She is Scentimental!

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Scentimental rose – bicolor beauty with a fresh, fruity fragrance.

This post is for the Garden Enthusiast!

She was bare root at my doorstep in early May, shunned from the sunlight and water she’d craved. After much TLC from organic composted soil, weeks of endless showers, a dab or two (or three) of the sun’s rays, and plenty of brewed seaweed tea, she has finally awakened from her deep, dark sleep! Come early June, she was basking in her rightful glory with such vibrant fuchsia candy cane color!

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Scentimental is her name and perfuming my garden with her unique bi-color blossoms drew her fame!

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One month after planted, a much-awaited rose finally appeared.

I’m amazed at Mother Nature’s unique creation! Each rose from the same plant contains a different bicolor pattern; no two are the same. Once all her blooms were opened, she was gorgeous!

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Beef Chow Fun With Chinese Broccoli and Vidalia Onions

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Beef Chow Fun is clearly one of my top 10 favorite Chinese dishes. I could easily devour a heeping plateful of this savory, slightly chewy stir-fry rice noodles  and not even bat an eyebrow. I always order it in restaurants but refuse to make it at home, citing lack of proper cookware. All that I owned thus far, were nonstick woks, expensive but worthless. High heat on a nonstick wok is detrimental to its longevity and overall performance.

However, I recently purchased a cheap carbon steel (CS) wok for a mere $10.00. After the wok was seasoned properly, it was used religiously at least once, sometimes twice daily, mostly for quick stir-fry and deep-fried dishes in order to create a natural nonstick coating. Two-three weeks of daily use, a darkened, caramel patina has developed at the bowl and interior walls of the wok. It’s quite beautiful! For wokkers, this is the hallmark of wok cooking: a dark patina ensures nonstick foods, rapid stir-fry with smokey flavors.

As such, I excitedly rolled up my sleeves to create my own version of Beef chow fun with Chinese broccoli and sliced Vidalia onions. The vegetables and aromatics were chopped and ready to go. My slab of grass-fed beef tenderloin was sliced thinly and marinated. I felt like Speedy Gonzalez from Looney Toons, working quite efficiently and effectively with Maria Callas and Alfredo Kraus singing brilliantly to the beautiful duet from La Traviata “Parigi, o cara”. All was right in my world until my hands reached for the fresh rice noodles. These fresh noodles were a real bitch to separate strand by strand once refrigerated overnight. With my patience nearly tapped, I almost resorted to dry noodles but persevered, internally cursing at myself with every strand I separated.

Nonetheless, the hardest task was overcame and I was rightfully rewarded with one of the most delicious beef chow fun I’ve ever tasted. Yes! It was “that” good! The Chinese broccoli were crisp and smokey while the noodles had a slightly nutty, toasty quality, courtesy of high heat cooking. Salty and savory were well-balanced from the seasoning sauce. My 5 yro baby diva (already a noodle snob), cleaned her plate so that was definitely a tell-tale sign my efforts were on-point. This dish will surely be added to our weeknights menu when I could get my hands on fresh noodles. Although, I will delegate the task of noodle separator to one of my eager-beaver kitchen helpers. We all have to pay our dues in the kitchen during our youth, don’t we?

For the sake of curiosity, I might attempt the same recipe with dry noodles next time to determine if a notable difference in flavors exists between the two. In the meantime, here’s my recipe:

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. fresh, flat rice noodle, separated into individual strands

2 cups chinese broccoli, cut into 2” pieces on the bias

¼ cup Vidalia onions, cut into thin strips

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 stalks green onions, cut into 1” spears, white and green parts separated

1 slice ginger smashed (size/thickness of a quarter) – optional

Canola/vegetable oil for cooking

BEEF MARINADE:

½ lb. beef flank steak or tenderloin, thinly sliced across the grain, into bite pieces

1 tsp Shao Hsing wine

2 tsp light soy sauce

1 tsp dark soy sauce

2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp granulated sugar

freshly-grind black pepper – 4 turns on peppermill

SEASONING SAUCE:

1 tsp fish sauce

2 tsp dark soy

2 tbsp light soy

1 tsp granulated sugar

STEPS:

1. Beef Marinade: In medium bowl, add beef, wine, light soy, dark soy, sugar, cornstarch, and black pepper. Mix well. Set aside to marinate for 30 min.

