Monday, April 29, 2013

Morning Rush Hour Tips—A Peek Inside Our Morning Routine

Let me start this post off with a disclaimer: I’m NOT a morning person. I never was one, and never will be one, period. People ask me quite often, “How did you manage to get the kids and everyone out the door to school and work, nicely dressed, well fed, and on time every single morning?”.

Honestly, it hasn't always been an easy task for me. If I were only to follow my biological clock, we’ll never get out of the door before noon. So, here’s the deal. Today, I’m going to let you peek inside our morning routine, and I’ll share my Morning Rush Hour Tips with you.

One thing you might not know about me was that I used to be a human resources manager at a major communication company before I turned into a full-time mom. What does this have to do with my family's current morning routine? Well, everything!  I can totally use my management skills at home!

So, here are a few important management skills that every successful manager should know,  and I’ll explain how each one helps me in handling the morning rush.

1) Understanding team dynamics.

All kids are different, and my two kids certainly have very different personalities. For instance, my little boy doesn't really care what he wears. I can pick any outfit for him and he’ll be a happy camper. On the other hand, my little girl loves to pick her own clothes. She might be in the mood to wear her favorite jeans, or, she might feel a little girly and want her flowery dress. If I don’t let her pick her own, she would be quite upset and request a change of clothes.

I learnt my lesson. I do not open the whole closet and let her choose randomly. Instead, I usually pick out two different outfits, and let her choose. That way, she doesn't spend all morning deciding what she wants, she gets to pick her own clothes, yet, the outfits are always appropriate for the weather and occasion. What a win-win situation!


2) Delegating effectively.

I let my kids get themselves ready, with occasional assistance from me. I let them brush their teeth, change their own clothes, they eat on their own, (although I do sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee while they eat breakfast). Sometimes, they even help out with setting the table for breakfast. With daily practice, they’ll be doing these tasks on their own without much assistance.


3) Communication

Make sure communication is a two way street. This means that I talk, they listen.

Just kidding! It’s important to let the kids express their feelings and what they want/need as well. Trust me, it makes the process much easier when you know what their little minds are thinking.

4) Planning and Time Management

Planning is very important to conquer hectic mornings. I try to have everything prepared the night before, if possible. This includes picking out outfits, packing kids’ and hubby’s lunch boxes, and preparing breakfast if it’s something I can make ahead. If not, I’ll at least prep the ingredients that I need. 

Here are two recipes that my family loves, and you can make them ahead of time. You can click here to get the Breakfast Cookies recipe, and click here for the Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips.

2012-08-17 12.31.26-1edited

I hope my little tips help with your family's hectic morning rush. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have a favorite tip to share.

This post is part of BlogHer's Rush Hour Tips editorial series, made possible by Got Milk?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sweet and Savory Asian Chicken Drumsticks (香甜雞腿)


I’m such a lucky Mom because my kids love vegetables, especially my Son.  I can basically serve all veggies every single meal and he’ll be a happy camper.  You know how pediatricians like to ask what do your kids like to eat.  I was asked that question on my Son’s last check up.  After I listed out the food that my Son likes, the pediatrician made a comment that my Son is a “natural vegetarian!”  Is there such a term for veggie lovers?  I think the Doctor made this term up.  Anyway, I’m not complaining at all.  It’s better this way, rather than imagining myself chasing my Son around the house to feed him vegetables.  (That would be a funny picture! ha...)


However, since the rest of the family are not “natural vegetarians”, we crave for meat quite often.  White meat, red meat, seafood, we eat everything.  But in order for my Son to get some meat intake without a fuzz, these Sweet and Savory Asian Chicken Drumsticks always do the trick. 


If you give this recipe a try, I’m sure it will be your family’s favorites as well.  Besides, they are super simple to prepare.  With this recipe, you’ll get tender, flavorful, and juicy meat every single time; and as the title suggested, these drumsticks are sweet and savory at the same time.


Ready to get into the kitchen with me?  Come on over!  Oh, just one more thing before we head into the kitchen.  Remember I made this Orange Marmalade with Meyer Lemon a while ago?  I promised to share a Sweet and Savory Chicken Drumstick recipe using this marmalade as a marinade.  And here it is.  I know, it’s been a while, but I figured better late than never, right?  If you need the Orange Marmalade recipe, please click here

So, here we go.  First, we need to get the marinade ingredients ready.  There are Fish Sauce, Orange Marmalade, Green Onion, Brown Sugar, Meyer Lemon, Soy Sauce, Ginger, Garlic, Shallots, Sesame oil, Chicken Bouillon, Peprika, Red Pepper Flakes and White Pepper.


Next, the hardest step, dump everything into a large freezer safe ziploc bag and mix them well!  Phew…I’m glad we get this step done and over with. 


