Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mango Chicken

Now that I no longer have school, I have much more free time—much more free time to experiment in the kitchen that is. While I still had school, I often cooked dinner for my family, except when I had after school activities that ended after my parents got home from work. With school clubs off my schedule, now it is my “responsibility” to cook dinner every night. I enjoy it though, because not only is it a fantastic opportunity to sharpen up my cooking skills, but I also get to choose what to eat for dinner, which is always great.

Making dinner every single night comes with not only authority, but also duty. I cannot simply feed my family the same stuff every night; I need to mix it up a bit so that they don’t get bored of similar dishes every night (gosh I sound like a housewife). A typical Li family dinner consists of either rice or steamed bread, with three to four dishes that are shared. I usually try to have a protein dish, a leafy green dish, a non-leafy green vegetable dish, and a little something extra.

I remember a mango chicken entrée that I had at a Thai restaurant on my 18th birthday. It was the best dish on the table, which was probably why it came to me today as I was pondering about what to cook for my family tonight. This dish is so colorful, so tasty, and so healthy. Some people prefer it sweeter, while others prefer it tangier, so feel free to add more or less of the flavorings. Although it is not necessary, serving the mango chicken in the mango skins creates a stunning setting. This dish is a keeper. I really do hope you try it out.


1 tbsp oil
1 stalk green onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large boneless chicken breasts, sliced
1 mango, sliced
1 cup sliced bell pepper
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp paprika powder
1 handful cilantro, chopped


1. Heat the oil on a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic, ginger, and onion. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add chicken and bell peppers. Stir-fry until the chicken is fully cooked.
2. Add in the sliced mango.
3. Add in the remaining ingredients except the cilantro. Mix well.
4. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle the cilantro over the top. Enjoy!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Stir Fry Chicken Satay

Most restaurants come and go. Back in New Zealand, my family and I would explore the many different Chinese restaurants that were scattered around the city. Unlike here in America, where Chinatown encompasses most of the Chinese restaurants, in NZ, authentic Chinese restaurants were in the suburbs too. Most of the time we went to a restaurant however, it ended up being our last time going there. My mum, being the picky one that she is, would “cancel” out each restaurant that she doesn’t like, which was most of them.

There is one restaurant however, that we (including my mum) all loved. It was a modest restaurant located in the heart of Takapuna on Auckland’s north shore. We first heard about it from a friend and so decided to try it out. The restaurant, whose name I have shamefully forgotten, had lime green walls so refreshing you wanted to lick it. Like most Chinese restaurants in New Zealand, it provided complimentary savory soup before your meal and complimentary sweet bean soup after your meal. The restaurant quickly became a family favorite—a place we knew we could rely on when no one wanted to cook.

One of my favorite entrees from there was a dish of chicken straws coated in an aromatic batter and deep-fried. Okay so maybe it was not the healthiest dish, but it was always worth every single calorie. Another fav was their stir-fried satay chicken, which actually inspired this following dish.


1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch ginger root, peeled and sliced
1 medium yellow skinned onion, sliced
4 chicken breasts tenders, sliced

Satay sauce
4 tbsp chunky peanut butter
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp vinegar


1. Mix the satay sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. Heat the oil on a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic, ginger, onion, and chicken. Stir-fry until the chicken is fully cooked.
3. Add in the satay sauce and mix well.
4. Enjoy with brown rice.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pumpkin Gnocchi

An interesting realization hit me as I was enjoying my dinner one day not too long ago. My dinner, which consisted of plain white noodles with vegetables, began to look a lot like spaghetti. It suddenly occurred to me that while different cultures enjoy different cuisines, their foods are all basically the same thing.

Let’s look at noodles. Noodles, which are a staple in many countries, come in many different forms, sizes, and flavors, but essentially, they are all just various shapes of dough. You have your pasta from Italy, udon from Japan, soba from Korea, egg noodles from China, white rice noodles from Vietnam and so on. Really though, the only difference between them is the ratio of flour to water to egg.