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2. Seasoning Sauce: In small bowl, add fish sauce, dark soy, light soy, and sugar. Mix well, set aside.

3. Separate rice noodles into individual strand. If noodles were refrigerated overnight, steam them slightly to                soften for easier handling and less breakage. Note: Best to cook them on the same day of purchase. Now I know!

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4. Preheat wok on high heat until a whisper of smoke appears inside wok. Add 1 to 2 tbsp of canola oil. Swirl oil around wok to coat evenly. Add white-only part of green onions, minced garlic, smashed ginger. Stir-fry until aromatic (5-10 sec. approx.). Add beef. Spread beef evenly across wok’s bottom and leave undisturbed for 1 minute. This gives beef a chance to caramelize. With a spatula, quickly stir-fry beef, then move beef to one side.

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5. Add Vidalia onions and Chinese broccoli. Stir-fry until vegetables are softened and slightly charred on the edges (2-3 min. approx.). Remove and set aside.

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6. Add 1 tbsp of canola oil to wok. Add fresh noodles. With a chopstick or spatula, spread noodles evenly, in a single layer and allow them to fry undisturbed (1-2 min. approx.) for a toasty flavor. Then toss the noodles for even browning.

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7. Return beef and vegetables to wok with the noodles. Add the pre-mixed seasoning sauce. Stir-fry for another 1-2 to ensure sauce are mixed thoroughly with the ingredients. Toss in the green onion spears. Serve hot.

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Shit Hit The Fan in Mommyville

Motherhood can be glorious and I’m truly grateful for the precious time I have with my young babies.  On the same breath, it yields a deeper, darker, and unpleasant side that not many care to discuss. The side that makes you feel like you’re the worst mother on the planet. When your poor management of a given situation leaves you feeling like a total defeat and the only thing remaining is your shattered, emotionally-drained, self splattered all over the bathroom tile floor. I’m about to go there with sheer honesty. Writing it out helps me to better process and clearly understand the incident in order to confront similar situations in the future. I’m sure this will not be my last battle in this arena.

I’ll preface this: I love my babies! I will take one for them in a second without hesitation. Cliche yet true. There’s no BUT! Overall, my girls are well-mannered in public, have genuinely caring personalities, and are pure goof balls (like their mama). I’m still proudest of the daily growth and developments I see before my eyes. I just don’t like their shitty (yes, I wrote shitty and meant it) behaviors and negative attitudes at times, especially right now, towards the end of summer. I suppose this resulted from too much time on their hands, and not much military-like routines to follow as when they’re in school.

Lately, my older girl has displayed some really negative attitudes and behaviors that I cannot tolerate to save my soul. Sometimes when I tell her to do something (i.e. eat her food, don’t jump off the couch for 500th time, etc.) she blatantly disregards my requests by not responding. This is a BIG no-no in my eyes. To further fuel my flame, she refuses to acknowledge my existence by not establishing eye contact with me when I do address the issue in a calm tone. Instead, she’ll do the opposite of what I would then asks of her. If I tell her to “sit in her chair to finish her meal” she’ll stand. If I tell her not to slam her hand onto her food, she will, or tosses them onto the floor. These actions are intentional and its sends me over. Through her eyes, I can tell she realized she just screwed up. She now fears the unknown repercussions but she can’t bring herself to turn back at this point so she pushes forward with more antics. I know this. I’ve pulled these exact same stunts with my parents as a child. We go through this madness a few times a day and my tension chord is stretched to the max. Most times, when my hubby knows I’m about to get to this “point of no return”, he intervenes. Other times, I’ll walk away and address her with the issue when I’ve regained composure. I usually don’t go apeshit and scream at my babies unless I’m shouting for their sake in dangerous situations. My hubby and I usually enforce time-outs and/or remove privileges/rewards as punishments. For 5 plus years, we don’t practice or believe in screaming at/or spanking as an effective disciplinary action. We’ve agreed should spanking ever be introduced, it would be a definite last resort. I think I average one scream every couple of years when I’ve had it with their behaviors and actually had to scream out of anger.