Next, add the drumsticks into the ziploc bag.  Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bag.  Move the drumsticks around so everyone is coated with the marinade.


I keep my ziploc bag of drumsticks in a plastic container (to prevent leakage) and keep it in the fridge to marinade overnight.  When ready to cook, preheat the oven and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place the drumsticks in alternate directions with a little bit space between each one for even cooking.


Another important step, don’t throw away the marinade.  Simply pour it into a small sauce pan and cook it on low heat until the liquid reduced by half.  We use this as a glaze and brush it on the drumsticks at the last 5 minute of roasting. 


And here they are.  Sprinkle on some sesame seeds and you’re all set.  I usually serve these Sweet and Savory Asian Chicken Drumsticks with brown rice and steam vegetables.  They are also great with pan fried noodles or noodle soup.


I hope you enjoy today’s recipe and will give these Sweet and Savory Asian Chicken Drumsticks a try soon.  You won’t be disappointed, I promise.  Winking smile 


P.S.  Not sure if you've noticed, I've added the "Pin it" button/function on my blog.  So, whenever you roll your mouse over to the picture on a post, the "Pin it" button will appear on the upper left hand corner of the picture.  Simply click on it and it'll lead you to your Pinterest page and you can pin the picture at your convenience.  This is the function requested by some of you, my dear readers.  So, here we go.  I really love it myself because it's so convenience to use.  Thank you so much for all your requests, so, my "personal computer technician" (a.k.a husband) made it happen so soon. Thank you!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Green Gazpacho


You know Spring is here when you see the gorgeous and vibrant green asparagus at the market stands.  Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables to prepare and I couldn't help but to grab a few bunches whenever I see them available.  Can you believe we’re having 80+ F. degree in April?  After living in L.A. for so many years, I’m not surprise though.  With the hot weather, it’s very natural that I crave for something light and refreshing, such as gazpacho.  Gazpacho is usually a tomato-based, vegetable soup, traditionally served cold, originating in the southern Spanish region of Andalucía. Gazpacho is widely consumed in Spanish cuisine, as well as in neighboring Portugal, where it is known as gaspacho.  Did you know that my hubby is half Portuguese?  No wonder he likes this soup a lot.  


In this Green Gazpacho, I used asparagus, spinach, Lindsay Naturals’ California Green Ripe Olives, fresh mint leaves, a little lemon juice and some vegetable stock for the soup base.  Then, I top it all off with some sweet and juicy jumbo lump crab meat, a few rounds of Lindsay’s olive for texture, a dollop of crème fraîche for creaminess, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and garnish with a spring of mint.  It was the most refreshing soup I've ever tasted!  If you want to keep it vegetarian, you can skip the crab meat.  But I’m telling you, the sweetness from the crab meat really matches wonderfully with this light and healthy soup.


As I mentioned above, I used Lindsay Naturals’ California Green Ripe Olives in the soup.  They are pretty mild, yet very buttery and smooth.  The taste is slightly salty and nutty.  They are definitely my favorite olives to use.  Make sure you use this kind and not the one from the jar for this recipe as the later ones tend to be too strong and salty for the soup. 


I save a few and cut them in rounds to garnish the soup.  They make a great snack as well and my Daughter is a big fan.  You can serve this soup as an appetizer or a side dish.  How about serving a bigger portion and call it a meal?  That's what I did the other day and it was a satisfying lunch!


Here goes the perfect spoonful of goodness.  A little bit of everything. 


It was a light and refreshing lunch that I’ll be making very often this Spring.


This would be festive and prefect for St. Patrick's Day too!



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Breakfast for Dinner Giveaway Winner Announcement


Thank you everyone who participated in the Breakfast for Dinner recipe book giveaway.  We have a winner……

Random Winner

Congratulations to LinsFood who said, “This is definitely one of my favourite dishes, I'm a huge fan of Mexican food!”

Woohooo….I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book a lot, Lin. 

Stay tuned for more fun giveaway in the near future.  Have a beautiful day everyone.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Meyer Limoncello


I adore Limoncello.  I’ve use it in recipes here and there.  With the Meyer Lemon in peak season now, I can’t help it but to make my own Meyer Limoncello.  (note: this post was written a couple months ago and didn't have a chance to publish until now, sorry for the delay!  I hope you still see Meyer lemons around as I do get them all year round from my In-Law's garden)  It’s also a recipe some of you, my dear readers, have requested.  So, here we go.  If you’re not familiar with Limoncello, it’s an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi and islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri.  Limoncello is the second most popular liqueur in Italy but has recently become popular in other parts of the world too.

Traditionally, it is made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, that are also known as Sorrento lemons.  Lemon zest, or peels without the pith, are steeped in grain alcohol until the oil is released. The resulting yellow liquid is then mixed with simple syrup.  Limoncello is traditionally served chilled as an after-dinner digestif.  Limoncello imparts a strong lemon flavor without the sourness or bitterness of lemon juice.  I say, they are sweet enough to be considered as a dessert beverage.


