Friday, May 20, 2016

Black-Eyed Peas Congee (Chè đậu trắng)

Of the many desserts in Vietnam, the black-eyed peas congee is one of the dishes I enjoyed. Normally, this recipe requires quite a long cooking process due to the part of cooking the black-eyed peas first. Lately, when I discovered that I can use black-eyed peas in a can, it has become heaven for me every time I want to prepare this dessert. Carefully read the label on the black-eyed peas can to ensure there are no spices, just salt and water. Also, I learned making this dessert in a rice cooker is another wonderful shortcut method.  I haven't told all my friends or family members just yet about the shortcut because I would like them to think that I have to spend all day making this dessert. With this simple cooking method, I do not have to stand by the stove and stir constantly to prevent the sweet congee from burning. For this recipe, I believe that the porridge will be very special, and if you do not tell people how you cooked it, they will feel that you are very precious to them.

1/2 cup sweet rice, rinsed and drained
1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
A rice cooker
Coconut cream for the topping and roasted sesame seeds

Place black-eyed peas on the bottom. Then add sugar, sweet rice, and salt and vanilla. 


 If you can find the fresh pandan leaves for this recipe, then omit the vanilla. Put the pandan leaves on top. Add water and close the lid. Turn to cook like making rice. Let it cook. The sweet congee is done when the cooking time is set.

Serve with coconut cream and sprinkle with some roasted sesame seeds.
*To make coconut cream:
 1 cup coconut milk or cream
1/2 cup water
3 tbs sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla (or pandian leaves)
2 tsp cornstarch
Combine all the coconut cream ingredients (If you can get some fresh pandian leaves, they will be better. Just proceed with pandian leaves and omit the vanilla) in a bowl and mix well.

Pour into a saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer for a few minutes or until thickened

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Kale and Quinoa Minestrone

I spent 10 days in California with my family, and I realized that most of my family members are not eating healthy. They are busy at work; meals are not planned well. I am back home now and back to my kitchen with my routine of eating healthy foods. Today, I will introduce a quick healthy soup, which is very easy to prepare. Cool soup in an airtight container can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer up to 6 months. I love to make soup because frozen  soup can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator and warmed up for quick a meal. Kale and quinoa are healthy ingredients as study after study indicates that vegetables and grains will keep weight in check. It is easier to add vegetables into our daily diet.

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
4 cups chopped kale (tough stems removed)
1 can white or northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought
1 tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped fresh thyme, oregano, and parsley*
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Add onions, carrots, and celery.
Cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add garlic, kale and the fresh herbs. Cook and stir for 1 minute.

Stir in quinoa, chicken broth, and marinara sauce. Bring to boil.

Cover with lid ajar. Simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender.
Divide beans in half. Add the mashed beans and the whole beans to the soup.

Simmer for 10 minutes or until soup has slightly thickened. Serve with a piece of bread.


*If fresh herbs are not available, use 1 tbs of dry Italian seasoning.
Sorry for not having a nice photos

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Steamed-Stuffed Eggplants

Fish and seafood are good sources of vitamins A, B6, and B12, which keep the skin, hair, and eyes in good conditions.  Having diet with more fish and vegetables daily will improve red blood cells to develop and the nervous system to function properly. I can go on and on how wonderful it is to have fish and vegetables in the daily diet. The Asian cuisine uses quite often root vegetables, such as squash, bitter melon, cucumber, and eggplant. Usually these foods are cooked in the form of stuffing, then deep-fried, baked, or steamed. The stuffing for these vegetables are either ground meats or fish paste. However, since fish is a good source of vitamins, the stuffing for this recipe should be the fish paste.  It can be made at home or can be bought in Asian grocery stores. This recipe is very easy and healthy with a few ingredients. It does not take long to create and bring a good healthy meal to family and friends.

3 Japanese eggplants
Filling ingredients:
4 oz. fish paste
2 tbs fresh dill, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
Scallion oil ingredients:
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup oil

Wash and cut the eggplants into 8 to 10 equal portions (about 2 inch lengths). Remove some of the center of the eggplant to make a hole in the middle.


In a small bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and mix well.

Stuff the filling into the holes of each eggplant.

Place the stuffed eggplants onto a heatproof dish. Place in a steamer and steam for 20 minutes or until the eggplant is cooked but tender.
Combine the oil and scallion in a small bowl and place in the microwave for 1 minute.
Top the steamed eggplant with scallion oil and serve with Vietnamese dipping sauce.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Ravens and Meaningful Lessons about Life.

