“25 Days of Breakfast”

Breakfast tray for one of the kids (featuring the broccoli stem stir-fry)

Towards the end of May, I started a challenge to be documented on facebook (photos) to make breakfast for 25 days straight, excluding weekends and holidays.  After finishing this challenge over two weeks ago, here are some of my reflections (mixed with some of the photos I uploaded for this challenge)…

Watermelon peel salad (수박피무침)

Before the beginning of the challenge, I was going to have to prepare all the meals for the kids (our older one [5 years old] and our niece [13 years old]) for an indefinite period of time (at least three weeks).  My wife was still in Korea at the time with our little one (who was injured due to an accident and had to stay in Korea for followup care after his surgery), and my sister-in-law had to return to Korea because her visa period ended.  So I decided to undertake this challenge because (1) it would force me to keep cooking at least breakfast and not rely on something store-bought or processed; (2) I figured that if I could make a good breakfast, the leftovers could be used for lunch and dinner (^o^); and (3) I had started this blog a few months before but was unable to maintain it for long, so I thought this challenge could provide some future content.   Even though I didn’t always use the leftovers for lunch and/or dinner (ok, I went to In-N-Out one time – sorry! ^^), the challenge definitely pushed me to keep on cooking in the mornings, and I have some good ideas for future posts to this blog.

Egg-battered fried roll (김밥전)

Every morning, I uploaded the photos of each breakfast with the day of the challenge, the name of the dish, and the reviews given by the kids, my harshest critics.  Fortunately, I was getting more adept at the uploading by mobile so as not to waste too much time (maybe 1-2 minutes maximum) during the day!  Thanks to my fb (and real-life!) friends, I enjoyed the “likes” and the comments responding to my posts.

Omelette Rice (오므라이스)

When I originally started this challenge, I had four criteria in mind for the breakfasts:

(1) Overall, the breakfast had to be hot (or at least warm! ^^);

(2) The breakfast had to be more than just flour-based, and of course, have at least SOME nutrition (^^);

(3) No repeat of any featured dish during the 25 days (in other words, something new had to be made each time);

(4) Preparation time had to be less than 30-60 minutes (????).

Soy Bean Sprout Rice (콩나물밥)

So what can be concluded?  What have I learned?

First of all…it’s possible!  Even though I skipped one weekend (originally I allowed for skipped weekends and/or holidays), and I went away for a four-day weekend to Portland for my doctorate studies, I still completed the “25 Days” in exactly 31 days.  Also, with the exception of maybe three dishes (the noodle soup [칼국수], the oxtail soup [소꼬리곰탕], and the watermelon peel salad [수박피무침]),  which required prep time the night before, all of the breakfasts featured actually were able to be prepared in about 45 minutes or so (not more than an hour).  More importantly, clean-up time took less than 15 minutes! ^__^     A little more authentic than Rachael Ray, right? ^__~  And no featured dish was repeated!

Okonomiyaki

Second…  I retained a lot more than I thought what I learned from my parents (in particular, my mother) in terms of cooking, and I was able to sometimes combine what I learned as “traditional” Korean cooking with other cooking traditions and/or new methods.  Like I said in my introduction to this whole challenge, I have cooked a lot before for the family, and a lot of it was/is based on what I ate growing up, but I often repeated several dishes over and over again.  This time, when push came to shove, I actually didn’t run out of ideas during the 25 days, and they kept on coming!

“Egg Roll” (계란말이) over bok choy and rice, drizzled with sesame oil

Third… To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by the positive responses to the breakfast photos.  As you may already know, these aren’t your typical “American” breakfasts (then again, what is really an “American” breakfast?), but a lot of them were my/our typical breakfasts in our (Korean) household.  While growing up, my peers did not always accept our food – you know, our REAL food, not the watered-down (or even more deep-fried or heavily sauced) version [probably Chinese food is more of a victim of that than Korean food, since at that time, Korean food was not as well known as it is now].   Part of it perhaps was my own doing due to my anticipated fear of being rejected or ridiculed, so I didn’t share too much our food with the mainstream (the mythological “second” menu at an Asian restaurant [again, Chinese restaurants more of a victim of this urban myth than Korean restaurants probably]).  Times have definitely changed, as people’s perceptions and/or concepts of food or even GOOD food have evolved and expanded and maybe co-opted as well (but that’s another discussion for another day), taking into account aesthetics, taste, AND nutrition.  When I think about it, the food I/we ate in our household definitely had all that.  I could probably discuss this point a little more, but again, this may be a more in-depth discussion for another day.

