Tag Archives: dairy

Homemade PBJ frozen yogurt pops

Warning peanut-butter-jelly fans: this may keep you by your freezer for the rest of the summer.

While looking up a jiaozi recipe the other day, I caught sight of a link for “peanut butter frozen yogurt” and was instantly intrigued. It’s been hot. Sean loves peanut butter. I’ve been dying to expand my repertoire of desserts not requiring an oven. When I found how out easy it was to make (frozen yogurt really is just yogurt that’s frozen! Well, plus a few things around the kitchen), I headed immediately for the fridge.

Inspired by the recipe that recipe was inspired by, I added a fruity twist by throwing a spoonful of raspberry jam in with the peanut butter, milk, yogurt, and honey. The raspberry seeds and peanut chunks gave this sweet (and slightly salty) treat extra texture and a sort of natural, healthier feel.

While these creamy ice pops do contain whole milk, full-fat yogurt, and Skippy peanut butter (yes, not the most natural PB around), I’ve already convinced myself that this is still better for me than store-bought ice-cream with its chemicals and artificial flavourings (sorry, Magnum, I still love you). Once you try these, you will too :-)

And if you’re trying to do with fewer carbs this summer, this perfect combo of ingredients is basically a breadless breakfast on a stick that you can even take for the road. No, I’m not even kidding.

Berry peanut butter frozen yogurt pops
Adapted from this recipe. For enhanced texture, use crunchy peanut butter and jam with seeds/fruit pieces instead of jelly.

1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp strawberry or raspberry (or other berry) jam
1/2 cup milk
1 cup (160g) plain, sweetened yogurt
2 tbsp honey (or more if using unsweetened yogurt)

1. Put all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Do a taste test: it should taste very sweet (the sweetness will lessen once it’s frozen).
2. Pour mixture into popsicle molds or into shot glasses and place in freezer. If using shot glasses, stick a wooden stirrer or half a wooden disposable chopstick in the centre of each after about an hour. Freeze for another two hours or until completely solid.
3. Remove the frozen treat from its mold by running under or dipping in warm water. Enjoy!


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[Recreate] City Shop’s pumpkin soup

I forget when I had my first pumpkin soup, but it was probably a relatively recent event, as my childhood consisted mainly of Chinese and canned soups (along with the occasional French onion soup at a western restaurant). I do know that my giant crush on it blossomed one day in March when I, a new vegetarian not knowing where to turn during my lunch hour at a new job, tried City Shop’s ¥8 plastic container of bright yellow, creamy sweet goodness. Pumpkin soup and I have rendezvous’ed weekly, or twice-weekly, since then.

And I wanted to bring it home.

After my not-so-gratifying attempt at the simpler carrot soup the other day, I finally decided this weekend to give the real thing a shot. I’d cooked pumpkin once before in Shanghai, and while the peeling and hacking were a bit of a workout, it really wasn’t that huge of a struggle.

Pumpkins are usually associated with the later months of the year, but City Shop has been churning out gallons of delicious pumpkin soup a day for months, so I assumed there must be some growing relatively locally. (I sent them an e-mail months ago inquiring as to the ingredients of their soup, but never received a response…)

As it was a hot day, I opted for the air-conditioned comfort of Trust Mart over the wet market. T-Mart is not known for consistency in their stock — when I was there yesterday, the usual array of Mankattan-brand bread had vanished, and there were no regular sized tomatoes to be found — so I had my fingers crossed as I browsed the produce section. Turns out pumpkins were on sale for ¥1.9/kg (!), which meant I was able to score a whole one for ¥2.6 (0.40 USD!!).

The stock

The pumpkin soup recipes I looked at all called for chicken/vegetable stock. Since I didn’t want to use packaged chicken broth and pre-packaged veggie bouillon is generally unavailable, I’d have to make my own (a first!). I threw celery (ugh), carrot, onion, garlic, dried black mushrooms, salt, soy sauce, herbs, and 2 litres of water into a pot and emerged 1.5 hours later with a potful of vegetable stock, some of which I froze for future use.

The recipes said to discard the veggies, but as it seemed a waste, I kept the onions and carrots, reserving a cup for the pumpkin soup and pureeing the rest with 2 tbsp of leftover canned pasta sauce to use later. (I’ve been slowly weaning us off pasta sauce, seeing as it’s somewhat pricey and fresh veggies are so readily available.)

The pumpkin

Then I got up close and personal with the pumpkin. No lives (or fingers) were lost in the peeling, seeding, and dicing of the little beast; as long as your knife is sufficiently sharp, it really isn’t that much work considering how much vegetable you end up with.

Once the pumpkin was rendered into bite-sized cubes, I fried up some onion in a pot, added the pumpkin, leftover carrots and onion, cumin, and salt, and covered the whole deal with a litre of vegetable stock. Simmered the mixture until the pumpkin was nice and soft, then cooled it under the air conditioner for another half hour (so it wouldn’t melt our crappy blender).

The soup

Once it had cooled slightly, I pureed the pumpkin-broth mixture in three batches, then returned it to the pot, where I added brown sugar and whole milk and gently reheated. I didn’t have ground cinnamon or nutmeg, so had to do without.

Wow. It was delicious — not quite as thick as City Shop’s, but close to it. We had to add a bit more brown sugar and salt to each bowl for a fuller flavour, but the end result was sweet, smooth, creamy, and addictive: Sean, who is not a soup person, had three bowls and couldn’t stop raving. The only thing missing was a crusty loaf of bread.

