Lose Weight and Save Money by Switching to an Asian Diet


Ron's Blog

My friend told me a joke the other day: “Have you heard obesity in America has hit a plateau? Yeah, we’ve gotten as fat as we can possibly get!” Not so funny, huh? My friend weighs over 300 lbs.

The other alarming trend – and this is no joke – the rate of poverty is also on the rise. The latest statistic I read is 1 out 7 Americans lives at or below poverty level. And there’s certainly a lot more of us struggling to make ends meet.

How can this be? Wouldn’t you think if so many of us are just scraping by, there would be a lot more skinny Americans? It can’t be just lack of exercise. Something else must be going on. My guess is that we are eating the wrong things in the wrong way.

Here are some steps to help you take control of your…

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National Chocolate Day


Chocolate Rose

Chocolate Rose

The list of U.S. federal holidays seems a rather odd assortment. It appears to be mostly about finding a politically correct excuse for a day off with pay. The list is as follows: New Years Day, Martin Luther King Junior Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The first one and the last two seem to be the only legitimate holidays to my way of thinking.

As a kid, I used to look forward to the start of the “holiday season.” In my mind, the first big holiday was Halloween, followed about a month later by Thanksgiving, and then a month after that was Christmas. It was a glorious stretch of freedom from school, combined with presents, combined with all sorts of sweet things for the tummy. By the time New Year’s Day rolled around we actually looked forward to getting back to school and seeing our classmates again!

I remember January being a long, cold month with not much to look forward to except Valentine’s Day the middle of February. Then, a bit later in March or April came Easter. After that it was all about hanging in there until the last day of school. Oh yeah, I almost forgot the Fourth of July which is mostly about picnics in the park and fireworks.

The one essential ingredient for any holiday is good food. If you asked a kid, he or she would most likely boil it down even further to candy – and more specifically chocolate! Therefore, I propose that the government declare one more federal holiday – National Chocolate Day! What do you think?

Got Hot Pot?


Hot Pot is especially popular in China during the winter months.

China Bride Blog

Tsingtao Beer Tsingtao Beer

The other day I was reading something called a “book.” While reading this book, I stumbled across an interesting factoid. (All I have time for anymore-just the factoids, ma’am.) The author was of the opinion that Peking Man was the first hominid to use fire. We know this because we have his left molar in a box somewhere.

Which got me to thinking. If there is a Peking Man, shouldn’t there also be a Peking Woman? I wonder what kind of recipes she has to share? I’m pretty sure Peking Man was too busy at the hunting and gathering office to actually cook.

So I got a copy of the Chinese Telephone Book and started looking. It took a long time as you can well imagine. I did find a listing for Peking Tom, but the number was disconnected.

I searched and searched. But alas, could not find…

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Bean Dip by Another Name


Hummus? Yummus!

China Bride Blog

Hummus? Yummus! Hummus? Yummus!

It’s usually not a good sign to walk into a restaurant during the noon hour and find it deserted, with nary a customer, waiter or hostess in sight. I would have turned tail and left, except I’d promised to meet my Chinese student and her new boyfriend for lunch.

She had specifically chosen this Turkish restaurant in the heart of Guangzhou (Canton) because it was rumored to have one of the most mouth-watering Mediterranean menus on the metropolitan map. Since I had my choice of tables and a few minutes to kill, I began a quest for the best seat in the house.

I knew I’d probably found the most comfortable booth when I accidentally disturbed two waitresses snoozing soundly on the red tuck and roll benches. Startled to see a customer, they jumped up, wiped the sleep from their eyes and offered me a menu.

“Where is…

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Hummus? Yummus!


hummus-2It’s usually not a good sign to walk into a restaurant during the noon hour and find it deserted, with nary a customer, waiter, or hostess in sight. I would have turned tail and left, except I’d promised to meet my Chinese student and her new boyfriend for lunch.

She had specifically chosen this Turkish restaurant in the heart of Guangzhou (Canton) because it was rumored to have one of the most mouthwatering Mediterranean menus on the metropolitan map. Since I had my choice of tables and a few minutes to kill, I began a quest for the best seat in the house.

I knew I’d probably found the most comfortable booth when I accidentally disturbed two waitresses snoozing soundly on the red tuck and roll benches. Startled to see a customer, they jumped up, wiped the sleep from their eyes and offered me a menu.

“Where is everyone?” I asked in my best Mandarin. The two sleepyheads just smiled and nodded. Apparently my best Mandarin needs some work. Just then, Monica and her boyfriend arrived. After chatting briefly with the two girls, she offered me a one-word explanation: “Ramadan.”

During the holy month of Ramadan, followers of Islam abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Since the restaurant owner and most of the customers and staff are Muslim, business hours had pretty much shifted into the night. Nevertheless, we were warmly invited to sit and order.

After some deliberation and consultation with the now wide-awake waitresses, we ordered an assortment of appetizers, salads, kebabs and platters. Had we known, we could have saved some money and just ordered appetizers. Not that the food wasn’t delicious; it was fantastic.

It’s just that they, well, they had me at hummus. And flatbread. Hot, fresh-from-the-oven, round-as-a-tire flatbread and heavenly hummus. They kept bringing it and I kept tearing off huge hunks of bread, slathering it in the hummus and eating it. It’s hard to believe the lowly chickpea can elicit such sensory delight in a full-grown human male.

