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Happy New Year! Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) is the most important holiday for the Chinese people. It is a season for celebration, food, visiting family and friends.

According to the traditional Chinese calendar, this is the year 4710.

As a child growing up in New York City where a few of my relatives from our village in Toy Shan ( a rural town in Guangdong Province) lived, the new year meant endless days of dinners and visits with relatives. Our laundry home was extra clean for the occasion. Plates or bowls of either oranges or tangerines were placed throughout our humble but spotless home . Tangerines are symbolic of good luck, and oranges represent wealth.

On New Year’s Eve my mom made a huge dinner—fish, chicken, seaweed soup, squid, abalone, roasted pig, vermicelli noodles, tofu, various vegetables, and of course rice. The meal had at least 12 to 15 dishes. Each dish was symbolic of the good wishes for the new year. The chicken had to be complete with head, neck, and feet to symbolize completeness. A form of noodles was server to symbolize long life. A whole fish was symbolic of never lacking, you’ll always have since the pronunciation for the word fish in Chinese sounds similar to the pronunciation of the word to have. Enough food was made for the new year’s eve dinner to make sure there would be leftovers, a symbol that you had an abundance of food.

One of the favorite foods for my sister and brothers was a sesame ball my mom and dad made during Chinese New Year. In my Cantonese dialect, Toy Shan, they are called  tee doy. Mom made these for the family and took them to the relatives during our new year’s visits.

I can remember my mom starting the process after the dinner dishes were washed the day before new year’s eve. She liked to make them undisturbed through the night. I can still remember the aroma of hot sweet potato and brown sugar wafting through the cold laundry air as she stirred the mixture over a two burner stove as we slept.

In the morning, we’d awaken to the smell of hot oil and the gentle sizzle of the tee doys cooking, our alarm clock. We were eager to taste these once a year treats.

Mom’s recipe changed through the years. When were children, the filling was crushed peanuts, sweetened shredded coconut, Chinese dried dates, and chunks of pork fat. Our job was to crush the peanuts with a glass bottle that served as our rolling pin. Eventually pork fat was given up for a healthier filling—freshly ground organic Valencia peanut butter and lotus seed paste.

The outer skin, made of glutinous rice flour and Chinese brown sugar, varied with the addition of sweet potato or no sweet potato depending upon its availability. Today I use as much sweet potato as the dough will allow me to increase the nutrition and fiber to these sweet golden jewels. When these are made right, the skin is crispy, thin on the outside and chewy on the inside. The filling is creamy and flavors the neutral glutinous rice flour skin. If crunchy peanut butter is used, there is an added surprise crunch as you chew.

To enhance your enjoyment of the Chinese New Year, may I suggest you complement the celebration with the viewing of my painting, Still Life with Tangerine, Ceramic Pot, and Grape.

新年快乐!(xin nian kuai le) Happy New Year!

Copyright 2009-2010 by Nurturing Wisdom

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Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. The crisp cool air and the array of colors that dance before my eyes is a special treat after the hot summer months of steady green.

It’s a joyous season for gatherings with family and friends to share the season’s bounty of autumn fruits, squashes, and vegetables. It’s a time for cooking together and sharing as the sun sets. I love passing by my neighbors’ houses and enjoying quick glances into their windows as I make my way home each evening!

One of my favorite fruits during this season is freshly picked apples.

Apples are picked in the autumn and may be stored quite awhile before they’re sold, so to make sure you’re selecting the freshest apples, check the bottom of the apple (the opposite end of the stem-where the apple blossom used to be). Look for light green instead of a yellow to brown color.

When buying apples, make sure you buy organic. Apples are sprayed heavily with chemicals that penetrate its skin. Since apples are in season, it is easier to find organic ones on sale. If you buy from a local orchard, make sure to ask whether or not the apples have been sprayed. Buying local doesn’t mean organic.

For weeks we have been enjoying an apple cobbler that’s made with no added sweetener in its apple filling and no grain in its topping. The filling’s sweetness comes directly from the sweetness of the apples. The almond flour topping gets its sweetness from the sweetness of the freshly ground almonds and coconut crystals. For added sweetness, this apple cobbler must be served hot to melt the dollop of vanilla ice cream. No, I’m just kidding!! You can add the dollop of ice cream for festive occasions, but serving this cobbler hot will make it taste sweeter. I recently served it cool and it tasted like a totally different dessert. Please serve this apple cobbler hot!

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One of my favorite desserts is peach cobbler. I know. I know. We should eat what’s in season—like apple cobbler (that’s my next recipe). I just had this yen, and it wouldn’t go away. I had to get it out of my system…I mean into my system.

This is a healthier version. That’s gluten-free with some added protein from the almond topping; vegan; and sweetened with coconut crystals, a low glycemic sugar alternative.