Oxtail soup (꼬리곰탕)

The “25 Days of Breakfast” ended over two weeks ago, but hopefully, we can maintain and even further grow our motivation and enthusiasm in preparing, eating, and experiencing good, hot, nutritious, and sometimes NEW, daily breakfasts here in our Lee-Ryu household.  By the way, the first weekend after my challenge ended, I made egg sandwiches and “egg rolls”:

Egg, Avocado, Lettuce on Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Bread (^^)

Leftover egg used for “roll” (계란말이)

And the next day, I made pancakes! ^__~

Below is a recap of the “25 Days of Breakfast,” the verdicts, and the number of likes and/or comments from my friends:

Day 1:  Bean Sprout Soup – “ok”; 1 like…………Bok Choy with Garlic – “ok”; 2 likes

Day 2: Vegetable and Ham Fried Rice – “FAIL (“too many vegetables!”)”; 3 likes

Comments: “Are you ready for a Fried Rice Throwdown[?]”

Day 3: Trout Seaweed Soup (송어미역국) – “WIN”; 1 like……………..”Mild” Italian Sausage stir-fry – “ok”; 0 likes

Day 4: Watermelon Rind Salad (수박피무침) – “ok”; 2 likes……………..Egg-battered fried roll (김밥전) – “good”; 5 likes

Day 5: Omelette Rice (오므라이스) – “Yummmmm!”; 6 likes

Day 6: “Hand-cut” noodles with vegetables in fish broth (칼국수) – “Mmmmm”; 7 likes

Comments: “How come we didn’t get this in our cooking demonstration?!?!”; “Excuse me Cliff hand cut noodles , now your just showing off LOL”

Day 7: Steamed broccoli with “special sauce” – “ok”; 1 like……………….Egg and avocado in dried seaweed wrap – “ok”

Day 8: Egg drop soup (계란탕) – “맛있어!” (tastes good!); 3 likes

Comments: “Are you making all these meals or just taking pictures of them at fancy restaurants? Please tell me it’s the latter – I’m feeling like such a slacker!”

Day 9: Black soy bean sprout rice (검은콩콩나물밥) – “맛있어!” (tastes good!); 6 likes

Day 10: Daikon radish rice (무우밥) – “Hey! It’s ok!”; 1 like

Day 11:  Broccoli stem stir-fry – “Hey! It’s ok!”; 1 like………………Okonomiyaki – “WIN”; 1 like

Day 12: Pan-fried egg-battered tofu and squash – “ok”; 1 like

Comments: “I want an invitation to these breakfast feasts!!!”

…………….Tomato and tofu soup – “ok”; 0 likes

Day 13: Egg scrambled with poached water spinach – “eh…it’s ok…”; 2 likes

Day 14: Shredded beef soup (육개장) [without the chile!] – “이거 맛있어!” (“This one tastes good!”); 0 likes…………..Lettuce stem with garlic – <no judgment>; 0 likes

Day 15: “Curry Rice” (카레밥 [not 카레라이스! ^^]) – <silence, just eating…>; 0 likes

Day 16: “Egg Roll” (계란말이) over bok choy with garlic over rice, drizzled with sesame oil – “ok”; 7 likes

Comments: ” That’s so clever–“egg roll”! :)”; “Nice presentation.”

Day 17: Bean sprout and soy bean paste soup (콩나물된장국)- “a little too salty but ok”; 2 likes

Comments: “^^  I wish someone cooks for me every morning~  매일매일 너무 맛있겠어요.”

Day 18: Grated daikon radish and bean paste soup (무된장국) – “good! and not so salty this time!”; 1 like

Day 19: Squash and Eggs – 5 likes

Day 20: Steamed Egg (계란찜) – “good!”; 1 like

Day 21: Oxtail Soup (꼬리곰탕) – “맛있어!”(“Tastes good!”); 9 likes

Day 22: Cucumber Salad (오이무침) – “ok”; 7 likes

Day 23: Vegetable rice porridge/congee (야채죽) – two “Mmmmm,” one “eh”…; 5 likes

Comments: “Stop it, stop it!  It’s too yummy looking!”

Day 24: Braised tofu (두부조림) and pork (actually, bacon!) stir-fried with soy bean sprouts – “진짜 맛있어!” (“Really tastes good!”) and “두부! 두부! 두부!” (“Tofu! Tofu! Tofu!”); 7 likes

Comments: “…if these are your breakfasts, what are lunch and dinner like??? Super impressed by the diversity and fusion of ingredients.”

