Monday, September 29, 2014

Ice and Fire

The Chinese acrobatics, as a category of the Chinese variety art, is one of China's national cultural treasures.  This is quite an entertaining performance.  I bet these acrobats will make a lot more money if only they go work for Cir Du Solei. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Double Berries Banana Smoothie

Double Berries Banana Smoothie

In order to distract myself from the scary news on  Ebola, I went to my cluttered family room to unpack some of my moving boxes.  And I found a mini blender that I had bought long time ago when I was still gainfully employed. I haven't used it at all, the blender was in the original sealed manufacturer's packaging.  Back then I bought the blender meaning to make antioxidant smoothie for breakfast but I never got to even open the packaging because I simply didn't have time to have breakfast or to get to anything that I bought from the store. Remembering it now makes me feel  less regretful about quitting that stressful job that I enslaved myself for 10 years.  I was never a breakfast person when I was working.  Anyway, I used this gadget the first time today to try out the immunity boosting  recipe my nutritionist sister gave me. 

My sister's recipe makes one serving by blending the following ingredients. It tasted refreshing and cold with the right level of sweetness but without getting  the ice cubes or adding extra sugar.  This is my kind of recipe because I'm not an ice-making person and I don't have extra space in my freezer for storing ice cubes.
  1. 1/2 frozen banana
  2. 1/4 cup frozen strawberries
  3. 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
  4. 1/2 cup low fat strawberry probiotic Kefir
  5. 1/2 cup 1 % low fat milk
space saving mini blender

This mini blender is going to be another favorite kitchen gadget of mine in addition to my 10 year-old  mini rice cooker.  It's really cute and it saves me a lot of counter space and cabinet space.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Will Ebola Come To America?

My mother recently texts me some video footage about how the Chinese government is rehearsing on dealing with an Ebola outbreak.  This reminds me of the SARS epidemics back in 2003 that killed hundreds of people in Hong Kong and many of them doctors, nurses and health workers in the hospitals.  I remember how frightening it was and I had to wear a mask all the time. The economy of Hong Kong was brought down to its knees.   Without that incident, I wouldn't have ended up being here in America. The economy was so bad during and after SARs that when I was asked if I was interested in working in the USA on a professional worker's visa,  I accepted it without much consideration.  I have to admit that I was kind of overreacting and feeling way too pessimistic about Hong Kong's future at the time.  Nobody in my family ran away like I did.  I guess I must  have a tendency to become nervous easily...

Now, why is the Chinese government rehearsing?  Is it because  the Chinese government is worrying that Ebola will possibly spread out of Africa?  Is Ebola really this bad?  Out of curiosity, I went online to learn more on the latest development on the Ebola outbreak in Africa.  This is my mistake, because the more I learn about it, the more I feel unsettled by it.  Will Ebola come to America?  Thousands of Americans will be sent to Africa to help with the crisis but when they return, will the government be ready to make sure that they don't bring the virus back?  Will there be protocols to put these thousands of people on temporary quarantine upon their return to make sure no virus is being incubating in their bodies before they are free to return to their communities?  The American government is always very optimistic about everything and claims that the hospitals here are prepared in treating Americans returning from Africa with Ebola. But some medical experts say most US hospitals are actually unprepared for dealing with Ebola.  I just pray that government's claim is true but that's the scary part because how often was the government ever  right about anything?

I feel sorry for those thousands of Americans who will be sent to fight Ebola... Why is it that America is the only country which has to send thousands of citizens and to give hundreds of millions of USD to fight Ebola in Africa? If it's a global threat, then why aren't other countries pitching in money and sending their troops and citizens over to fight it too?

The irony of putting all these efforts and risking thousands' of American lives is that these African countries that are having Ebola are feeling resentful to America because they are saying that Ebola is actually a biochemical weapon created by America which has an evil agenda on Africa.

If I were the government, I would keep the troops close to home, I would close the border and implement a ban to ban anybody from going to the epicenter and stop anyone who violates the ban from returning with the disease.  I would make sure the troops are here to seal up the borders and I would spend the hundreds of millions of USD to beef up healthcare, vaccine development,  hospital measures, medical supplies and resources that Americans will desperate need  in case they unfortunately get hit by Ebola despite all the military effort to seal the border and keep Ebola from sneaking in.  I would leave the fight with Ebola to Bill Gates since his foundation has already spent billions in  fighting Polio in Africa.  I'm sure he will gladly help pay for the hundreds of million of USD to fight Ebola there.  I think the troop should stay put here to defend the borders and not to be sent to risk their lives for some deadly disease that has no cure, that they never had experience in dealing with. But then I'm not even an American, who am I to even comment on this.  But heck, that's my tax dollars too since I'm still paying my taxes as of now.  Why does America have to always be the only country to take care of global health and global anything?  It's like a family who is always minding other neighbors' business and charging their credit cards to feed the neighbors' kids  while their own kids come home from schools with no home cooked meals.... all because the parents are worried that if the neighbors aren't well fed and well cared for, they will pose a threat to their kids...... I simply can't understand this mentality and logic.