Aren’t these Meyer Lemons beautiful?  They are straight from my In-Law’s garden.  I’m such a lucky girl to get these gorgeous citrus almost year-round.  I love the sweeter and floral aroma in the Meyer lemons that you won’t find from regular lemons.


Besides using the Limoncello in baking and cooking, they are just as wonderful when chilled or served over ice.  So, cheers, my friends.  The Meyer Limoncello is definitely a sweet treat after a meal. 


Here’s how I made it.  First, wash and pad dry the Meyer lemons. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use).  Also, please use organic and un-wax Meyer lemons because we're using the peels.


Using a small spoon, scrape away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith.  See the difference on the peel below?  I purposely scraped half of the peel so you can see the white pith and how it should look after scraping.


Place the lemon peels in a pitcher, at least 2-quart in capacity.


Pour the vodka over the peels and cover pitcher with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.


When 4 days are up, in a medium saucepan, stir the water and sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Let the syrup cool completely.


Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let it stand at room temperature overnight.


Strain the Meyer limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels.


Transfer the Meyer limoncello to sealed bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.


I love the natural yellow color from the Meyer Lemon peels.  The aroma is amazing after just a few days of steeping and the peel definitely releases all the goodness into the liqueur.  What’s the benefit of making your own Meyer Limoncello?  Besides its unique aroma that you don’t get from regular lemons, it’s way cheaper to make your own.  Plus, it’s all natural without any preservative or food coloring.  That’s enough reasons for me to make another batch once I have finished this batch.  Winking smile

Meyer Limoncello

Please drink responsibly.  Health and General Disclaimers.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Coconut Tapioca Pearl Dessert 椰汁蜜瓜西米露


If you remember my Coconut Ice Cream post, you might recall how much I “love” coconut when I was a kid!  Yes, I would literally run away from anything that has to do with coconuts, no kidding.  You can read the post here and find out what converted me to a coconut lover now.  But as much as I dislike coconut back then, this Coconut Tapioca Pearl Dessert 椰汁蜜瓜西米露 is about the only thing that I would eat that has coconut in it.  Coconut Tapioca Pearl Dessert is a very popular dessert in Asia, that you might find it on the menus in almost every single restaurant or dessert store in Hong Kong.  Quite often in most restaurants, this is a complementary dessert that is served after dinner.  There could be some variations on the fruit.  The most popular and traditional is honeydew, but you can also find watermelon, mango, or mixed fruit in this coconut based dessert these days. 


If you’re not familiar with tapioca, it is a starch extracted from the cassava plant.  In the Philippines, tapioca is usually called sago; in Indonesia, it is called singkong.  The one I used here are made into tiny “pearls” (see picture below) from tapioca flour and water.  Tapioca flour is often used as a thickening agent in cooking and it’s gluten free.  So, this Coconut Tapioca Pearl Dessert is gluten free, dairy free, and super refreshing.  I say, it is a perfect spring time or summer time treat.  You can get tapioca pearls in most Asian supermarkets, or online these days.


Here’s how I prepare mine.  First, soak 3/4 cup of tapioca pearls in cold water for 30 minutes.  They will absorb the water and expand a little. 


While the tapioca is soaking, bring 1 1/2 cup of water to a boil and dissolve 1/2 cup of raw sugar (turbinado sugar) in it.  You can use regular white sugar in this recipe, which is the traditional way.  I love turbinado sugar more because it is less refined and has a natural cane sugar taste which adds nice depth of flavor to this dessert.


This is the coconut milk that I use.  You can make your own as well if you want.


After the sugar has dissolved, remove the pot from heat and add the coconut milk and stir well.  Let the mixture cool completely and keep in the refrigerator to chill.


When the soaking time is up for the tapioca, drain and discard the excess water.


In a sauce pan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil and add the tapioca.  Cook for 5 to 6 minutes and stirring occasionally.  Mine were done at around 6 minutes.  The tapioca will turn translucent when they are cooked through.


Place the cooked tapioca in a sieve and raise them under cold water.  Of course, I didn't have an extra hand to take a picture of that as I needed both hands to drain the pot.  Smile with tongue out  But you know the dwell.  Then, add the tapioca into the coconut mixture.


Last but not least, add 2 cups of diced honeydew into the mixture and keep in the refrigerator to chill.  For at least 2 hours or until it’s cold.  Trust me, it taste way better when it’s nicely chilled!


So here we go, a refreshing and easy way to prepare dessert that is perfect for the hot temperature.  Hope you’ll give it a try.


Oh, and of course, I served some in these shooter glasses as well.  These are perfect portion for parties and entertainment.