Posts tagged asian

our rationale, and mushroom cabbage wraps

2014-08-27 19.32.42

Honestly, any diet that allows me to serve a fruit swimming in a shallow lake of butter and maple syrup or honey is a diet that I can on board with. And I realized that on Tuesday I didn’t really describe WHY we are doing what we’re doing. At the risk of offending anyone, I’ll admit that we aren’t doing what is referred to as the “paleo” or “ancestral” diet, primarily because the science doesn’t convince me, but secondarily because I think the entire thing is pretty illogical. However, the fact is that our diet–like, I think, most Americans’–has revolved around grains and meat. This is natural, considering that grains are a “staple” food–they make up a fairly large percent of, I think, most diets worldwide. But while some people may not have a problem healthily integrating their grains with large amounts of vegetation, we are not those people.

We, like many, can make entire meals out of macaroni and cheese, or bread and a roast chicken. This isn’t because we don’t enjoy vegetables, though. On the contrary, when prepared properly they can be just as enjoyable as grains, and sometimes even more enjoyable on their own. I guess it’s because grains are easy and we’re so habituated to them being a staple, and because preparing grains, meats, and vegetables all deliciously without restoring always to one-pot meals can get exhausting. And finally, we eat far too much refined sugar.

I wanted to make this a change of habits, not just a change of ingredients. If I just swapped out the ingredients, we would no doubt be eating copious amounts of cauliflower “rice,” almond flour, and coconut flour. And let’s be honest, even if those options are healthier, would it really be healthy to have a diet comprised heavily of those items? I doubt it.

As I suggested, there may be a few exceptions to the “no-substitute foods” as time goes on. One is granola, which we are using to top our fruit crisp in the mornings, and which has been made of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pineapple, dates, and coconut flakes. Another is crackers, which I will be making out of lentil and/or chickpea flour. Another is our homemade “Larabars,” since my husband was making a meal out of his Clif bars until now anyway and it’s what works for him. And finally, at some point I will probably dip into the vast pool of grain-free, nut-free bread options, choosing something with as few ingredients as possible (I’m looking at you, sweet potato buns or butternut squash flatbread) to help me conquer those insistent bread snack cravings without messing up what I’m trying to do here…

Which is ultimately to see. Just…to see. If it does anything. If it changes anything.

For day three (of 42):
Breakfast: cup of garlic soup with poached veggies and egg; “baked” apple with maple syrup and butter

Lunch: skipped

Snack: a little of my parents’ leftover chinese food (mostly onions, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms); a half-portion of our leftover pumpkin chipotle chili from last night

Dinner: mushroom cabbage wraps


Mushroom Cabbage Wraps

(serves 2, with some leftover mushroom mixture. might perhaps serve 3 or 4 with additional cabbage leaves. if you don’t have any pre-cooked vegetables, mince or process the same amount of raw veggies, and cook with the onion mixture until softened before adding the mushrooms.)


  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 t fresh ginger, grated
  • ~20 mushrooms (enough to fill a 10-c food processor bowl)
  • 2 c cooked vegetables (we used carrots, celery, radishes, turnip)
  • 1/4 c teriyaki sauce
  • 2 T chile-garlic sauce
  • 1 T soy sauce (or to taste)
  • 2 t sesame oil
  • 2 t rice vinegar
  • 2 t lime juice
  • 1 small cabbage, leafed
  • carrot and daikon pickles, if desired
  • fresh green onion, if desired


  1. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook several minutes, until softened. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.
  2. Meanwhile, add mushrooms to food processor and pulse until chopped finely, about 10-15 one-second pulses. You may have a few mushrooms that stay stubbornly whole–if that happens, remove the chopped mushrooms and re-process the whole ones.
  3. Add mushrooms to saute pan. Stir frequently, cooking until the mushrooms have released their liquid and cooked it off, and are beginning to brown and crisp again.
  4. Meanwhile, add cooked vegetables to the food processor and pulse until chopped, about 2-3 one-second pulses. Add to mushrooms and stir until well combined.
  5. Add remaining ingredients (to taste) into the mushroom vegetable mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until it has reached the taste and texture you desire. It should be wet enough to hold together on a spoon, almost like sloppy joes.
  6. Serve with cabbage leaves for rolling, as well as the carrot and daikon pickles, green onion, or any other garnishes you desire. In the picture I snapped, you can see my husband has helpfully added chicken to his, which you can certainly do (although I prefer pork).

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strawberry-lemonade short ribs

When I was a kid, before my younger brother was born, I remember going to a Chinese restaurant in my hometown.  I actually live within walking distance of this restaurant now, but to my great sadness, it has since closed.  I loved it as an adult because it had cheap lunch specials that were filling and delicious.  I loved it as a kid because of the won-ton soup and the appetizer platter.  I don’t remember everything on the platter, but I remember the crab rangoon, and I remember the skewers of beef that were set on a sizzling iron grate up on top.  Moist, chewy, and very beefy tasting.

