Friday, July 31, 2015

The Carpenter

Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.

Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I 'm looking for a few days' work," he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?"

"Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor. In fact, it's my younger brother! Last week there was a meadow between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us.  Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence an 8-foot fence -- so I won't need to see his place or his face anymore."

The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you."

The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day -- measuring, sawing and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job.

The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all.  

It was a bridge .. A bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all! And the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward them, his hand outstretched..

"You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done."

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in middle, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder.

"No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother.

"I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but I have many more bridges to build.

Remember This ...     

God won't ask what kind of car you drove, but He'll ask how many people you helped get where they needed to go.

God won't ask the square footage of your house, but He'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

God won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet, butHe'll ask how many you helped to clothe. 

God won't ask how many friends you had, but He'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived, but He'll ask how you treated your neighbors.

God won't ask about the color of your skin, but He'll ask about the content of your character.

God won't ask why it took you so long to seek Salvation, but He'll  lovingly take you to your mansion in Heaven, and not to the gates of hell. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Vietnamese Zucchini Chicken Salad

I love salad.  The Vietnamese cuisine has many interesting recipes for salads. Most of them are made with fruits, such as mango, pomelo, watermelon and vegetables like green beans, kohlrabi, and winter squash. I am quite surprised that zucchini is not in the list of healthy Vietnamese salads. For that, I feel compelled to create this summer healthy recipe using the chicken and zucchini. Do not be discouraged by the long list of the ingredients because all of them are easy to find. The spiral pasta machine makes this salad look wonderful, but just wait until serving this salad to friends, it will receive many oohs and ahs.

Salad ingredients:
1/2 lb. zucchini or about 2 zucchini
1/2 English cucumber, julienned
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
Chicken ingredients:
1/2 lb. chicken breasts and thighs
2 inches ginger, peeled and sliced
1/2 white onion, peeled
1 shallot, peeled
2 green onions, cut into 3 inch lengths
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chicken seasoning
4 cups water
Dressing ingredients:
1/2 cup Vietnamese dipping sauce*
1 tbs white rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 shallot, minced
1 tbs salad oil
1 tbs lime juice
1 or 2 Thai hot chilies, sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil, julienned
1/4 cup roasted chopped peanuts and sesame seeds

Cut of the ends off the zucchini and cut zucchini in half or challenge yourself to cut whole zucchini.

 Use a spiral pasta machine to shred zucchini.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tbs peanut oil. Drop the zucchini into hot boiling water in 1 minute.

Quickly drain zucchini in cold ice water to stop the cooking. Drain the zucchini in a sieve. Use some paper towels to help dry most of water. Combine zucchini and cucumber in a bowl and place in the refrigerator while making the other parts of the salad.

Making the chicken portion:
Place ginger, onion, and shallot into a baking dish and bake in a preheated oven set to 350° for 20 minutes.

In a small soup pot, add 4 cups of water. Add baked onion, ginger, shallot, green onions, salt, and chicken seasoning.

Bring to boil. Add chicken, and bring back to boil. Skim off any residue floating to the surface.

Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Then cover the pot. Turn off the heat and let chicken cook for 20 minutes more in a hot broth.
Remove chicken from the hot broth. Place chicken in cold water to prevent chicken from loosing color.

When chicken cools, tear chicken into pieces with your hands and set aside.
In a small bowl, add 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp sugar and 1/8 tsp black pepper. Whisk well and add red onions. Let onions soak in vinegar for 30 minutes then squeeze out the vinegar.

To make dressing:
Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar with lid and shake well.

To serve:
On a serving plate, place the zucchini and cucumber combination and top with chicken and red onions. Pour dressing on top. Sprinkle with roasted peanuts,sesame seeds, and julienned basil. Serve more dressing on the side.


