Stir-fried tomato and scrambled eggs

Adapted from The Woke of Life

Ingredients:

  • 4 small to medium tomatoes (about 500 g, 1 pound)
  • 1 scallion
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp salt (divided, or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice wine
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil (divided)
  • 2 tsp sugar

Directions:

  1. Start by cutting tomatoes into small wedges and finely chop the scallion.
  2. Crack 4 eggs into a bowl and season with ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon white pepper, ½ teaspoon sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine. Beat eggs for a minute.
  3. Preheat the wok over medium heat until it just starts to smoke. Then add 2 tablespoons of oil and immediately add the eggs. Scramble the eggs and remove from the wok immediately. Set aside.
  4. Add 1 more tablespoon oil to the wok, turn up the heat to high, and add the tomatoes and scallions. Stir-fry for 1 minute, and then add 2 teaspoons sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ cup water (if your stove gets very hot and liquid tends to cook off very quickly in your wok, add a little more water). Add the cooked eggs.
  5. Mix everything together, cover the wok, and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the tomatoes are completely softened.
  6. Uncover, and continue to stir-fry over high heat until the sauce thickens to your liking. Serve!

My mother never made this often, possibly because it’s more Cantonese than Taiwanese, I couldn’t say, but a lot of my college friends were Cantonese, so when I saw some nice tomatoes on the vine on sale at C-town, I thought, what the heck. I ran out of scallions for this second batch, but they do add a lovely color.

I served it with some soy sauce stewed chicken my grandma made me, and some edamame I picked up in Flushing over Jasmine/wild rice.

~Jessica

Berry overnight oats

Adapted from Quaker Oats and Min Kwon

It ain’t pretty, but it’s okay

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup milk or nondairy substitute
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh mixed berries and fruit (in season)

Directions:

  1. Add oats to a glass jar (mason, jam, whatever) and pour in the non/dairy. Layer yogurt, et al. over.
  2. Leave it in the refrigerator (40° F or colder) for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Enjoy in the morning, add additional liquid if you’d like. Best to eat within 24 hours.

The mixture will keep for up to 2 days. If you don’t add a banana, up to 4 days. Use a one-to-one ratio of raw oats and your choice of milk, yogurt, or any other dairy substitutes. Other suggested toppings: fruit (fresh or dried), nuts, nut butter, seeds, protein powder, granola, coconut, spices, citrus zest and vanilla extract. I didn’t have any chia seeds or berries in my house, alas, so I subbed with my favorite Bonne Maman confiture (jam preserves). Why oh why are healthy fruits and vegetables so expensive. I miss Germany.

~Jessica

Please help me build my classroom’s science library

I teach at a Title I school in the Bronx. I want to make sure my students have the materials and experiences they need to succeed, so I just created a request for my classroom at DonorsChoose.org: Hidden Figures to Inspire the STEM(inists) of Today. I want to offer them books that feature people who look like them, and tell the story of all the ways science and technology impacts their lives everyday.

Give to my classroom by August 19 and your donation will be doubled thanks to DonorsChoose.org! Just enter the code LIFTOFF on the payment page and you’ll be matched dollar for dollar (up to $50).

If you chip in to help my students, you’ll get awesome photos and our heartfelt thanks.

Thanks so much,
Jessica

P.S. If you know anyone who may want to help my classroom, please pass this along!

Bali, Indonesia

After Malaysian Borneo, Amber would part ways with Bing and I, as we continued on to the Hindu island of all Indonesia, Bali. (This is also to date the only time I’ve dipped south of the equator in my travels!) We arrived at the airport by the capital, Denpasar, and took a shuttle bus on very winding and narrow roads through rice paddies to the beach coastline of the north. It almost made me car-sick. I also have a distinct memory of hearing a foreign couple speaking with such rolling sounds, for a moment I mistook them for Russian or an Eastern European language, before I realized they were speaking Spanish but with a “th-” sound added. European Spanish sounds very different from American Spanish, I realized for the first time back then.

