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A steep learning curve & a recipe

Learning curve

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Pomegranate Aqua Fresca & Honey

Has it been warm in other parts of America? It has been warm in the ever mild coastal California. We rarely see temperatures in high 70s or mid 80s during this time of the year.

Hubby and I have been doing lots of TLC around the house to get ready for our baby, and manual labor in warm weather for a pregnant lady is not funny. We needed something cool, refreshing and yet not sugary. Besides the sugar restriction in preggo diet, I have never really like sugary drinks, so I came up with this delightful concoction.


Not only is it thirst quenching and refreshing, we got to use up all the frozen pomegranate in the freezer (DH has seeds aversion, he dislikes eating any berries with seeds. i.e. raspberries, blackberries, and pomegranate despite how nutritious they are).

Pomegranate Aqua Fresca


  • Frozen pomegranate (or mixed berries) 1 cup
  • Honey 2 tbsp
  • Loose jasmine tea leaves 1/2 tbsp
  • Hot filtered water 4 cups
  • Cold filtered water 4 cups
  1. Fill a glass jar / pitcher with the frozen pomegranate, jasmine tea leaves
  2. Add the hot water into the jar, and wait for 2 min
  3. Add the cold water into the jar, stir well.
  4. Add the honey into the jar, stir until the honey dissolves completely
  5. Refrigerate.

The reasons for step 2-4 is the following. I added the hot water first so the tea has enough time to brew. By adding the cold water and honey later, the drink retains the full benefit of honey without destroying its structure and enzymes (see below excerpt on Honey). The end result is a fragrant pomegranate tea with very little hint of caffeine. Very delicious and guilt-free!!

“Excessive heat can have detrimental effects on the nutritional value of honey. Heating up to 37 °C (99 °F) causes loss of nearly 200 components, some of which are antibacterial. Heating up to 40 °C (104 °F) destroys invertase, an important enzyme. At 50 °C (122 °F), the honey sugars caramelize. Generally, any large temperature fluctuation causes decay” ~ Wiki

Wishing you all a good day


xoxo, Mary

Slowly adjusting & an iron-rich stirfry for pregnant moms

The blog has taken a longer vacation than I myself. We came back from Asia close to a month ago, and it has taken us this long to adjust. Besides fighting jet lag, getting back to daily routine, we are also facing new chapter ahead – parenthood.

Needless to say, it is a time of excitement coupled with trepidation. Will we be good parents? How will we ever be able to afford kid’s education? More importantly, will we be able to raise up God-fearing/loving child? Instantly, my brain frazzled.

In addition to the mental preparation, we are also making our home more baby ready. I am SO THANKFUL that child bearing takes 10 months, there are just too much to adjust to!

For instance, pregnancy diet. I, being a preggo novice, had a bit trouble gauging how much to eat in my first trimester, and gave in to many burger/fried chicken cravings. Now, I am finally getting a hang of eating healthy and eating right. Whew~

I want to share a recipe that I recently created while making meals. As most women know, iron  is extremely important in preggo diet. We need a lot more of iron in order to make more red blood cells for the little one in our belly. The Ob/Gyn often prescribe us iron supplements. I, for some odd reasons, have pill aversion since growing up. So I have been looking for ways to enhance iron absorption through my diet. At first, I ate a lot of spinach, but after some research, I find that in order for us to absorb the rich iron in spinach and other veggies, it has to be prepared with vitamin c (i.e. lemon juice) and protein. See the article here.

So the following recipe is how I modified my usual stirfry to enhance iron absorption. I reduced the sodium and the cooking time in this recipe, so more nutrients are preserved, and less water retention for the pregnant moms.


Chinese stir-fry with shabu beef, power greens for pregnant moms

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • Pre-wash/pre-cut power greens from Trader Joe (1 pk = 5 oz)
  • image
  • baby carrots, halved (1 cup)
  • half a fist of ginger, julienned
  • sliced sukiyaki beef (I chose this for ease of cooking, they come thinly sliced, but other cuts like beef sirloin will do as well) (1/2lb)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped (2 tbsp)
  • Sea salt, 1 tsp
  • cornstarch 1/2 tbsp (for marinate)


  • low sodium soy sauce, 1 tbsp for marinate
  • cooking wine, 1 tbsp for marinate
  • black sesame oil 1/2 tbsp for marinate, 1/2 tbsp for stirfry
  • lemon juice, 1/2 tbsp for marinate, 1/2 tbsp for stirfry
  1. Make marinate: Mix together cornstarch, soy sauce, black sesame oil, cooking wine, and lemon juice until cornstarch is dissolved.
  2. Add the beef into the marinate and mix well. Let it sit for 15 min or more.
  3. Oil the pan (enough to coat the entire pan) on med-high heat, add 1/2 of the ginger and cook until fragrant. Add the meat and carrots, stir fry until all cooked. Set aside including the cooking juice.
  4. Oil (add 1/2 tbsp black sesame oil) the pan again on med-high heat, cook the rest of the ginger and garlic until fragrant, add the veggies. Quickly coat the veggies with oil, add lemon juice, salt. Once veggies are cooked, turn off the heat. While pan is hot, add the meat, carrot and the cooking juice into the pan and mix well.
  5. Remove pan from hot stove. Voila~