Well, I completely lost it yesterday! After two consecutive days of dealing with her rebellious “madness”, I totally flew over the cuckoo’s nest. My hubby was away for work. I was left to man the fort solo and to contain myself if need me. I couldn’t! I failed miserably! After the final round of “Eat your food or no iPad! Don’t toss food on the floor. Pick up what you threw on the floor. Please look me in the eye when I’m talking to you. Please respond when I asks you a question”. After doing the exact opposite of what’s being asked, and whatever she did, she did in anger, followed with mean facial expressions, throwing in mid-air, whatever objects were within her reach. I finally came to the “point of no return”.

My floodgates of hell opened on her. I quickly took her hand and walked her into the kitchen. I took the longest, fattest, cooking wooden chopstick I owned from my ceramic tool canister. I walked her to the front entrance of the house and had her back facing a corner next to the front doors. I was so filled with raged, mostly from my feelings being crushed by her actions. I can’t believe this child that I love, protected from danger and evil from outside that front double doors, patiently carried her inside my aching body for 38.5 weeks, waited in anticipation to meet and love with all my might, could treat me with such disrespect. Internally, I thought I’m her fucking mom for goodness sake, not the bratty kid from summer camp. We always teach her about respect. Her self-defense instructor actively reinforces this principle in class three times a week. And here she is, blatantly disrespectful as ever. What the hell?

In a screaming tone, I quickly made my point. Going forward, should she ever disrespect me or her father by pulling these disregarding, no responding, no eye contact junks, and refusing to listen or follow our rules on the first request (I’m done with the 3 strikes you’re out routine), I will not hesitate to introduce my fat chopstick to her behind. I will not provide anymore needless warnings because they’re useless on her intentionally deaf ears. Her father will not and cannot stop me. Should he be the parent in similar matters, I will not stop him from the needed discipline either. Nearly 6 years old, time-out becomes ineffective and she WILL understand and abide by our rules or else. I told her to sit in the corner and wait until I’m ready to talk to her. And no, I did not spank her. I had no desire to spank any of my child, and I always pray to God to not allow me to walk down that path one day. I know should that happen, I would feel like I total jerk; a shitty mother. I may regret my actions. Who knows. I’ll deal with it when I get there.

After 5.5 minutes, the timer went off. We had an eye-to-eye chat and completely talked it out. I calmly reiterated the new rules. We hugged. She resumed playing with her bff/baby sissy. And I, well I just about died inside. Somebody could reward me with the #1 Worst Mother of the Year Award now. Who the hell screams at their kid that way? Who the hell had so much anger directed at another human being in that manner? I don’t care if the anger stemmed from hurt feelings; it’s still received as mean, hateful anger in a 5 year-old’s eyes. Why can’t I keep it together and address my issues with her in a direct and stable tone? What the hell is wrong with me? I’m the grown-up. If I lose it, she’ll learn that from me, and will lose it for anything going forward. What kind of an example am I setting for this child? At the same time, my younger baby is observing and learning from her big sissy. I fucked up and was fucked up!

I managed to lay low with the girls until my hubby got home. I told him to take over so I could use the restroom. Standing alone on my bathroom tile floor, tears fell like rain. I felt defeated. I couldn’t bring myself to be near my girls at that moment. Not that I loved them less but because I love them too much. I knew I couldn’t give them the best of me, the best as a mom, at that time. I was at my lowest point and sinking further because of my monstrous way towards my baby 2 hours earlier. She didn’t deserved that tone. I’d forgotten and needed to understand she is a young child, still learning and picking up lessons and attitudes from the outside world. She’s trying them on for size and seeing what will work at home with her family. As parents, it’s our job to decipher, correct, and explain the rights and wrongs to her; not go ape-shit on her. In that regards, I undoubtedly failed as a mother. No excuse!