Day 25: potato and soft tofu soup (감자순두부국) with stir-fried king oyster mushrooms, watermelon peel salad (수박피무침), chicken and greens, and pickled radish stems(무말랭이).  Also stir-fried eggplant with garlic – 2 likes

And it looks like these are the “winners”: (^__^)

“Hand-cut” noodles with vegetables in fish broth (칼국수)

Braised tofu (두부조림) and pork (actually, bacon!) stir-fried with soy bean sprouts

Cucumber salad (오이무침)

and the “egg roll” over bok choy and rice, and the oxtail soup (most number of likes!)… ^__^

by Cliff Lee

Adzuki (Sweet Red) Bean Porridge

(This post should have appeared in time for the winter solstice of 2011 when adzuki porridge is traditionally eaten.)

My mother would make bean porridge every year, more or less, during the Christmas season, depending on the lunar calendar, and have all of us eat it.  She would tell us that it would prevent us from getting sick the following year as long as we ate the same number of rice balls as our birth age plus one more. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be older faster because it meant I could eat more rice balls, and so I was always jealous of my grandfather. I was also told of the symbolic meaning behind the adzuki beans. It was believed that the beans would scare away bad spirits or demons that may be lurking in the house and therefore, help bring good luck and fortune to the family. Because of its brownish color, it has a reference to “blood,” referring to the idea of “death.” In some ways this notion of death may refer to the idea of “spiritual death,” which in this case, is a good thing. In some regions in Korea, families would sprinkle the adzuki bean liquid inside and outside of the house to scare away bad spirits.

The taste and how the porridge is prepared vary depending on the region in Korea from which your family hails. In some southern parts of Korea, flour noodles are added instead of the sweet rice balls. The level of sweetness also varies as well. My grandparents were from North Korea, and people from that region (now country) like the porridge with added salt, not sugar. It seems to me that people in Seoul like their bean porridge sweet because it is now eaten more often as a dessert rather than part of a main meal. Our whole family still continues our grandfather’s tradition of eating unsweetened bean porridge with a side dish of spicy kimchee.

This year I had to eat over 30 sweet rice balls but 10 was my max. I shouldn’t have been jealous of my grandfather after all.

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Ingredients

Porridge Ingredients:

1 cup of adzuki beans

10 cups of water

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of sugar or more according to level of sweetness desired

½ cup of cooked white rice

Sweet rice ball ingredients:

1 cup of sweet rice powder

½ cup of warm water

*You can make the balls ahead of time. I recommend using a spoon to mix and form the dough in the beginning because of the warm water to avoid burning. Then use your hands to knead the dough. Form dough into balls of ½ inch in diameter. Set aside.

Adzuki (Red Sweet) Bean in Pot of Water

Adzuki (Red Sweet) Bean, ready to be boiled...

In a large sauce pan add the adzuki beans and the water and boil for 1 to 1½ hours at medium to high heat.

Adzuki Sweet Bean Porridge

Adzuki beans boiled to "pulp"

You will know when it is done once the water thickens in texture and turns chocolate in color. Also the beans will soften. I recommend using a potato smasher to smash the beans to help break the skins of the beans and force out the starch from inside.

Strained liquid from boiled adzuki beans.

Liquid strained from boiled adzuki beans.

Dregs after straining the boiled adzuki beans

Strain the mixture and save the liquid as this will be the base for your porridge. I also press down on the beans to squeeze as much of the starch out from the beans. The more you strain the better because it gives your porridge a thicker texture. You discard the remnants of the beans left on the strainer.

Strained adzuki beans with rice balls

Pour the saved liquid into another sauce pan. Add 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil and reduce to medium heat. Add the cooked rice and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the rice softens.

Add the rice balls and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Add the salt and sugar more or less to your preference.

The final product…

Adzuki bean porridge

The adzuki (red sweet) bean has the therapeutic function of strengthening the Kidneys and draining excessive dampness.  It therefore can treat lower back pain and especially edema of the lower part of the body.  It can also help to treat diabetes and leukorrhea.

Pumpkin Porridge

It is that time of year again when pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns adorn the front porches or windowsills of people’s homes, ushering in the Halloween frights and festivities.  I remember when I was growing up in both the city and suburbia in the U.S. that pumpkins were only good around this time of year in America, and maybe a little while longer for Thanksgiving as well (pumpkin pie).  Besides symbolizing harvest in the autumn season, however, the pumpkin has several therapeutic effects in East Asian tradition.