It got rave reviews from my husband. John said, “This tastes like a peach cobbler should taste.”

Peach Cobbler

Serves 6 to 8

Preheat oven 375°

7×7 inch square Pyrex dish

Ingredients:

1. two bags of frozen organic sliced peaches (10 oz. each), thawed—save liquid

2. ten dried pitted dates (four added to peaches and six added to topping)

3. pinch of salt

4. one teaspoon of cinnamon

5. two cups of soaked almonds

6. two Tablespoons of coconut crystals

7. one teaspoon of aluminum-free baking powder

8. four Tablespoons of coconut oil

9. one teaspoon of vanilla

Peach Filling

In a pot:

1. Add the thawed peaches and all the liquid.

2. Add cinnamon.

3. Slice four pitted dates into pieces—lengthwise, crosswise. Add to pot.

4. Simmer until soft.

Filling should be thick, a bit thinner than honey. Taste to adjust sweetness. Add more dates or some coconut crystal. Four dates was sweet enough for me!

Topping

Mix in a bowl:

1. two cups of almond flour—grind in blender or food processor.

2.  Slice six pitted dates into pieces—lengthwise, crosswise. Add to bowl.

3. Add two Tablespoons of coconut crystals (try one tablespoon, add more if needed)

4. Add one teaspoon of aluminum-free baking powder,

5. Add four Tablespoons of coconut oil (straight from the jar)

6. Add one teaspoon of vanilla.

7. Mix and squeeze with hands.

Place the peaches in Pyrex dish. Spoon topping onto filling. Bake until slightly golden—about 35 minutes.

Suggestions and Recommendations:

1. Use Deglet Noor Dates if possible.

2. Top with fresh whipped cream (grass-fed cream) to slow down the sugars.

3. To enhance your dining pleasure, may I suggest that you pair this peach cobbler with the viewing of my painting, Peaches and Cream.


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Recently my ukulele friends and I ate at Technique, the resturant of Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Downtown Pittsburgh. The experience was truly memorable—the food was delicious and service was excellent. The ambiance was dream-like: soft colors, white tablecloths, white napkins, and white china. Gentle music served as the accompaniment to soft melodic conversations. Each course was beautifully presented. The wait staff was very professional, courteous, and attentive. Sorbet was served to cleanse our palate between courses. A three course lunch of appetizer, main course, and dessert was ten dollars with no tipping! My friends and I left Technique with the impression that this was the new standard for fine dining.

A few of us in the group ordered avocado soup as our appetizer. As soon as a spoonful of this soup touched our lips, we knew we wanted the recipe. It was refreshing and light, yet full-bodied. It’s savoriness was actually sweet from all the inherent flavor of each vegetable. It was crunchy, yet smooth at the same time. We asked for the recipe but was only given a list of ingredients—no proportions. Each of us looked at the list and remarked, “The secret ingredient is missing. There’s more to this soup.”

After making this soup about four times, I was able to figure out the secret ingredient!

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The heat has been intense this summer. The best time to be out is in the early morning when the grass catches the dew, the air is fresh, and the summer flowers are standing tall.

The meals I’ve been preparing have been light and fresh— plenty of cold soups, salads, fresh fruits, and some protein. A light dessert, such as a slice of raw cherry pie is the perfect complement to a light lunch or dinner on a hot day.

The best thing about this dessert is that there’s almost no cooking involved!

There are no added sweeteners, just the sweetness from the cherries and the dates in the crust.

Since this pie is made with cherries, it is high in the phytonutrient—anthocyanidins. These phytonutrients help hold our skin together—meaning less wrinkles! George Mateljan’s article, “Can You Tell Me Which Foods Promote Collagen?” lists the berries that contain anthocyanidins and its effects on collagen:

The anthocyanidins found in deep-colored, red-blue berries and fruits (including cherries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries) have been shown to work in a somewhat different way. These phytonutrients help the collagen fibers link together in a way that strengthens the connective tissue matrix.

He also states in “Boosting Your Polyphenols” that cherries and other berries are high in polyphenols, a nutrient that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer health benefits:

In the fruit group, dark plums, cherries, dark grapes, and apples were found to be the most concentrated sources of polyphenols followed by berries. (Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cranberries were included in the group of berries that were analyzed.) Among the vegetables, rhubarb and red cabbage were standouts for total polyphenol content.

Another bonus to this cherry pie is the nutrient-dense crust made with walnuts, dates, and shredded coconut.

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One of my favorite treats as a child was oranges. There’s been a family legend that’s floated around for decades by my mom—”Whenever you cried, we’d give you an orange. You would sit ever so content and eat that orange, skin and all. And then you’d want another one”.