DH and I both enjoyed this stirfry very much even though I cut a considerable amount of sodium in this recipe. The fragrant ginger and black sesame oil make this dish very flavorful, and the lemon juice added to the stir-fried veggies made it very refreshing and light. I hope you will all enjoy this easy recipe.

There will be more updates from MKliving but for today, this preggo lady has to take care of other business. =)

…. until next time~

Making chazuke (cha-tsu-ke)

Chazuke is one of my favorite go-to dish, especially in winter time. It is light, comforting, flavorful and simple to make.

But what is chazuke? Let’s go to Wiki =)

Chazuke (, ちゃづけ) or ochazuke (, from o + cha tea + tsuke submerge) is a simple Japanese dish made by pouring green teadashi, or hot water over cooked rice roughly in the same proportion as milk over cereal, usually with savoury toppings. Common toppings include tsukemonoumeboshi (both types of pickles), nori (seaweed), furikakesesame seedstarako and mentaiko (salted and marinated Alaska pollock roe), salted salmonshiokara (pickled seafood) and wasabi. The dish is easy to make and provides a way to use leftover rice as a quick snack. It is also known as cha-cha gohan.

Growing up, whenever I was sick and had no appetite, my mom would pour a packet of chazuke (dried seaweed, salmon flakes, seasonings) over white rice, and add hot water. I would always finish the bowl regardless of how bad I felt. It was nothing fancy, just flavorful, comforting soupy rice.

the pre-made seasoning pack that I grew up with

It was not until few years ago, K and I encounter chazuke in a totally different light. We were in a Japanese yakitori house (Sumika), and we saw this fancy set up at another table (borrowed pic). Immediately we ordered one for ourselves, and fell in love with it all over again.

The ingredients were simple, and the delicious dish was brought together by the tea-infused broth. From that day, I vowed to myself that I must figure out the recipe so we may enjoy at home. Today, I will share our household version of chazuke. Enjoy~


ingredients I used
dried seaweed, dried matsutake mushrooms, bonito shavings, green tea
 salmon roe, pickled plum, and wakame chazuke


cooking of the broth, assembling the rice bowl
closer look of the ingredients in the bowl, and finished chazuke

Salmon Roe Chazuke, 4 servings

Ingredients (most of these ingredients can be found in Chinese/Japanese Supermarket like Ranch 99, Marina and Nijiya):


Dried seaweed 1/3 cup; dried(or fresh) matsutake mushroom (or shiitake) 1/3 cup; dried bonito shavings 1/3 cup; green tea packet 1-2 (depending your preference); chicken broth 32oz

Rice Bowl

Cooked rice 4 servings, 1/2 cup each; salmon roe 2-3 oz (if you don’t like salmon roe, can leave out) divided into 4 servings; pickled plum 4 seeded and chopped into small pieces, one per each bowl; sunny-side-up eggs (or over-n-easy), 4, one per each bowl; Wakame Chazuke seasoning, 1/2 tbsp per bowl

Put dried seaweed, mushrooms, bonito shavings and chicken broth in a stockpot over med-high heat. Bring to boil.

While waiting for the broth to broil, assemble the rice bowls. With rice on the bottom, add all other ingredients listed.

Once the broth boils, put in the tea packet. Turn the heat to low, and let simmer with the tea packet for 5 min. Turn off heat, take out the tea packet (very important step, if the tea is overcooked, the broth becomes bitter). The broth is now ready to pour over each rice bowl. =)

Bringing back Provence ….with cooking



Boulangerie Paul circa Oct'11, we did not know of its fame, but knew it must be tasty to have such long queue

Boulangerie Paul
circa Oct’11, we did not know of its fame, but knew it must be tasty to have such long queue

K and I had the pleasure of visiting Aix-en-Provence back in 2011. This small town in southern France is all about leisure, open market, and good food. Here we sampled one of the best macaroons (Boulangerie Paul), and tasted traditional French classic poultry dish – fricassee de poulet (chicken in white wine sauce). This poultry dish completely changed K’s bias against French cuisine. He always thought French cuisine too heavy on flavor, cream …etc. However, the chicken fricassee we had at Le Grillon (one of Paul Cézanne‘s fave hangout) was light yet flavorful, with tender meat falling off the bone.