Dumplings are another type of food that shows up in many country’s cuisines. Dumplings from China have a savory filling, while American dumplings are just boiled chunks of dough. Italian dumplings, or gnocchi, are made with a starchy vegetable (most commonly potatoes) base. Flour then is added until the mixture binds to form a soft dough. I used pumpkin as my base vegetable for this gnocchi. You can barely taste the pumpkin, although there is a slight aftertaste if you eat the gnocchi plain. The pumpkin gives this gnocchi a vibrant orange color. It also makes for an easier recipe as well, since canned puréed potato is not a common item found at your local supermarket.

Feel free to serve the gnocchi however you want. I simply heated up some marinara sauce and added some peas to it to create this dish. You can whip up a sophisticated brown butter and sage sauce, or simply serve them with some parmesan cheese grated over the top and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Both ways taste delicious.


2 cups pumpkin purée
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 - 2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch nutmeg (optional)


1. Combine the egg yolk and pumpkin purée in a large bowl.
2. Mix the salt, nutmeg and flour in a medium bowl.
3. Mix enough of the flour mixture into the pumpkin puree to form a soft dough that is not too sticky to work with.
4. Knead the dough for a minute and then roll it out into 4 long thin rolls about 1/2 inch thick.
5. Cut the rolls into 1/2 inch pieces and then roll the pieces in flour lightly shaking off any excess.
6. Roll the pieces over a gnocchi board or a fork to give them the ridges.
7. Cook the gnocchi in boiling water until it floats to the surface, about 2-3 minutes, remove and set aside to drain.
8. Serve as desired.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Having lived in Lower Merion for over two years, I really had no excuse to not know my Jewish food. I had heard of challah, matza, and brisket, but when my friend Jen mentioned schnecken, I was like, HUH?! Being the curious one with food that I am, I just had to try and make some of this mysterious schnecken, which were described to me as triangles of dough rolled up with a sweet filling.

Other cultures’ food has always fascinated me. To be welcoming to foreign foods opens up several hundred culinary territories for exploration. The Jewish community in LM is so strong and so vibrant. Since moving here, I’ve really learned much about Jewish holidays and food. For example, I know that the main Jewish holidays are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, that it is customary for Jewish people eat challah every Friday, that many cannot eat meat and dairy together, and that Hanukkah, or rather, Chanukah, isn’t nearly as big of a holiday and everyone thinks it is.

There is something about a family recipe. Whether it was copied down hastily while watching Julia Child on TV, or created after countless experiments in the kitchen, a family recipe comes with love, and inspires trust. Just like how a meal cooked by you tastes better than a meal cooked by someone else (it’s true!), a family recipe is always better than any recipe from some other source.

This recipe for schnecken belongs to my friend Jen’s great-grandmother, Reba Salkoff. Although this schnecken is far from healthy, I really could not change the recipe. It worked so perfectly and meddling with an age-old family recipe like this one seemed like a sin to me. Don’t worry though, as long as you limit yourself to one or two of these delectable pastries, your heart will be just fine.

Granny Reba's Schnecken Recipe


2 ½ cup flour
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
¾ cup sour cream
1 egg yolk; reserve white
White sugar

Filling (use any):
Chocolate Chips
Apricot jam
Raspberry jam
Strawberry jam


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cut butter into flour. Rub into flour with hands until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add egg yolk and sour cream.
3. Knead dough until it comes together. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
4. Divide dough into 6 portions. Roll in cinnamon and sugar and cut into triangle wedges. 5. Beat egg whites. Put desired filling onto wedge; roll wedges and brush with egg whites. Sprinkle sugar on top.
6. Bake for 20 minutes on greased baking trays or until golden.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Skillet Oatmeal Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Is it really okay to eat raw cookie dough? I dunno, but the idea of raw eggs, mixed with raw flour, and raw baking soda never seemed particularly appealing to me. I thought that the combination would produce a rather unpleasant amalgamation, but little did I know, cookie dough is actually very tasty. I took my first bite today gingerly with a teaspoon, but after 5 minutes, I was straight out scooping cookie dough with my hands and stuffing my face. In fact, it got so outrageous that I had to force myself to stop, or I’d have no dough left to cook into cookies. I sincerely hope my stomach will be able to deal with the rawness of my afternoon snack. Well, I guess we’ll find out tomorrow, or possibly even tonight…

When I found out that it was national chocolate chip day from my trusty Foodimentary twitter followee, I simply had to make some over-adorned chocolate chip cookies. There was just one problem: my oven was broken. So you may think, well there’s simply no way of making cookies without an oven; however, I did not let this one small setback stop me from pursuing my dream of the day. No… I put on my thinking hats and milked my creative juices. I thought, if you can cook a cake on a countertop (think pancakes) then surely you could cook a cookie on a countertop too?