To make Vietnamese dipping sauce:
2 cups hot water
1/2 cup  fish sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/ tsp salt
1/4 cup vinegar
Combine well all ingredients in a glass jar with lid. Refrigerate for other Vietnamese salad recipes or making a dipping sauce for egg rolls, spring rolls, etc. This sauce will keep long in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Spicy Little Fried Cassava Cakes ---Vietnamese Hush Puppies

Bánh cay is a snack that I enjoyed very much in Vietnam. This small spicy cake made of fresh cassava is similar to the Western snack, Hush Puppies. Cassava is peeled and soaked in water overnight so the poison in cassava is released in the water overnight. I think that if we do not try to consume this snack all the time, then this method is not necessary. In the diaspora of Vietnamese and Koreans in America, supermarkets are selling cassava packages that are already shredded in the frozen form. Because current modern life is rushed and busy, the processed manioc (cassava) is convenient and very tasty for housewives. Although this fried food snack is delicious to taste, I try not eating Bánh cay so often. My recipe is very tractable and can use either packaged frozen manioc or fresh cassava roots. The packaged frozen cassava is 16 oz, and one small to medium fresh cassava after peeling and shredding is about 8 to 10 oz. Because the quantity of spice ingredients for this recipe is for fresh cassava, adjust the quantity of spices according to the amount of fresh or frozen cassava used. On a cool autumn day, this snack is a wonderful choice to make and share with friends and family over a cup of hot coffee or tea. What Heaven!!

1 fresh cassava, peeled, washed 
2 tbs Korean frying mix
1 tsp turmeric or curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chili flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne
3 green onions, the green part only, chopped
2 cups peanut oil for deep frying

In a mini food processor, add cut cassava and press the chop button. Process until all cassava is a fine coarse.
Combine the cassava with the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

 Wash hands and place a small amount of the cassava in palm of your hand. Use a soup spoon to mold this little cake into whatever shape that you like but not bigger than 1 ½ to 2 inch lengths.

Heat oil in a sauté pan and start frying the cake. Do not let the oil become too hot because it will burn the cake.

Fry these cakes over medium heat until golden brown. Remove with a slot spoon and enjoy.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Empty White Pages

One late afternoon on the coastal wilderness, when sunset finally happened, a young girl was walking barefoot alone on the sand. She stopped, turned to look back with the intention to review her footprints left in the sand. But nothing remained after the wave erased them. She was about to go on, but as soon as she had just turned around, she was startled because the image now in front of her was a burning fire alongside which was an old woman who sat wrapped in a blanket and was slowly flipping through a book. She calmly tried to approach the woman and asked,: "Where did you come from? Only moments ago, I did not see you. How did you start this fire so quickly?” With a voice slow and clear, the old lady spoke without answering the girl's questions, "Sit down with me, girl. I have something for you to see". The girl sat down by the fire and was handed book from the old hands of the mysterious stranger. The girl curiously flipped through the book and was stunned when she read words that were written about her entire life which included everything that happened to her since birth until that moment. She read all the pages about strange encounters between her and the old lady by the fire on that quiet beach. When she flipped to the next page, it was only blank white paper. She hurriedly searched through the remaining pages, but they were also completely empty white pages that did not contain a single word. Extremely confused, with her eyes seeking help, she begs the old woman, “Does this mean that my life will end here, right now?” “No, daughter! It means that from tonight, your new life begins.” At that moment, the old woman took the book and started tearing out pages beginning from the first page of text about the girl’s life since birth and tossed them into the flames until they became ashes. The old lady burned the remaining pages that contain the words which the girl had read. When finished, she gave the girl the rest of the book that now contain only blank white pages. “You see”, the old lady said, “The wave has erased your footprints in the sand. Your past will never come back, never. Only the present is real. Every present moment is a beginning of your life, and the life which you should hold. There is no comeback for every moment a second time. More importantly, each new day brings you a chance to love, to live, and opportunities that never come back a second time. The future of you is that you are free to choose according to the dreams of yours. And over the remainder of these now blank white pages, the main figure who will write the words to fill the pages about your life is you. Then, just as suddenly as she appeared, the old woman disappeared in the fire and darkness.

Your life and mine are the same as the other girls and everyone - the past is what we wrote in the sand, and the waves will erase it all. What are the key events that we will write today, at this present moment, on the blank white paper. Begin now begin writing something here, now, for your own lives.

Translated from the Internet


Chicken Patties with Apples & Herbs

Sausages for breakfast always sound good to me. If people ask me what I like most about hotels, it is the breakfasts that are served in the morning. A hot cup of coffee, croissants, bagels, and sausages are my favorite American eye opening menu items. However, most of the sausages use pork with quite a lot of fat that make them tasty.  I love sausages, but I had not yet made any from scratch until a few weeks ago when I decided to buy a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer. I liked it immediately and started making some chicken ground meat. The first recipe that came to mind was making chicken sausage, and here it is right now.  I like to add apple and different kinds of herbs because my herb garden is doing well this year. The apple adds natural sweetness, and it made me decide to add some maple syrup into this recipe. Smoked paprika and garlic give this sausage a little kick. This is an easy recipe to create healthy sausages at home.