Fly into Denpasar, one night in Ubud, then Lovina Beach all the rest of the week

Our night in Ubud cemented the idea to me that this was the ultimate honeymooners trip. So future travelers be warned, it might be a little odd traveling around Bale with a friend of the opposite gender, especially after reading about Balinese social networks in Eat, Pray, Love and the importance of marriage. A male friend who isn’t a relative? Get a room, jeez. It started off where people would ask “Are you married?” to “Are you engaged?” to “Is he your boyfriend?” to “He’s a friend?” queried with a bemused expression. By the end of our week there, I was so thoroughly frustrated by everyone’s 20 questions, eventually I cut it off with, “Yeah, we are dating,” and a big smile thrown in for good measure.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, up until getting “Bali belly”, which might have been something I picked up in Malaysia, really. And then Bing tried to fetch stomach medicine from the locals. It wasn’t some time after I had taken a dose that I read the lead ingredient: “belladonna” — commonly known as “deadly nightshade” and historically used as a poison. Fun times.

Back in 2008, I had not yet travelled independently that much, so I didn’t have a credit card dedicated to travel, though I wish I had. US News & World Report has a list of credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. When I moved to Germany in 2012, I enrolled with one of their recommendations, Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, which I have been using ever since as my main credit card. Miles or cash back, your choice. No annual fees. No foreign transaction fees.

Animals

I never saw the Bali myna (until working at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz, Germany), which is found only on Bali and is listed as critically endangered. Coincidentally, my research institute in Radolfzell, Germany would later become host to a mated pair for breeding purposes. They would bless my days there with their endless vocalizations, including a variety of sharp chattering calls and tweets, chirrups, etc. I did see a bunch of other birds, dolphins, monkeys, geckos, fruit bats, etc. Birding was fun though hard to see.

Food

We felt so rich and pampered, at one point we ordered the “roast duck feast for two” the day before, which involved a multi-course meal culminating in a whole roasted duck. It was fun to spoil ourselves gastronomically. The vegetarian in me was shut away for the duration of that holiday. I also tried snake fruit, which gave me cottonmouth, and the much beloved mangosteen (nothing like mangos!), and wonderful fresh fruit and smoothie breakfasts. Plus complimentary English tea service.

Nature

Everything was so beautiful and vibrant, kind of like Hawaii. Plumeria, lotus, hibiscus, etc. And I loved the Hindu temples everywhere, reminiscent of so much Buddhist culture. The dawn boating trip to see dolphins was almost worth the seasickness, and a sun that looked like a sunset on the water. I loved the little flower and incense offerings everywhere — Canang sari.

The people were so kind. I’m glad I asked our tour guide about his life. I still recall him talking about wanting to earn enough money to marry a girl in the next village. He was only 20, I think. He introduced us to the bird guide (a cousin of his?), whom I believed in every bird ID he gave, as he would helpfully point out the guidebook version too; and he booked the dolphin tour we took, which afterwards felt a bit like harassing pursuit of passerby dolphins, and definitely got me seasick a bit (I don’t do well with 4am wake up calls and no breakfast — too low blood sugar). I loved the lists of birds I made, which I reviewed in my personal English language guide (I had purchased for just that purpose), and brought my Eagle Optics Ranger SRT binoculars 8×32 (Cornell Lab of O recommendation 2013). I’ve come a long way to my Zeiss Victory T*FL 8×32 of today (compare). Birding in every foreign land is fun!

~Jessica

Penne alla vodka

Adapted from hapa nom nom

Ingredients:

  • 5 large tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a shallow ‘X’ in the bottom of each tomato. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer the tomatoes to the ice water. Peel the skins off and slice the cooled tomatoes in half. Dice the tomatoes small, and let drain over a colander. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the vodka, and return the pan to medium heat. Cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, a pinch of crushed red peppers, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  2. Generously salt a large pot of boiling water. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Drain well and immediately add the pasta to the sauce. Add the cream and stir until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Divide among bowls, sprinkle with parsley and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve immediately and enjoy!