K & his new found love for french cuisine – fricassee de poulet

The other day, I came across the recipe on Simple Bites, and immediately I remembered the taste of the comforting dish, and the leisurely pace of Aix-en-Provence.

Surprisingly, it is not hard to make at all! This dish is perfect to make ahead, as the meat becomes more flavorful sitting in the sauce.


our version
in olfactory heaven

See the recipe below (re-blogged from Simple Bites)

My only modification to the recipe was substituting the heavy cream with whole fat milk. It turned out just fine. Also, K worked really hard to peel all 40 cloves of garlic. Next time we will use the pre-peeled ones from the market.

Enjoy this fragrant, easy, and yummy dish ~


Chicken Fricassee
(chicken in white wine sauce, or in this case, chicken with 40 cloves of garlic)
  • 40 cloves of garlic, about 3 whole heads
  • 3 – 3 ½ lbs. chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups dry white wine
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Optional: fresh chopped parsley for garnish
  1. Separate the cloves of garlic. This can be done up to 5 days in advance and stored in a lidded container in the fridge.
  2. Thoroughly dry the chicken pieces with paper towels. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the butter and oil in a Dutch oven set over medium heat. Sauté the chicken skin-side down until nicely browned, about 5 minutes per side. Do this in batches if necessary. Turn the chicken over with tongs and when a batch is done transfer the chicken pieces to a plate. Continue to cook the remainder of the chicken the same way.
  4. Transfer the last of the chicken pieces to the plate, lower the heat and add the garlic to the pot, cooking it for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until it’s evenly browned.
  5. Add the wine to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil, scraping the browned bits from the bottom. Return the chicken to the pot with the juices that have collected on the plate, sprinkle the tarragon over the top, and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear.
  6. Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Whisk together ½ cup of the sauce from the pot and the flour to make a thick paste. Return the mixture to the pot and stir it back into the sauce. Add the cream and boil for 1-3 minutes or until thick. Check the seasonings and adjust if needed. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve hot.
To make in advance, put the chicken back in the pot after the sauce has been made, cover it and allow it cool before storing in the fridge. Slowly reheat the chicken before serving.Inevitably the chicken skin softens when it cooks in the wine. If you prefer your finished pieces to be crispy, remove the reheated chicken pieces from the pot and place them on a baking sheet. Broil for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a platter and pour the warm sauce over the top, or serve it on the side.

Simple Chinese stir-fry with power mustard greens

Growing up in Chinese family, the only cruciferous veggies familiar to me were bok choy, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflowers. It was not until 15+ years later in the States that other power greens such as kale and mustard green became a regular in my kitchen. Why kale and mustard green? I have to admit, it was one part laziness (they come pre-washed and pre-chopped), one part health benefits. Few years ago, a routine check up revealed that I was deficient in folate, and vitamin B complex. My family physician mentioned kale and mustard greens. At that time, I had no idea how to cook them, so I looked them up in the world wide web, and started to incorporate them into our meals. Most of the meals were Italian-inspired (i.e. zuppa toscana).

*see links above for corresponding health benefits, and recipe.

Being Chinese, we can only eat so many meals of zuppa toscana. So this weekend, I tried to incorporate mustard green into our staple, stir-fry.


Usually, I really dislike making stir-fries. It is time and labor consuming (lots of effort in washing and cutting the veggies). But this dish was really a breeze to make, all I had to do was wash the mushrooms, chop the ginger, and marinate the meat. With the help of the following condiments, my stir-fry was complete.


these are what I used in this recipe, but they come in various brands

Here is my recipe

Chinese stir-fry with pork, mustard greens and mushroom

Ingredients (8 servings)

  • Pre-wash/pre-cut mustard greens (1/2 pk = 5 oz)
  • cloud ear mushrooms, washed and drained (5 oz)
  • oyster mushrooms, washed and drained (5 oz)
  • half a fist of ginger, julienned
  • thinly sliced pork tenderloin (I favor DuBreton’s pork komagire from Nijiya) (1lb)
  • Sea salt, 1 tsp
  • cornstarch 1/2 tbsp (for marinate)
  • Chicken broth (or vegetable broth), 1/4 cup