Friday, September 19, 2014

These Cute Kung Fu Kids Take Their Craft Very Seriously

When I first met my parents-in-law, they asked me if I practiced "Kung Fu".  I wish I knew how. Martial arts wasn't popular at all when I was growing up in Hong Kong and it was only practiced by a very tiny fraction of people, usually the very poor ones whose parents sent them to Kung Fu schools so they could learn a skill to make money in the Chinese Operas playing soldiers in the background (except for Bruce Lee); or the parents hoped that their kids could learn a skill while being fed...  This is particularly so even in China today, let alone in prosperous Hong Kong where I grew up because we just  didn't have that many desperate parents back then who tried to give their kids to some Kung Fu master in order to eliminate some seats at the dining table.  So no, I don't know Kung Fu, and I don't have any friends or relatives or even classmates ever in my entire life who knows Kung Fu.

But in populous China, any tiny fraction of people means millions.  So it's not surprising that China is a place where many talented martial artists can be found, many of them are more talented than Bruce Lee because they started training at a much younger age than Bruce Lee, and their training is way more intensive and hardcore....While watching the video, I realize real Kung Fu is actually more enjoyable to watch than the martial arts scene that is fabricated  by CGI and the movie camera.

By the way, the theme of this performance is called "The Youths of China" and below is what they were chanting at the end of the performance:

When our young people are smart, our country will be smart.
When our young people are wealthy, our country will be wealthy.
When our young people are strong, our country will be strong.
When our young people are independent, our country will be independent.
When our young people are free, our country will be free.
When our young people make progress, our country will advance.
May our beautiful China stay as young as the sky.
May the strong youths of China have boundless prosperity with the nation!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

America Makes The Best Traditional Chinese Mooncakes!!

Traditional Cantonese Mooncakes Madein America

Tonight, I finally finished my last piece of the box of moon cakes that I bought last Sunday in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival!  Like turkeys to Thanksgiving, moon cakes are the center pieces for the Chinese during our Mid-Autumn Festival that can't be without. Unlike turkeys, moon cakes aren't sold year-round,  Chinese bakeries only sell moon cakes once a year, and we only get to buy and eat them once a year.  These moon cakes generate lots of money for the bakeries during Mid-Autumn Festival because every Chinese buy them and give them as gifts to their business partners, their bosses, their employees and literally anybody whom they want to maintain a good relationship with.  My brother-in-laws used to bring boxes of moon cakes to my parents when they were dating my sisters.  Any boy who doesn't bring a couple good boxes of moon cakes to his girlfriend's parents are considered to be  a loser whom her parents will relentlessly nag their daughter to dump.  So moon cakes are actually more important to the Chinese than turkeys are to the Americans.  After all, no American parents are expecting their daughters' boyfriends to gift them turkeys during Thanksgiving to judge whether they are good catches for their daughters.....

Moon Cake Date Paste Filling With Walnut

Made in America, each of the four moon cakes was plastic wrapped and packaged in a beautiful tin box. I had discarded the plastic wrap so I could take a better photo of the moon cake.  This is from a combo box with 4 flavors.  The filling inside this particular moon cake  is date paste with pieces of walnuts. The four Chinese characters for this particular flavor is part of the design of the crust.

Cantonese Mooncakes made in America

I think the idea of the moon cake is quite similar to America's pecan pies.  It's quite sweet and we usually consume only 1 quarter each time; with a  cup of hot and freshly brewed Chinese tea or green tea.  Usually only the high quality of tea leaves are used because  moon cakes are pricey and they should only be paired with pricey tea.  When I was a kid, I used to just put the entire quarter in my mouth.  But my parents would lecture me every time when they saw me do that saying I was wasting my moon cake.  Moon cakes are supposed to be consumed like red wine, slowly, so the mouth is given plenty of time to really taste the flavor.  

Different regions in China actually have very different moon cakes.  This style is the traditional Cantonese style from the Guaugdong Province in Southern China.  My grandparents in Hong Kong say this style of moon cakes has pretty much stayed the same since they were little kids in China. Every time when I look at a moon cake like this, I feel a connection with my ancestors whom I never met because even though  my great grandparents had  been long dead,  they actually were eating the same kind of moon cakes 100 years ago in China, as I'm nowadays.

When I was a kid, there was once upon a time when moon cakes were handmade in small quantities by  family run bakeries in Hong Kong.   But like everything else in the late 80s and early 90s, the production of moon cakes was outsourced to factories in China for mass production. The quality and taste then deteriorated.  The quality got even worse in recent years since the emergence of a huge demand of moon cakes from the Chinese people within China.  There were many years we didn't eat our traditional moon cakes in Hong Kong.  We just passed them on to be re-gifted to someone else.  Our family think just because we're picky eaters,  it doesn't mean other people don't like them....Then one day when I was in a Chinese grocery store here in Los Angeles,  I saw many Chinese people loading boxes of moon cakes onto their shopping carts.  Out of curiosity, I asked why they bought so many.  They told me they bought them to mail to their relatives in China.  I asked them why because they were all  made in China to begin with.  They then told me while pointing at certain piles of boxes, "Yeah, don't buy those brands, those are not as good, they are imported from China, but we are buying an American brand that makes the moon cakes 100% here in America!! We had tried all the brands, this American brand is the best!!"