According to Traditional Asian/Eastern medicine theory and practice, pumpkin — and its related other squashes like acorn squash, Japanese Kabocha squash, and “Oriental” Golden Nugget squash — is cooling in nature and has a sweet and slightly bitter taste, and it can safely resolve conditions like edema (e.g. “water retention”) without strongly purging and damaging the body.  Pumpkin can treat asthma and cough by promoting the discharge of mucus from the lungs and throat, and diabetes by helping to regulate the blood sugar level.  It can help to reduce fever and hot flashes, relieve pain (abdominal pain or stomachache), and even help calm an “overactive” fetus (and thus safely treat edema during pregnancy as well).  Pumpkin, especially its seeds, is also known to help expel parasites like intestinal worms from the body.

Pumpkin, therefore, is not just for frights during Halloween or dessert during Thanksgiving but can be an important part of the diet.  That being said, the featured food of this post is Pumpkin Porridge, which can be eaten as a soup (like at breakfast) or as a dessert.  Enjoy!

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Ingredients

Brown sugar, salt, water, sweet rice flour, pumpkin (small-medium size)

ingredients for Pumpkin Porridge

Wash, cut pumpkin in half, and scrape off the seeds and veins. [Save the seeds and toast them for a tasty snack as well!]

Kabocha squash (pumpkin) cut in half

Cut into one inch cubes and peel off the skin. Yields roughly 4 cups of pumpkin cubes.

pumpkin cut into cubes

Ingredients: 4 cups of cut-up pumpkin, 2 cups of water

In a medium saucepan place pumpkin and fill enough water to barely cover pumpkin under water. Boil for about 35-45 minutes or until soften under medium-high heat. Take off heat, let it cool down.

Smash cooked pumpkin with potato smasher or puree in blender. Pour back into saucepan. Set aside.

Mashed/Pureed pumpkin after cooking

For sweet rice porridge ingredients:

Brown sugar                1½ tablespoon

Salt                              ¼ teaspoon

Water                           ¼ teaspoon

Sweet rice flour            1 tablespoon

brown sugar with water

 

Mix all ingredients and set aside.

For sweet rice cake ingredients:

Sweet rice flour           ½ cup

Hot water                    4 tablespoons

Salt                              ¼ teaspoon

Sugar                           ¼ teaspoon

Mix dry ingredients and slowly add hot water. Knead dry and wet ingredients into dough.

Sweet Rice Dough

Take thumb-size pieces and roll into inch balls (makes about 20-25 balls).

sweet rice cake, rolled out

Boil water in a separate saucepan and slowly add the rice balls, which will sink to bottom of pan. Give a quick stir to prevent them from sticking to the pan. Let them cook for a few minutes. Once they float to the surface of the water, turn off heat, and drain the water. Set the rice balls aside to use for later.

Sweet rice cake in water

Bring to a boil the cooked mashed pumpkin. Decrease the heat to low. Give the sweet rice porridge mixture a quick stir and slowly pour into boiling pumpkin puree while continuously stirring the pumpkin puree. After a few minutes, the pumpkin mixture will thicken. At this time, add the cooked rice balls into porridge. Stir continuously for another 5 minutes or so.

Sweet Rice Cake in Pumpkin Puree and Sweet Rice Porridge

Garnish with Chinese date (jujube) and pine nuts.  Makes about 2-3 servings. Enjoy!!

Pumpkin Porridge

 

“Common” Cold

With fatigue, lack of sleep, malnutrition, and exposure to cold, your body with its weakened immune system is vulnerable to attack by the cold virus. [It is very important to have proper rest and nutrition for your body to have an effective immune system, which from the East Asian Medicine perspective, means taking care of your digestive system (“Stomach” and “Spleen”/”Pancreas”).]  If successful, the virus infection can lead to chills, fever, headache, sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, burning eyes, cough, phlegm, and/or other symptoms. To prevent such a cold, proper habitual nutrition (especially Vitamins A, C, and D) and rest are necessary.

Of course, with our stressful busy lives our nutrition and rest often falls by the wayside, and a lot of us sooner or later catch that cold, so here are some East Asian Medicine dietary remedies that you can try at home.

Green Onion Root

This commonly used cooking ingredient is full of Vitamins A and C, Calcium, Potassium, and other minerals.  From the East Asian Medicine perspective, green onion root promotes secretion of digestive acids, increases appetite, promotes sweating, releases fever, and treats diarrhea (due to interior cold).

If you feel a cold coming on (especially with fatigue and body ache), boil green onion root and ginger for about 10-15 minutes (just enough to smell the ingredients in the air), drink the hot tea, and immediately go to bed UNDER THE COVERS (to promote sweating).