  • low sodium soy sauce, 1 tbsp for stir fry, 1 tbsp for marinate
  • thick soy sauce, 1 tbsp for stir fry
  • cooking wine, 1 tbsp for stir fry, 1/2 tbsp for marinate
  • chinese black vinegar (or balsamic vinegar), 1/2 tbsp for stir fry
  • lemon juice, 1/2 tbsp for marinate
  1. Make marinate: Mix together cornstarch, soy sauce, cooking wine, and lemon juice until cornstarch is dissolved.
  2. Add the pork into the marinate and mix. Let it sit for 15 min or more.
  3. Oil the pan (enough to coat the entire pan) on med-high heat, add 1/2 of the ginger and cook until fragrant. Add the meat, stir fry until all cooked. Set aside.
  4. Oil the pan again on med-high heat, cook the rest of the ginger until fragrant, add mushrooms and the veggies. Stir-fry until all veggies are coated with oil, add salt, and stir again. Add the broth, turn heat to low, and cover with lid, let simmer for 2 min.
  5. Add the cooked meat back into the pan, then add soy sauce, thick soy sauce, cooking wine and black vinegar into the pan and stir until everything is coated. Turn off heat. Voila~

With Chinese stir-fry, you can always adjust the condiment by tasting throughout. I included the approximate measurements, but honestly, I don’t usually whip out the measuring spoon and weigh out the material when cooking Chinese =P.

Hope you enjoy the power green in this simple stir-fry.

Easy, healthy one person lunch 簡單,健康,一個人的午餐

I have been home bound most of the week due to some back /neck problem, so I am getting more and more creative on making one-person meal that requires no work. It started with the left over, then  wonton soup, then dumpling. Yesterday, even boiling a pot of water for more dumplings seem like too much effort ( I know, I am getting way too lazy. But hey, I did do some house chores). So I want to share with you my new discovery, a new easy breezy way to cook dumplings.


This was my lunch yesterday. Let me break it down. I had ChiMei chives dumplings, and prewashed, pre-cut collard greens. I also have a traditional rice-cooker (Tai-Tung) that works as a steamer as well.

I added some water to the inside of the rice cooker, placed the steam plate in, arranged the collard greens and dumpling, closed the lid, and pressed “cook” button. 10 min later, my meal was ready. I then made the dressing by mixing soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and chili paste together in the bowl. Add the steamed veggies and dumpling in the bowl. Voila~

It really was simple and delicious. In the time it took the rice cooker to cook my meal, I caught up with my emails and bills.

The health component came with steaming the veggies. It is one of the best way to retain all the nutrients vegetable has to offer. Maybe the frozen dumpling was not the most healthy food, but ChiMei is the only brand I have seen in Chinese markets that doesn’t use MSG (mono sodium glutamate), and only all natural ingredients. Although the effects of MSG is controversial, no scientific proof that it is harmful to human body, but I really dislike how it makes me feel. Drowsy, bloated and extremely thirsty. Yuck!

Anyways. It was my first time steaming dumplings. Growing up, we’ve always boiled it, and when it is overlooked, we got stuck eating soggy dumplings. Maybe I am late to the show, but I am really glad that I found a new way to eat healthy without doing much.

What are your tricks of eating easy and healthy meals?

Cranberry orange scones – ‘cut in’ the butter


This was the second time I made this scone, and this time it turned out perfect. Practice makes perfect. Well, maybe practice + knowledge.

This recipe came from Food in Jars, a blog that I frequently visit for canning and jamming recipes. I packed these for Christmas gifts, and the first time I baked it, the result was a bit dry and not flaky. What went wrong? I trust that Marisa from food in jars would only share good and tested recipes. As my co-worker and I discuss our method of making the scones (note, both of us are not bakers), another co-worker who regularly bakes pointed us to the answer.

Cut the butter into the mix.

Definition: ‘Cut in’ means working cold, solid butter into dry ingredients with two knives or a pastry blender until well mixed. When making pastry, solid shortening, lard, or butter is cut in to a flour mixture until the particles are the size of small peas. This creates a flaky texture by coating the flour proteins with shortening, interrupting the gluten formation (from

So this time around, with my new knowledge under my belt, I set out to bake the scones.

It. Was. Delicious. Best I have ever tasted. It was moist, flaky, bouncy, and so fresh. I think I will make more scones from now on.


get better ginger tonic


Got sick last night, and all I wanted was to drink this homemade concoction. i first made it last year when dear friend A caught a cold. It tastes mildly sweet, spicy and fruity. Here is the recipe.

get-better ginger tonic

6 cups of filtered water, 1 section of the ginger root (4″x 2″), 1 organic orange, 1 organic apple, 2 tablespoon of honey

Skin the ginger root and slice into thin pieces, and boil with the filtered water in a pot. Wash the orange and apple well. Skin the orange, slice 1/2 of the orange skin into thin strips, and add into the pot to boil. Cut the apple and the orange flesh into cubes. once the mixture boils, add the honey and the fruit cubes into the pot. Turn the heat down to med-low, let simmer for 15 min. Voila~

you can adjust the sweetness and how spicy the tonic by adding more or less of the ginger and honey. FYI, ginger is very crucial to the effectiveness of this tonic, so I tend to add more not less.

as I was typing, I finished a mug of the tonic, and my headache seems to disappear.

stay healthy~

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