Well, to this day one of my favorite fruits is oranges. I could envision my husband and daughter drinking the orange juice or eating the orange, or some orange zest, but the whole orange peel? No way!!!  To share my love for orange peel with my family, I had to think of a way to make an offer they couldn’t refuse—I sweetened the peel and dipped them in chocolate!!! Now how can anyone resist something sweet with chocolate. Dark chocolate!

Besides, I didn’t have the heart to throw out something organic!

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I recently made this soup for a very special guest, my pastor during his visit with my husband and me. I wanted him to experience the full range of textures and flavors this wonderful cold soup provides from summer’s bounty.

I made one change in the ingredients. The recipe calls for red  or sweet onions, but this time, I used a white onion instead to give it an added punch. The soup already had two sweet fruits in it-a red bell pepper and tomatoes. To give the soup some contrast, I thought a stronger, more pungent onion would provide the added kick! I was right. My pastor liked the soup so much, he e-mailed me for the recipe!

To enhance your enjoyment of the delicious gazpacho, may I suggest you pair this soup with the viewing of my painting, White Onion.

From the land of sun drenched summers, where sunlight bathes every object and colors vibrate comes Gazpacho Soup.

Refreshing Gazpacho Soup

Refreshing Gazpacho Soup

It was during one of my walks through the streets of Barcelona, Spain that I came upon this chilled soup at a local Spanish restaurant made with farm fresh vegetables. After my first spoonful, I knew I had to replicate this soup when I got home.

Today, each spoonful of this chilled, refreshing soup brings to mind the memory of the Iberian sun, the same unique summer sun that makes Sorolla paintings shimmer.

Gazpacho Soup is simple and economical to make. It is the perfect soup for summer when its ingredients are bountiful, and you’re yearning for something cool and refreshing. For an added boost in nutrition use organically grown vegetables from your local farmers’ market or from your own garden.

tomatoes 024

cubed and seeded cucumber (leave seeds if not mature) 028two stalks celery and leaves 027

sweet red pepper 025diced onions 036minced garlic 026

The vegetables for Gazpacho Soup only need to be roughly cut or sliced for the blended part of the soup. The blender or food processor does all the work! Well, except the red onions and garlic cloves. You’ll need to dice and chop a little more so that no one gets a chunk of onion or garlic in their soup.

If you’d like to add some texture to your gazpacho, reserve some of the red bell pepper, cucumber, celery, basil leaves, and cilantro. Set them aside for later. These need to be chopped a bit smaller.

I like to blend the vegetables that contain the most liquid first. The liquid makes it easier for the rest of the ingredients to liquify.

Blend four vine ripened tomatoes until liquidy. Add one half of a seeded cucumber and blend. Add celery, leaves included; half of a large sweet red pepper or one medium; two tablespoons of red onions; three cloves of garlic with shoots removed, diced. Blend.

basil 034cilantro 029lime 030

Cut or torn basil leaves; and three tablespoons of cilantro. Blend.

Add the juice of one lime to the blended mixture. Blend.

cucumber, celery, sweet red pepper chunks with cilantro and basil 038

extra virgin olive oil 035water lillies; gazpacho soup; crepes 035

In serving bowls combine diced red bell peppers, cucumber, and celery (reserved earlier).

Pour the blended mixture over the diced vegetables. Garnish with more diced vegetables, cilantro and basil.

Drizzle with extra virgin oil and hot sauce.

Salud!gazpacho soup  044

Gazpacho Soup

Serves 5-6

Ingredients:

Reserve some cucumber, celery, sweet red pepper, cilantro, and basil for added texture and garnishing.

4 organic tomatoes

1 medium, organic cucumber

2 stalks celery with leaves

1 medium organic red sweet pepper

2 tablespoons of organic red onion or sweet onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

Cut or torn cilantro and basil

extra virgin olive oil

hot sauce (cayenne )

extra virgin olive oil

1. Reserve some cucumber, celery, sweet red pepper chunks with cilantro and basil. These need to be chopped finer.

The blended portion of the soup only needs to be roughly cut.

2. Place roughly cut tomatoes in blender or food processor. Blend.

3. Add cucumber. Blend.

4. Add celery stalks and leaves. Blend.

5. Add sweet red pepper. Blend.

6. Add onion, garlic, cilantro, and basil. Blend.

7. Drizzle with hot sauce (to taste) and extra virgin olive oil.

8. Add more vegetable chunks if desired.

Modifications and suggestions: Serve with a side of crusty bread and cheese; place slices of crusty toasted bread or shrimp in the center of the soup; for protein types, add shrimp or sausage to center of soup.

Chill soup before serving. To get it extra cold, add ice cubes.

This is an easy and fun soup to make. Add more or less of each vegetable. Keep tasting to adjust the proportions to your taste.


Copyright 2009 by Nurturing Wisdom

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