Perilla Leaf

The perilla leaf has diaphoretic (promoting perspiration) and antipyretic (fever reducing) actions, and can expand the capillaries in the skin, control bronchial secretions, resolve phlegm, and calm bronchospasms. For this reason the perilla leaf can be used for a wide variety of indications such as the common cold with high fever and no sweating, the common cold with high fever during pregnancy, etc.

Either the stem or the leaf can be used, but it is the leaf that has the effect of accelerating the sweat gland secretions to treat the symptoms of the common cold.

The higher quality perilla leaf has a brownish purple stem, a dark purple leaf body (unbroken or uncrushed), and a strong fragrant smell. The perilla leaf can be decocted (boiled and/or steeped) in hot water and drunk as a tea.  You can find the fresh perilla leaf in most Asian grocery stores, especially Korean markets.

Napa Cabbage (Heart)

This main ingredient of Korean “kimchi” is rich with Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Carotene, etc., and can treat or prevent constipation and other adult diseases.  Heart of napa cabbage soup (with daikon radish, fermented soy bean paste, green onion root, and garlic) can also help prevent or treat the common cold.

 

Persimmon

This fruit not only has Vitamin C but also Vitamin A (which not many fruits also have).  The inclusion of persimmon in the regular diet can help build the anti-microbial resistance of the respiratory system and prevent the common cold or speed up the recovery process.

Tangerine

Tea made from tangerine peel and honey can have an anti-pyretic healing effect in the treatment of the common cold.

Honey Ginger Asian Pear Tea

The sweet and aromatic blend of pears, honey, and jujube dates infused with a touch of ginger is the perfect tea for the coming of fall.  For those who feel under the weather or are suffering from a slight cold, chills or cough, this tea helps soothe the throat, warms the interior, and quiet down the cough. It is also an ideal drink to help you go to sleep for those nights of restless sleep.

Ingredients: 1 medium size Asian pear, 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 slice of ginger, 4-5 jujube dates.

Ingredients for Honey Ginger Asian Pear Tea

  • 1. Wash the pear and dates and pat dry. Place them in a pot along with the honey. Pour 1.5 to 2 cups of water. Put the ginger in the last 10 minutes.

Ingredients of tea in pot (before cooking)

  • 2. Boil for 45-50 minutes under medium heat.

Honey Ginger Asian Pear Tea (after cooking)

  • 3.  Pour the liquid portion into a cup and add more honey if desired. Garnish with slices of the jujube dates along with a few pine nuts. Drink warm several times throughout the day.

Honey Ginger Asian Pear Tea (in teacup)

Asian Pear

When made into a tea, Asian pear helps to pacify the common cold and cough. The leftover pears can also be eaten when pureed into a sauce.
The pureed pear sauce aids to remedy mild swelling and mild constipation.

Ginger

Helping to relieve the common cold, cough, and indigestion, ginger has the ability to promote circulation and relieve toxins.  It can also help warm the body and relieve mild stomach pain.

Ginger alone can be boiled into tea and sweetened with honey. This is especially good for relieving indigestion.

Jujube (Chinese date)

Jujube helps to relieve irritability, crankiness, indigestion, and the common cold.  For those who have difficulty sleeping, drink a tea made with jujube alone and sweetened with honey.  Jujube dates are added to many herb tonics to help reduce the harshness of the other herbs or foods.

Honey

Helping to relieve cough or mild constipation, honey is also used in many herb tonics and teas to harmonize the functions of all the other herbs and foods. It can be used topically as well to relieve mild burns.

Introduction to Jowang(조왕[竈王])’s Natural Table

You are what you eat. Every morsel of food or drop of fluid that enters your body can have a positive or a negative effect on your health. Foods can be classified as hot, warm, cool, cold, or neutral, and depending on how they are prepared, the property of the food can be harmonized to be more compatible to the needs of your body.  Jowang’s Natural Table will offer natural remedies and traditional Asian food knowledge that will maintain your health, promote longevity, and boost vitality.

You will find easy-to-prepare recipes on how to make teas to prevent future health discomforts or teas that you can drink while you are presently ill. You will also find interesting ways to make herb-infused homemade medicinal wines that will greatly benefit your state of mind and health. Our blog will also feature simple everyday foods that are harmonized based on the concepts of Traditional Asian Medicine. We will feature food compatibilities and antagonists and provide you with information of small changes that you can implement in your daily life. Behind each food item, you will discover its history and functional properties based on the knowledge of Traditional Asian Medicine.

This month we will be featuring simple ways to prepare a tea that helps you prevent the common cold or soothe your body if you already are sick.  Our first featured food is the Asian Pear, and our first featured tea is Honey Ginger Asian Pear Tea.

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