’t looking, he would sneak us a whole duck and the two of us would finish it before she saw it, chomping through the entire one-fourth of an inch of pure duck fat. One of my favorite recipes of his involved putting an entire chicken into a rice cooker, along with a package of “chicken powder”.

Only later did I realize that the package of powder that I was sprinkling all over the chicken was pure MSG! His health objectives were…questionable, to say the least. in any case, it was a good thing that I inherited his iron stomach and metabolism like a hyper black hole.

I have always thought my mother’s eating habits to be a little too health conscious, for what can a brownie once in a while really do? You would think they were menacing terrorists the way she speaks of brownies. But maybe her habits hold some truth. In the past month, I have gotten sick for the first time in a while, and I have been feeling tired and sluggish. And what did I have for dinner that week? Curly fries, and Chipotle burritos, and then more curly fries…

So! This upcoming week I have decided to be extremely healthy. Some of you might be wondering what could possibly be healthier than veganism. What does a vegan person eat when they want to be a healthier? They transition to RAW food. Instead of Wanda, I will be RAWda! (say that last line with an ominous rumble in your throat.)


For those of you unfamiliar to raw diets, some foodists believe that the healthiest way to eat your food is to eat them without heating them up. That way, the vitamins and antioxidants and other health benefits in your food don’t get degraded or washed away in the cooking process.

Now I am not sure that I fully buy into that argument, but there are some great things about a raw diet. Raw food does make you feel healthier, like you are some sort of yoga junkie except you don’t even have to exercise! Also, raw food is mostly gluten free, so you can share with all your gluten free friends. You also don’t have to cook, and as much as I love cooking, I do admit there are nights when I am too lazy to cook. « Read the rest of this entry »

Poutine

May 19, 2012 § 3 Comments

Do you know what poutine is? It is a Canadian specialty borne out of heaven. I had never heard of poutine before, until the moment that the blaring lights of a Food Network special (hey, a girl has to have a couple of guilty pleasures, right?) showed the hot, oil-drenched spuds in a pretty basket, and then a man spooned gravy and melty cheese all over the fries…
Now, keeping in mind that I was then currently being buried alive in work, and had subsisted a week on fruit and drinking out of soymilk cartons, after I watched this Food Network special on poutine, I realized that I had never wanted anything more in my entire life. I needed fries and gravy and cheese and all that heart stopping grease in my life.
I would have driven to Canada, this craving was so bad. I didn’t have a car though. Everyone else I knew didn’t want to drive me to Canada for poutine because apparently they had work or school or finals or excuse generating robots. Also, I was mildly sure that the television poutine was not vegan.
Perturbed, yet not defeated, I set my course of action. I was destined for this wondrous Canadian delicacy! I was to make the best vegan poutine of all time. I would make it with the best potatoes out there, with some rich mushroom gravy, and then top them with some Daiya cheese. My French friend, Marlon, helped me out because who better to make French fries than a Frenchman? He also has the same predilection for doing long drawn out activities when deadlines are approaching.
When the vegan poutine was made, we sat out on the sunny porch and ate our cardiac arrest inducing breakfast. Halfway through, we realized our vital mistake! Poutine is a Canadian specialty because they need all that fat and carbohydrates to keep warm. Eating poutine on a sweltering day in America for breakfast makes you feel at once opulent and sluggish and in dire need of a nap. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. « Read the rest of this entry »

Black Sesame Ice Cream

April 30, 2012 § 15 Comments

Ah, the end of April, the season of balmy weather, other people telling you that you should throw out your Christmas tree, and ice cream! Everybody loves ice cream, even chimpanzees; I was reading an article called, “Vocal and Gestural Responses of Cross-Fostered Chimpanzees” by Drumm, Gardner, & Gardner, which talks about how researchers taught chimpanzees sign language. The researchers then signed the chimpanzees the question, “You want ice cream?” One of them, Dar, signed back, “Ice cream hurry gimme,” while the other, Tatu, signed back, “Ice cream ice cream ice cream ice cream ice cream.” Completely adorable, right?

Adhering to tradition, all ice cream posts on Thursdays with Wanda should be accompanied by a short story. Today’s short story is about a zebra.

Zed the Zebra

Once upon a time, there was a zebra named Zed. When he was a small colt, a ravishingly hungry lion named Ryan came by and ate his entire herd family. However, by the time it was Zed’s turn to be eaten, Ryan felt a little bloated and decided to keep Zed as a pet.

Zed the zebra

As Zed grew up, Ryan became a little bored with life on the plains, as it was as plain as could be! He decided to become a concert pianist, but, as all of you know, there are no wild pianos to be found in the plains. What’s a pianist to do without a piano? Ryan thought, and all this hard thinking made him squint in frustration. And the more he squinted, the more Zed the zebra started to look just like a piano!

Ryan raised a pointed claw at Zed’s sides, and stabbed at a black stripe, and Zed said, “hee-haw!” from the pain of it. Ryan was so pleased that his zebra piano actually made noise (although far from being in tune), and vowed to become the best pianist in the plains. He soon learned to play Fur Elise on Zed, of which the first few notes sounded a bit like “hee haw haawwww heeeee.”

Sadly horrified to be mistaken as a piano, Zed the zebra sobbed himself to sleep that night. A dream came to him, and in his dream there was an old Chinese woman who told him that black sesame seeds make your hair blacker.

Zed excitedly woke up and promptly made himself some black sesame ice cream. He ate the entire batch of ice cream, and went to a nearby lake to check out his reflection. What he saw was this:

Ryan looked around all over the plains and never found his piano-zebra again. He had to give up his dreams of being a concert pianist, like many prospective concert pianists do.

But you don’t have to give up your dreams of eating black sesame ice cream, because I have the recipe right here! If you’ve never sampled the delicate flavor of black sesame before, it might strike you as a bit strange at first, and then strangely addicting.

When my friend Daniele tried it, I told him to guess what flavor he was eating. He said, “smoked? burnt? um….concrete?” While those might not seem like raving reviews for my ice cream, he kept asking for more and more samples, until he had an entire scoop’s worth, so that must mean it’s delicious.

Oh, and aren’t these photos so pretty now? I finally bought myself a good camera off Craigslist. It was super shady, I met this guy at a train station and he sold it to me out of the back of his trunk…

Black sesame powder

Black Sesame Ice Cream
serves 4 | prep time: 15 minutes | ready in:  4 hours
This is a super easy and raw recipe that will seem simple to even the greenest of cooks! Black sesame is thought to be very good for you and to make your hair blacker. I eat a lot of black sesame, and I have black hair, so it must be true.

Ingredients
–  2 cups black sesame powder*
– 2 cans (14 oz each) full fat coconut milk
– 1/3 cup sugar (you can add more if you like your ice cream to be sweeter)

1. Mix all the ingredients together. Put in the fridge for 2 hours, or until noticeably cold when you stick your finger in.
2. Dump it into your ice cream maker, and follow your ice cream maker’s directions. Scoop the ice cream maker into another tub and freeze for another 2 hours, then enjoy!

*If you don’t have access to black sesame powder, which you can buy at your local Asian grocery store, take some regular black sesame seeds and grind it up in your food processor. About 1 1/2 cups of black sesame seeds will yield 2  cups of black sesame powder.

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