1 lb. ground chicken
1 Granny Smith apple
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sausage mix
1 chicken powder seasoning
2 tbs maple syrup
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp each of these chopped fresh herbs: sage, thyme, parsley and marjoram

Peel, core, and chop the apple to fine.

In a sauté pan, add 1 tsp of oil. Add garlic, onions and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add apple and cook for 5 minutes or until apple has wilted.

In a mixing bowl, combine cooked apple and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Adjust the seasoning to your liking.

Form all the chicken mixture into 10 to12 patties approximately 3 inches in diameter and ½ inch thick (if not cooking and serving all the patties immediately, wrap each uncooked patty in plastic wrap, put into a Ziploc bag, and store in the freezer until needed. Patties freeze well).

To cook sausage patties:
Place patties on a hot grill or in a pan with some oil and fry sausage patties 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Top with some cheese (your choice), if desired. Serve with bagel, toast, or by themselves.

Pork Belly with Sticky Rice

I am preparing some Vietnamese soul food dishes for my mother to enjoy when she visits me here next month. I said soul food because it is hard even try to translate the word precisely into English.  I believe that most of the Vietnamese dishes made the traditional way of cooking are not easy to please most Westerners’ tastes even though they are delicious. Almost all the dishes that I have introduced on my blog have been created in a fast form of fusion cuisine.  However, my mother at age 87 should not worry or be concerned about her waistline or only eat the dishes containing lean sources of protein. So, I am trying to replicate something that my mom used to make for me when I was a kid, "Thịt heo ram", which is very popular dish from Da Nang, one of the big cities in the central part of Vietnam. The method of making this dish is cooked almost like "thit heo hon”, a dish from Hue, only without using peanuts. I do not like to eat most meat, especially pork or beef, but I want to use some this time to share a little experience of making a true soul food of Vietnam, thus adding to the large volume of the recipes out there on the Internet.  I went through a few websites to verify what is in my memory about this recipe . This is the first time I have cooked this dish, but I also hope that this recipe results in a very simple dish that can become a daily dish in every families’ meals.

1 lb. pork belly, washed and cut into ¼ inch thick slices
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, sliced
1 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs turmeric
1 tbs peanut oil
1 cup Coco Rico or coconut water
2 green onions, sliced
Sticky rice ingredients:
2 cups glutinous rice, washed and drained
1 tsp oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 ½ cups water

In a bowl, combine half of the shallots and garlic, sugar, fish sauce, salt, soy sauce, and pepper, and then add pork. Mix well and marinate for a few hours or overnight.
In a heavy pan, add oil and remaining stir-fry shallots and garlic until fragrant. Remove the crispy shallots and garlic Add turmeric.

Turn the heat down and cook for a few minutes without burning the turmeric. Add pork belly and cook until the pork turns a brown color and the fat start releases into the pan.

Add coconut water and taste to season more with fish sauce or salt, if needed. Continue to cook until the coconut water is substantially reduced or the pork is tender.

 Add green onions and make a quick stir. Serve.


To make sticky rice:
Place all the rice ingredients in a rice cooker and press to start. With this recipe the rice is perfect to serve with “thit ram man”.


Easy Upside Down Apple Cake

This is a super easy recipe to make an upside down apple cake.

Cake ingredients:
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup coconut oil or butter, melted and cooled, or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
Topping ingredients:
1 ½ pounds apples, Granny Smith or your choice
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbs butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbs lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease a 9 in. diameter cake pan.

Peel and core apples. Slice apples into 1/4 inch pieces.  Add lemon juice.
In a large sauté pan, add butter and brown sugar. Add apples and cook for 7 minutes. Let cool.

Arrange the apples on the bottom of the cake pan.

Use a stand mixer to beat sugar, eggs, and oil until smooth. Add vanilla and milk. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time to the egg mixture until well mixed.

Pour the batter over the apples.

 Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Invert cake and serve.