I went to sleep with shame with guilt hung over my head. I somehow slept on it. Today is a new day! A chance to start fresh; a do-over with a new attitude (from me). I pray to do better, be better, and continue to seek guidance and patience from the Heavens above in order to be the best mother I can be to these loving babies. I’m still new to motherhood and I’m still learning! On the same token, I need to acknowledge and remember so long as I am doing the best I can, everything somehow will be okay. Yesterday’s defeat is today’s insight! Live it! Learn it! Love always!

Bye-Bye, Nonstick! Hello, Carbon Steel Wok!

11267401_1647900432123062_774209276572161928_nTired of replacing my pricey nonstick woks every few years, I finally tossed them to the wind and said hello to my very first carbon steel (CS) wok. I only paid a mere $10; still sticker shock but in a good way. Wok Seasoning took approximately 3 hours: repeated soap scrubbing with steel sponge and hot water, then placed the wok on the highest heat in order to burn off the manufacturer’s toxic protective coating. The coating prevents the wok from rusting during processing and shipment. The entire process was crazy and very time-consuming on my dinky ceramic cooktop, but fairly doable. I performed the aromatic stir fry with avocado oil, green onions, fresh garlic, and ginger, four times (a bit anal or paranoia?).

The final outcome was very good considering my weak heat source. I christened the “seasoned” wok with a Pad Woon Sen using what my eyes spied in the fridge: fresh carrots, green and sweet onions, broccoli, a lonely chicken thigh (initially intended for everything but the kitchen sink fried rice), minced garlic, a Thai chili, and soaked glass noodles. I’m impressed with the overall dish, especially the smokiness of the vegetables from the burnt edges. Hip! Hip! WokHAY! Such delicious result was impossible to achieve with my nonstick woks. I could never fully crank up the heat for risk of destroying the cookware or endure a foul, burnt metal odor. 

Note to self: Add pad woon sen recipe to blog soon.

Here’s my wok seasoning madness.

1. I started with washing my $10 find in hot, soapy water, using a stainless steel pad, and scouring viciously (like I was infuriated with the world) on both sides. Then, the wok was thoroughly dried with a paper towel.

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2. Placed the dry wok on the hottest burner of my ceramic cooktop, with heat set on high. Within 5-7 minutes, the wok’s bottom turned black/brown. After another 5 minutes, it was somewhat of a clear metal color.

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3. The wok was tilted on its side then rotated every 10-15 minutes to ensure heat was directly against the metal finish. This will burn off the manufacture’s protective coating. It took a total of 45 minutes, approximately.

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Once finished, the wok was ready for the aromatics/oil seasoning ritual.

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4.  I added my holy trinity as aromatics: green onions, ginger, and garlic with a drizzle of avocado oil to the wok. Heat was reduced to medium. With a wooden spatula, the aromatics were firmly pressed up and against the sides of the wok while stirring frequently until the aromatics are blackened (approximately 10-15 minutes). This step is crucial. When the carbon steel is hot, its pores are open. This allows the aromatics and oil to easily penetrate the steel walls which results in a natural, nonstick coating. I repeated the step 4 times. On the 4th round, I added strips of Vidalia onions and applewood smoked bacon for a little oomph!

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Round 1

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Round 4 – Added Vidalia onions and applewood smoked bacon

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Approximately, 3 plus hours later…Voila!!! She’s ready to roll!

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Orange Belt Calls For Her Favorite Orange Chicken!

IMG_0609To celebrate some milestones for my 5 yro martial arts warrior, I made one of her all-time favorites for dinner: Orange chicken (with half the sweetness from those mall stalls she craves), and chicken cubes stir fried with Chinese broccoli in blackbean sauce to bump up the veggie intake. I can’t help but take a sec to brag as a parent. I’m SO proud of, of her strength and resilience!

A victim of physical bullying by her peer (i.e. was punched in the chest by a bratty kid), she didn’t take the experience lying down. Instead, she demanded to enroll in Tae Kwon Do to defend herself. After a month of training and positive guidance from her instructor, she was promoted from white to orange belt. With her new belt in hand, she confidently told me she was “ready to face that kid”! I don’t condone violence or revenge in any form, but That’s my girl! Internally, my mind was thinking “Yes, Revenge!!! Now, Go kick that little shit’s ass!”