So I got one box to try out, and I have to say, sometimes it's very beneficial to talk to strangers in a grocery store, particularly the Chinese immigrants, because they know where to get good food.....

moon cakes gift box

American made moon cakes are of course a lot more expensive than the ones imported from China. This box cost US$35, while many made in China brands cost under $20 per box.  But you get what you pay for.  These are the best moon cakes I've had for many years. I also bought several boxes and shipped to my family. They also love them.  Now, we are helping America to reverse the trade deficit, however small the impact is.

Chinese Moon Cakes Gift Idea

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Happy Mid Autumn Festival To Myself!!!

As of right now, my family back in Hong Kong is celebrating our thousand-year-old festival, the Mid Autumn  Festival.  It's always a public holiday because it's a festival where people have parties at night and the kids for once can stay up past 12am.  I used to look forward to the festival when I was a kid because there was always lots of fun and lots of food. This festival happens on every 15th day of the Lunar Calendar Month of September, which is tomorrow for me here in America.  It's a big and important holiday to the Chinese, just like Thanksgiving is important to the Americans.  I haven't celebrated this festival for over 10 years because I always had to work and it always passed me by quietly without me even knowing.  For years, I had not paid attention to this sort of thing.  But this year, it's the first time I am sitting at home in my living room while my husband is away on his business trip that I suddenly remember all the years when I celebrated this day in Hong Kong with my family.  

The legend behind the festival has been well known to me since I was in kindergarten.  But for those of you who don't know about it, the above video is a pretty cool illustration of the interesting story that made me stare at the moon all the time when I was a little kid.  Until one day I learnt from my school's science class about the American's landing on the Moon long time ago during which they found no life there,  I went home and literally cried because I was so heartbroken that my fairy tale was shattered.  I used to enjoy looking up to the moon at night, fantasizing  the palace, that ancient lady and the rabbit; and the fact that the Americans landed the moon and found nothing there really crushed my little heart.  Then my father had to comfort me and today I still remember what he said back then, "The Americans were just there for a very short time, they didn't venture far enough on the moon to get to the palace and the rabbit, so they claimed they found nothing there.  Americans are known to draw conclusions too fast and they always are over confident about everything they see. Just because you don't see the Forbidden City here in Hong Kong doesn't mean there is no Forbidden City in China...."   Of course, my dad was lying to me back then and I will never forget how he tried so hard to save my fantasy.

I have to admit that I'm feeling a little lonely now during a holiday that was so important to my upbringing.  But thank God, there is China's Central TV (owned by the Chinese government) that does a Mid Autumn Festival  TV special every year and I can watch it to entertain and distract myself.  This is the show (with English subtitle for every performance with the exception of the chitchats among the hosts that can be fast forwarded,)  from last year though because the current show is still underway.  The show last year was supposed to be a budgeted one because the government was trying to save money and had cut funding on this sort of things...  I can't help but wonder how the show used to be when the government wasn't trying to save money.. This is the first time I saw any programs from the Chinese government TV station...  I find the fashion, the stage design very intriguing.  All the songs promote family values and positive messages and there is no mention of politics of course.  When I was a kid, I heard a lot of bad things about the TV in China, and movies in Hong Kong even made fun of it.   But nowadays, the TV in China is quite different from what I heard of when I was growing up.   Nowadays in China where there are countless cable networks and TV channels that are broadcasting programming and movies from around the world, many with lots of violence and vulgarity even after meeting China's censorship; may be it's not  bad  to have one  government run TV network which is focused on  promoting family values and morals.  But then I do see those first few rows of audience look and act a little strange still....

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tequila & Orange Chicken Breast Fresh & Easy

This pre-marinated Chicken breast is another Ready-To-Cook meat item that I like from Fresh & Easy. The chicken breasts tasted really good and were tender and juicy. The entire container is oven safe and so all I had to do was to put the whole container of chicken breasts into the preheated 375F oven and waited for 22 minutes to eat.  Meanwhile I made a side dish by sautéeing one sliced zucchini with 1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt on medium high heat, then after two minutes, I added one tablespoon of chicken broth and 2 teaspoons of  Teriyaki Sauce  and sautéed for 3-4 more minutes until the sauce dried up and the zucchini became tender, but not over cooked.

Since I'm not into low-carb diets, I had to eat 1 cup of steamed white Jasmine rice with this meal.  I'm sure brown rice is healthier but I don't like the taste and texture of brown rice, and my husband who had been a life long brown rice fan, had given up brown rice after we got married when he realized my Jasmine rice tasted so much better than his brown rice.  I'm such a bad influence on him...  Anyway, one container of the chicken breasts and one zucchini can serve 3 people with as much brown rice or Jasmine rice as needed. The chicken breasts was on sale at 2 containers for $10, each container had 3 breasts.  We froze one container for later this week.  Including the Zucchini and rice, it cost approximately $7.00 to serve 3 people, which is not bad considering I didn't really do much in the kitchen.