So I set out on my culinary adventure with an impending discovery under my invisible belt. To my usual chocolate chip cookie dough I added oatmeal and pretzels, which gave the cookies an extra degree of both texture and flavor. When it came time to cook the cookies (hmm…I never realized the similarity of those two words), I carefully placed a patty of cookie dough on the hot skillet. I flipped the cookie and waited patiently for signs of success. After not too long, I decided it was time to test the cookie. I carefully broke off a chunk and let it disintegrate between my teeth. To my delight, both the taste and texture of this uniquely “baked” cookie resembled your typical chocolate chip cookie. Let’s just say that I basked in my satisfaction at having made cookies without an oven. It was quite a moment there today in the kitchen for me.


1 ¾ cup flour
½ cup old-fashioned oatmeal
½ cup quick cooking oatmeal
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup pretzels, broken into pieces


1. Sift flour and baking soda in a bowl. Stir in the oatmeal.
2. In a big bowl, beat eggs till frothy. Add olive oil and vanilla and beat until completely mixed. Add sugars and mix thoroughly.
3. Slowly add in flour mixture a little at a time and mix in with a fork. Stir in the chocolate chips and pretzels.
4. Heat a skillet on medium heat. Roll cookie dough into 2-3 inch patties and place on the skillet.
5. Cook on one side for a few minutes until the top is no longer shiny. Flip and cook on the other side for a few minutes more.
6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Big Green Smoothie

It’s been too long. It’s been too long since I’ve baked a cake; it’s been too long since I’ve braided my sister’s hair; it’s been too long since I’ve made a friendship bracelet; it’s been too long since I’ve planted a flower in the garden. It’s been too long since I’ve updated this blog.

The past month has been crazy. Between college decisions, college visits, finals, AP tests, prom, and moving houses, I’ve had my hands very full. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy being busy and running around all the time. It makes me feel productive and useful; however, sometimes, it’s nice to just sit down with a refreshing smoothie and reflect on the last few weeks.

Let’s start with all the college shiz. Well, it’s past May 1st and I’ve happily made my decision. The decision was made as soon as I walked on campus—Dartmouth College’s campus that is. I’m absolutely in love with Dartmouth, with its traditions, its school spirit, its values. I love it so much that I’ve even dedicated this post’s recipe to it. This green smoothie is so delicious and packed with so much goodness that you can count on me drinking it everyday for the next four years of my life (not really though…).

School has technically ended for me. For the next three weeks, I’m on my senior project experience. It’s simply a graduation requirement where I pose a question in an area of my choice, and gain knowledge to answer that question over three weeks. I’m going to work at SangKee Asian Bistro to gain some insight into restaurant management. Finals and AP exams came and went. We’ll see how I did soon enough, although I’m not too worried about them. I’m just so done with school.

Prom was quite an event. The actual prom was hardly the experience. It was the whole experience of planning everything, getting my nails done for the first time, buying a designer dress, sitting in a party bus, wearing four and a half inch heels and pretending they don’t really hurt like hell, spending a night out with most of the senior class in a public venue, going down to the shore with friends, and taking public transportation back home while lugging a heavy sac. It was nothing like Prom Night, or the new flick, Prom. It was simply chill and it was fun.

Now I sit on the front porch of my new house. There’s still a tonne of unpacking to do, but it’s so nice to set out everything in a new fashion. I can arrange stuff wherever I want. I’ve completely reorganized my room so that my bed faces North-South instead of East-West. I’ll wake up facing a new direction, but so what? It’s funny, because as a friend reminded me, I’ll be repacking in a few months. I guess I just want to make the most of this new home and maybe even have some fond memories in it before I head off to college.


½ frozen banana
10 frozen melon balls (frozen green grapes work too)
1 cup skim milk
2 handfuls of greens (I used baby spinach and lettuce)
1 tbsp honey


1. Mix all the ingredients in a blender, and blend until no chunks of fruit remain. Pour into a glass and enjoy!