My sister and I first made this back when I was in graduate school, and she had started working in the city. It was a blast, we got tipsy, and it tasted wonderful. I tried recreating it again on my own, and it tasted nothing like I remembered, and not very good at that. Ten years later, I suggested we try to recreate it again. If only I had had the presence of mind to snap a shot of when the my sister, ever so carefully, set the pan en flambé. ^_^ The guests loved it.

~Jessica

Tex-Mex chicken burrito (bowl)

Adapted from Mexican Please and My Latina Table

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup pico de gallo or fresh salsa (I chopped a Roma tomato and Vidalia onion to make one quick)
  • 1 14-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6-7 chicken thighs, seasoned, baked, shredded
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 burrito-size flour tortillas
  • 1 1/3 cups cooked white rice, warmed
  • 1 1/3 cups shredded Monterrey jack cheese (I used mozzarella and cheddar)
  • Guacamole, for serving (whenever possible)
  • sour cream

For the Guajillo Salsa:

  • 3 Tomatoes
  • 1/4 Onion (white)
  • 2 cloves garlic (large)
  • 1/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1/4 cup Chicken Stock
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika

For the baked Mexican chicken:

  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 juice of 1 lime (about 3 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 white onion, sliced (substituted from jalapeno — baby can’t handle too spicy)
  • 6-7 chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (I used peanut oil)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup pico de gallo and peppers if you have on hand (we didn’t); cook until the mixture starts to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Add the beans and 3/4 cup water; bring to a low boil, then stir in the chicken and cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and season with salt.
  2. Heat the tortillas as the label directs. Arrange the rice horizontally in the lower half of each tortilla, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border on all sides. Top evenly with the cheese, chicken mixture, sour cream and the remaining pico de gallo.
  3. Fold the bottom edge of each tortilla snugly over the filling, tuck in the sides and roll up tightly. Cut the burritos in half and serve with guacamole.

For the Guajillo Salsa:

  1. Roast the tomatoes, onions, and garlic together on a frying pan until slightly browned. 
  2. Put the tomatoes, onions, and garlic into a blender with the spices, the chicken stock, and the whipping cream and blend until smooth. (No blender, hence the orange sauce with tomato and onion you see in the photo — great topping for leftovers!)

For the baked Mexican chicken:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, dried oregano, paprika, garlic powder, lime juice, olive oil, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, cilantro and sliced onions.
  2. Place chicken thighs in the bowl and toss marinade over thighs. Mix well together. Let the chicken marinade in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or overnight. (We did it promptly.)
  3. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Heat coconut oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken thighs skin side down and cook until skin begins to get crispy and slightly light brown, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Flip thighs over, transfer skillet to oven and bake for 10 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper to taste and garnish with more cilantro and onion slices if desired.

My sister Jennifer likes easy to make meals, as a mother of two. She had some chicken thighs defrosting in the fridge, ready to go, so I tried to go extra authentic Mexican on this Tex-Mex favorite. I used the spice mixture from Isabel Eats to bake the chicken 35 minutes. Next time I’ll make the arroz rojo properly. To make the Goya black beans, I followed the back of the can recipe. So really this was three separate recipes: the baked Mexican chicken, the Guajillo salsa, and the black beans. Not bad for Spring Break full on meal.

~Jessica

Garlic parmesan roasted sweet potatoes

Adapted from The Cooking Jar and Together as Family

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes peeled and sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • Fresh thyme

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Peel and cut sweet potatoes into thin slices.
  2. Place garlic, oil, butter, salt, Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning in a bowl and mix well. Throw in sweet potatoes and toss until well coated.
  3. Lightly butter a baking dish and arrange coated sweet potatoes into a spiral. Sprinkle with a little parmesan if you like.
  4. Bake for 18-22 minutes. Serve the garlic parmesan roasted sweet potatoes warm and sprinkle with thyme if desired.

Jennifer picked out a recipe she wanted to use 3 sweet potatoes she had on hand, for a dinner we were invited to. These definitely needed to be cooked longer, or cut thinner. My bad! Next time I’ll do slices, which bake deliciously and look fancy as heck. Also, plastic is evil — avoid at all costs.

~Jessie