Another name for chickpea is garbanzo bean; however, hummus is no ordinary bean dip. According to Wikipedia, hummus is a transliteration of the Arabic word. It can also be spelled hamos, hommos, hommus, homos, houmous, hummos, hummous, or humus. (I’d be cautious ordering that last one—you don’t want a bowl of topsoil on your bill.)

In addition to cooked and mashed chickpeas, ingredients also include olive oil, lemon juice, salt, garlic, and tahini, which is a paste made from sesame seeds. There are a myriad hummus recipes on the Internet, some with tahini and some without, so I won’t give you my recipe. I don’t have one.

I do have a horrible pun though. If you’re ever in a Turkish restaurant in China and you want to order, but you don’t know the words…just hummus.

How to Be a Stir Fry Hero


Man at Wok

Man at Wok

How to Make Chinese Stir Fry and Be a Stir-fry Hero

If you’ve fallen into the rut of turning on the stove and opening the ‘fridge to see what’s for dinner, then mastering the art of stir-fry may be just the thing you need to snap out of it! No time to check e-mails or answer the phone when the heat’s on, but you may find yourself eating better, losing weight, saving money and taking bows with this delightful Oriental cooking style. Here are the basic steps.

Step 1

Being fresh is a good thing. Every chef knows the tastiest dishes begin with the freshest ingredients. Head for the produce aisle of your store or, better yet, your backyard garden. In a pinch you can rely on frozen, but it’s just not the same.

Step 2

Be prepared. It’s not only the Boy Scout motto, it also applies in the Asian kitchen. The basic tools are a Chinese knife (cleaver), one or two cutting blocks or boards, and an assortment of dishes to hold the prepared ingredients. Cut all of your ingredients into bite-size bits; try to make the pieces uniform. Have fun experimenting with different ways of slicing up each item. This is an art form all by itself.

Step 3

Several basic seasonings and spices are mainstays of stir-fry cooking. They are salt, ginger, garlic, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and chili. Speaking of chili, did you know in America we have only four “tastes” whereas the Chinese traditionally have five? That’s right: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and HOT! (Don’t even get me started on “umami!”)

Step 4

If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Once all your ingredients are prepared, take a deep breath and get cooking! You’ll need a wok, but you can also use a flat-bottom pan while you’re learning. You’ll also need a spatula for stirring. There are other utensils you can acquire later. These include long-handled forks, strainers and ladles.

Put the wok on the stove and turn it on high. Pour a little oil into the pan and watch for it to start to ripple with the heat. Toss in your densest ingredients first because they take the longest to cook. You’ll learn how to judge which ingredients take longer than others.

Step 5

Although the Asian diet is probably more healthful than the standard American diet, chances are your family may object to radical changes at suppertime. So, try a few simple recipes at first. There are lots of recipes, videos and tips on the Internet to help you get started.

Step 6

If you are interested in learning more about the Asian diet, check out my article on How to Lose Weight and Save Money with an Asian Diet.

Tips and warnings:

Most Asian cooks use vegetable or peanut oil. And they probably use too much at a time. Try switching to olive oil for health and flavor reasons. Some people use teflon pans for cooking, which further reduces the amount of oil you need.

High cooking temperature helps preserve vitamins and minerals in fresh food, but also increases the chance of a nasty burn. Be careful!

Ginger or Mary Ann?


Article first published as Politically Correct Gingerbread on Blogcritics.

I had fun doing research for this article. My entire ten minutes was wasted, however, as I’m writing about the hot and spicy root plant called ginger, and not Ginger, the hot and spicy castaway from Gilligan’s Island.

Be that as it may, I did discover I’m somewhat in the minority. It seems Mary Ann consistently outpolls Ginger in which-one-do-you-prefer competitions. In support of Ginger, let me just refer you to this wonderful 1957 recording of Tina Louise singing It’s Been a Long Time.

Chinese love ginger. I also think some of them may get a perverse pleasure out of tricking me into sucking on a mouthful of it. My first experience was on a bus during a school field trip to the China countryside. Somebody was passing around a bag of ginger candy and WOWEE! Chunks of ginger are not really candy.Ginger Root

What ginger is good at is adding zing. It is extremely versatile and can be used with everything from fish and meat to soft drinks and cookies. However, like dynamite, a little ginger goes a long way.

A former Chinese girlfriend used to make an amazing cough and cold remedy by combining honey, ginger and hot water. I think she put in brown sugar, too. I should have had her write it down before she left me. If you are interested in the medical applications of this versatile tuber, there’s a ton of information on Wikipedia. Seriously, check it out.

Remember the family cookbook I mentioned in my rhubarb article? Well, I found my little sister Linda’s recipe for politically correct Gingerbread People. Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread Person. Anyway, here it is.

Ingredients

1 ½ cup dark molasses
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup cold water
1/3 cup shortening
7 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Mix molasses, brown sugar, water and shortening. Mix in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough ¼ inch thick on floured surface. Cut with floured gingerbread cutter or other shaped cookie cutters. Place about 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake until no indentation remains when touched, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool. Decorate as desired. Store in a covered cookie tin or plastic container.

Sister Linda adds: Every Christmas, it’s a tradition for Jennifer, Sara and me to make these gingerbread cookies. We always leave one or two of the most special ones for Santa on Christmas Eve. He seems to enjoy them, along with the glass of beer that the neighbors leave for him at their house!

Shh… I think she’s talking about my brother-in-law, Ed.

Warmest wishes for the Holiday Season.