There's a Raven that wants to integrate into the human’s world. The humans said to the Raven that his black colored feathers are so unlucky . The Raven suppresses his pain to color his feathers into a white plumage. The humans liked the Raven's white plumage until it spoke when they realized that it was still the bad luck black Raven and chased it away. The humans said to the Raven that his voice unfortunately was ominous, and the Ravens swallowed doses of mercury to change his voice. But the Raven did not know whether or not it has tried it is, when people know it is the Raven, they will chase it away. The Raven asked God why it tried everything, but people still did not accept it. Is there anything else that he must do? God answered the Raven did not need to change himself but the PREJUDICE OF HUMANS. Once humans refuse to change their way of thinking, then it would be impossible to accept the Raven. A Raven to them forever is not good. The question is when a Raven tries to turn itself into a human, is it no longer a Raven anymore? Also, when the Raven returns to its own community, will the white Raven with a clear voice still be acceptable there?

People often feel the need to change in order to satisfy everyone. But, if you change yourself, will others change their prejudices about you?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Vietnamese Mango Shrimp Salad

In Asian cuisines, the salad is a combination of sweet and spicy. Mango salad is very tropical and a popular snack sold on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand or Saigon, Vietnam. With many salads that I grew up with and loved, Mango salad is one of my favorites. In Vietnam, we use a really green mango, called Soai Tuong, but I seldom see this kind of green mango in Asian groceries in America. However, the other kind of green mango that is often used in Mexican or Donica recipes can be substituted. The Thai mango shrimp salad and the Vietnamese green mango salad share the same dressing. The components of the dressing that are included are the Thai hot chili, garlic, and fish sauce. Some mango recipes use shrimp paste to add the pungent taste in the salad. I am not fond of this paste, so I leave it out. The carrot and red bell pepper is used to create the contrast color for the salad.

½ lb. shrimp (with shell on)
2 tbs dried shrimp, soaked in water and roughly chopped
2 mangoes, peeled and shredded
1 small carrot, julienned
1/2 cup red bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced red onions
Dressing ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut water
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs fish sauce
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbs rice vinegar
2 tbs lemon or lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Thai chili, sliced

Chopped mints, cilantro, and basil
Crispy shallots
Chopped roasted peanuts

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
To poach shrimp:
In a saucepan, add 1 cup water with a few pieces of lemongrass, sliced onions, 1/4 cup sake or wine, 1 tsp salt, and lemon zest. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add shrimp and simmer shrimp until the shrimp turn pink or become a C shape. Remove and shell the shrimp.

To make crispy shallots:
Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a saucepan. Peel and slice one large shallot and add to the hot oil. Turn the heat down and fry until crispy (it takes 10 to 15 minutes). Remove the crispy shallot and save the flavored oil for other dishes..

In a small nonstick frying pan, add 1 tsp of the flavored shallot oil. Add the chopped dried shrimp with 1 tsp soy sauce and 1/4 tsp sugar and salt..  Stir-fry for a few minutes; remove from heat.

Assembling the salad:
In a mixing bowl, combine mango, carrot, bell pepper, and red onions; Mix well.

To serve:
Place some of the mango mixture on a serving plate. Layer some of the crispy shallots and dried shrimp with the chopped herbs. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Top with cooked shrimp and peanuts. Serve extra dressing on the side.

Baked Tilapia with Sour Cream & Dill Sauce

Whenever time is limited, this recipe comes to the rescue. Just a few healthy ingredients is all that is necessary and dinner will be served. This recipe is very tolerant. Use any fish that is available to you. Bake in a toaster oven, a NuWave oven, or regular oven.

Two 4 oz. tilapia fillets
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbs fresh dill, chopped
1 tbs fresh mint, chopped
2 tbs lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
3 button mushrooms, sliced
 2 tsp avocado oil

2 baking dishes


Combine the sour cream, dill, mint, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and oil. I like to add 1 tsp honey for my taste. Divide the mixture for the two fish and top with mushrooms. Bake in the oven set at 350° for 15 minutes (more or less depending on the make and model of your oven). Enjoy.

Four Spiritual Rules

1. The first rule is: "Anyone whom you meet that is also true is the person you need to see.” This means that no one appears in our lives by accident at all. Everyone around us, with whomever we communicate, represents something – perhaps to teach us something or to help us to improve the current situation.
2. The second rule is: "Whatever happens is exactly what should have happened.” Nothing, absolutely nothing we experience should be different – even the smallest/should happen or the least important thing. Don't do that or if I did that ... otherwise, it would have been different. What has happened is exactly what should happen and must happen to help us learn the lessons to move forward. Any circumstance in life that we face is absolutely perfect, even as it challenges the understanding and our ego.
3. The third rule is: “At every moment, everything starts at the right time.” Everything started at the right time, not earlier or later. When we are ready for it-something new in our life-then it will be there, ready to start.
4 The fourth rule is: "What we have had in the past, is for the past.” This rule is very simple. When something in our lives is over, it means that it is done to help our evolution. That is why, in order to enrich our experience, it’s best that we let go and continue the journey.