I wasn’t expecting these short ribs to taste just like that beef, but it was a very pleasant surprise.  Actually, I decided to make this dish because I had never before seen Korean-cut short ribs at our market, and I really wanted to use them.  New cuts of meat always excite me.  I learned that traditionally, Korean-style short ribs are marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, Asian pear, onion, and a carbonated sweet beverage such as 7-Up.  Apparently I had forgotten to get the pear and soda when I returned to the market, but scrounging around in my kitchen noticed I had an overripe peach and some strawberry lemonade leftover from a party.  Figuring I would be losing an essentially traditional nuance but that a fruit and a sweet drink would more or less do the trick, I did the swap and was very pleased with the results.

Strawberry-Lemonade Short Ribs (2 servings)


  • 1 1/2 lb. korean-style short ribs
  • 1 ripe peach
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/3 c. soy sauce
  • 1 c. strawberry lemonade, or sweet liquid of your choice – traditionally, 7-Up is used
  • 1 tbsp. chili garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh grated ginger or 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger


  • Place short ribs in a glass baking dish.  Grate the onion and the peach over the top, and then add the remaining ingredients.  Give the mixture a little stir on top of the ribs to make sure the ingredients are fairly evenly distributed.  Cover with plastic wrap and marinate overnight – flip short ribs once if you remember.
  • Preheat your grill to high heat.  Remove each short rib from the marinade, allowing excess to drip off, and then set on the grill.  Cook 3-4 minutes on each side.

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crispy honey beef

I first made this recipe over five years ago, and knew it was a keeper from the first bite, all the way through to the rice drenched in sauce that I licked up off the plate.  Literally, I believe I licked the plate the first time I made this.

I’m what you might call “fry-shy.”  In the past when I have fried things, they don’t really come out quite right because my oil is either too hot or too cool.  I also didn’t have a fry thermometer until recently.  I didn’t use it while making these, because I only shallow fried my beef, but for the first time, my pieces actually did come out crispy!  The sauce is easy to toss together while frying the beef, and then the veggies.

You may have sauce left over, and I made a tasty sort of fried rice dish with it, so I’d recommend saving it!

Crispy Honey Beef (serves 2)

I know this is a LOT of sweetener, but the sauce tastes more balanced than you might think.  Try to use a mild honey, otherwise it can overpower the other ingredients.  Or, you can substitute part or all of the honey with white or brown sugar, or agave nectar.


  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 12 oz. sirloin or flank steak, sliced thinly
  • oil for frying (about 1 c. for shallow frying, 4 c. for deep frying)
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. rice wine
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1 tbsp. chili-garlic paste
  • 1-2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small bell pepper, thinly sliced


  1. Heat oil in a medium saute pan.  Meanwhile, whisk cornstarch and salt in a small bowl.  Coat steak slices in cornstarch mixture and fry 5-7 minutes, or until deep golden.  Set aside.
  2. Pour out all but a thin film of oil on the bottom of the pan and add onion and bell pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients.  When the onion and bell pepper are fairly soft, add the sauce and heat until it bubbles.  Add the steak and stir until coated with the sauce.  If the sauce is too thin, adding a cornstarch slurry will thicken it up (stir 1 tsp. cornstarch into 1 tbsp. cold water and add to the mixture; cook 30 seconds and repeat if necessary).
  4. Serve over rice or on a bed of broccoli and green beans, like we did.


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sweet-hot chicken and spinach

This is a recipe.  It is for chicken.  It was tasty.  Also, you can put it together in about a half hour, which is nice.  There’s really not much more to say about it, but if you like kind-of-Asian-inspired cooking, this is for you!

Sweet-Hot Chicken and Spinach (2 servings)

Note: I found that although the sauce ended up being balanced and tasty, the chicken itself was way underseasoned.  Some similar recipes suggest a brief marinade in soy, ginger, and garlic – brining it would get similar results.  Also, I used ginger preserves because they were on hand as a shortcut, but you can use some minced fresh ginger and any sweetener you like (sugar, honey, agave nectar) as a substitute.


For the chicken:

  • 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 c. cornstarch
  • 1/4-1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 tbsp. ginger preserves
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 c. water

For the spinach:

  • 2 c. frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. ginger preserves
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. rice vinegar


  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat chicken in cornstarch.  Shake off the extra and brown on all sides in the oil.  Remove to a plate.  Pour off all oil except just enough to film the pan.  If you have a lot of cornstarch in the oil, as I did, just go ahead and rinse the pan quickly and heat a little extra oil.
  2. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the oil.  Cook a few minutes or until fragrant, and then add the onion and bell pepper.  Cook for five to ten minutes or until soft and browned on the edges.
  3. Meanwhile, heat sesame oil in a separate skillet over medium-low heat (sesame oil has a fairly low smoke point, so you can’t put it over high heat easily).  Add minced garlic and saute until fragrant, then add spinach.  Saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally while you finish the chicken dish.
  4. When onions and bell peppers are ready, add remaining ingredients for chicken and toss until sauce is well-mixed and coating the vegetables.  Add the chicken pieces and toss until coated.  Turn down to warm while you finish the spinach.
  5. Add remaining ingredients to spinach in pan, and toss until liquid has evaporated.

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