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Recently, she was notified she was hand-picked by her lead instructor to join their leadership program, targeted towards teaching young students with whom they feel possess potentials to become strong leaders among their peers and within the community. Born in the year of the tiger; definitely a fighter! #proudmom

Full recipe with actual measurements and ingredient list to follow…Just adding photos and steps while they’re still fresh on my mind.

Steps:

1. In a large bowl, add 1.5 lbs. dark meat, skinless, boneless chicken thighs (cut into bite size pieces), green onions strips, minced garlic, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, a splash of Xiao Shing rice wine, light soy, dark soy, fish sauce, sugar, and corn starch. Mix well. Set aside to marinate for 30 min. to 1 hr.

Note: One can opt to add corn starch and all the wet ingredients together initially to make a slurry. Then add the chicken meat to the mix bowl and marinate.

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2. In a wok or large pot, on medium heat, preheat enough canola or avocado oil, to fill half-way up the sides of the wok. When oil is hot and ready (should bubble vigorously when wooden chopstick is dipped into the middle of the oil), add chicken. Deep fry in small batches to ensure meat becomes golden and crispy. Remove chicken to a bowl over a strainer, to remove excess oil. Set aside.

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3. Remove oil completely from wok once all chicken pieces are deep fried. Add about 1 to 2 Tablespoons of the oil back into the wok, set on med-high heat. Throw in the minced garlic, yellow onions or shallots strips. Brown for 1-2 minutes.

Note: For my carbon steel wok, medium heat is plenty smokey and powerful. High heat will result in burnt food.

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4. Add deep-fried chicken pieces. Toss a few times 2-3 minutes. Add seasoning sauce. With a spatula, mix the sauce well with the chicken pieces.

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5. Once the sauce adheres to each nook and cranny of the chicken pieces, and has caramelized, give the chicken another quick toss and serve immediately. Steamed jasmine rice and sautéed Chinese or American broccoli are ideal companions for this savory and sweet dish.

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This Was Our Fourth of July!

I had a dab of fun and a few sweet memories in the kitchen with my zealous 5 yro sous chef by my side this July 4th! I love how she listens intently as I demonstrate a task then hits the ground running! She dutifully took over the corn on the cob department, even down to making the garlic butter spread.

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We made St. Louis style BBQ ribs, grass-fed beef burgers on a challah bun (I think?). All were nicely charred on the grill alongside her corn, broccoli and organic russet potato diskettes until the unthinkable occurred – my gas grill was out of propane. Turning lemons into lemonades, we resorted to our trusty convection oven. No sweat!

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The ribs were split in ½ for easy handling, rubbed with a kid-friendly dry mix of S&P, brown sugar, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, stored in the fridge for 5-6 hrs. Into the oven they went for 2 hours at 300, quickly basted with Stubb’s BBQ sauce, and roasted for another 30 min.

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Although I’m not a fan of making or eating burgers, my hubby wanted them on the July 4th menu, citing it’s a traditional fare. Nonetheless, they were a no-brainer to whip up. I bought the grass-fed beef at Whole Foods. The butchers here are phenomenal, always going above and beyond! As requested, they formed the ground beef I selected into 4 fresh patties of equal size (I always have issues in this area). Sprinkled with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, they went on the grill.

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Everything on my plate was gone and needless to say, my baby diva’s corn were buttery, sweet, and delicious! Wrapping the corn back in its own husks and roasting them in the husks really ensured their moist flavor.

Full recipe (uploaded soon)!

Perfect, casual family day! I’m Blessed beyond belief: A good meal, seeing my girls laughing/being silly, teaching them the reason we have a flag (one got it, one not quite) and capping the night off with first class, front row seats to the Sonterra Club annual fireworks display (with unobstructed view from the bedroom)!

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Thankful for the freedom to be me, do as I please, when it pleases me! Happy Fourth!