Was it worth all this time and effort? In short, yes, if only for the satisfaction of having achieved something I’d previously deemed too challenging/bothersome. If I had ready-made veggie stock and a blender not made of flimsy plastic, this would’ve been a much shorter process. At the very least, though, this was cheap: under ¥10 worth of ingredients yielded 6 generous bowls.

The City Shop pumpkin soup will remain a weekly lunch staple for me, but if I’m craving the stuff on a weekend, I’ll be doing this again!

The side dishes

The soup was accompanied by a rather poorly thought out combo of falafel patties and spaghetti with carrot-and-onion-puree pasta sauce.

Pumpkin soup
Most of the recipes I found use canned pumpkin puree, which I thought was a bit of a cop-out (if only to console myself for it not being available here), so this recipe was the closest thing I could find, though I picked up a few ideas from the reviews of this one. The general concept was more or less the same throughout, so here’s my own adaptation (note: measurements are kinda rough):

1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 pumpkin (approx. 1.5 kg), peeled and diced
1 litre vegetable stock (see these recipes)
1 cup vegetables (carrot, onion) leftover from veggie stock (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt

3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk

Extra salt and brown sugar to taste

1. Heat oil over medium heat and add onion. Cook for 2 minutes until softened. Add garlic, pumpkin, salt, and cumin and cook for another minute. Add leftover veggies and vegetable stock (use less stock if no extra veggies are added) and bring to a boil.
2. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, then let cool slightly and blend in batches. Adjust for consistency while blending (it should be pretty thick); if there is too much liquid, discard or put aside excess.
3. Return to pot and add milk and brown sugar. Reheat gently, stirring until heated through (but not boiling).
4. Taste and season if needed. Enjoy!


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On bloating, bananas, and one yummy smoothie

A week or two ago I came up with a hypothesis regarding my uncomfortable daytime bloating: that the cause was neither beans nor lentils, but… BANANAS! Yes, the healthful, dependable, seemingly innocuous banana. I realized that on days that I brought a banana to work for my morning snack, or quickly scarfed one down before my morning commute, the bloating would emerge and persist loudly through the workday and into the evening. (TMI? heh.)

I looked it up online and found a few pages about bananas (esp. not fully ripened ones) causing indigestion, but the correlation didn’t appear very strong. Either way, I started holding off bananas in the morning and sure enough, I’ve been bloated at work less often.

But I still like bananas, so what to do? Why, have one AFTER work, of course! Which is just what I did today, in the form of an ice-cold choco-banana smoothie.

Simple, creamy, and refreshing — not to mention a convenient way to use up hot chocolate mix left over from the winter — this might not be your most healthful smoothie, but it’ll get you a serving of fruit and the satisfaction in knowing that it only cost you 2 RMB, whereas a glass of basically the same stuff would sell for over 10 times the price at some western joint.

The recent spell of prematurely hot weather has had me dreaming about ice cream almost every day, especially while I’m on my bike on my way home, but this is a great alternative on days I manage not to cave in to my cravings :) And if it makes me bloated for the rest of the night, then so be it.

Choco-banana smoothie

1 ripe banana
1/3 cup water
4-6 ice cubes
2 tbsp hot chocolate mix
Splash of milk (optional)

1. In a blender, combine all ingredients until ice is fully crushed. Enjoy immediately.

Makes one large glass.

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Soymilk in a bag

I’m not turning vegan, but lately have been minimizing dairy consumption in a last-ditch attempt to tame my skin. In my search for a substitute for milk, I’d been surprised and disappointed by the absence of the cartons of soymilk — both Chinese and western brands — that can be found in supermarkets all over North America, and feared for a while that I’d have to buy a machine to make it myself (like many Chinese do, apparently) if I wanted it regularly.

Luckily, a tip from the Shanghai Vegetarians Club website pointed me away from the dairy section to the tofu aisle (duh!)… where they sell Tramy brand soymilk by the bag!

At Trust-Mart, it’s a bargain at 2.7 RMB/three 395mL-bags. They also have slightly pricier black bean and sweetened varieties, but the latter contains 3-4 additional ingredients on top of the added sugar, which is never a good sign. Fortunately, the unsweetened version — made only from water and soybeans, if the label is to be trusted — is rich and delicious without any of that burnt bitter taste you get sometimes from the street-side stalls. Having been a devotee of sweetened soymilk all my life, I was surprised to find it palatable… and even pleasurable.

It’s very satisfying on its own, but also right at home in a frothy fruit smoothie.

…Honestly, I’d like to avoid advertising for Trust-Mart (which is owned by Walmart), so I’ll just suggest looking in and around the tofu section of your local supermarket. The bags will keep for five days in the fridge, which makes it more practical for home consumption than the kind packaged with a built-in straw.


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Weekend getaway II: Quesadillas

Sean has a break on Sunday afternoons so he usually comes home for lunch. He bought some cheddar cheese on his way back last Sunday and we made quesadillas using leftover chili. I’d been craving a quesadilla since the New York Times did a column on it.

Wanting to make this as healthy as possible, we were careful with the cheese and liberal with the filling…

…which made it too watery and messy to eat politely.

Much tidier omelet-style.

Unfortunately, even with the conscious rationing of cheese, it (I suspect) still made me break out a day or two afterwards, so this won’t be done again for a while :'(

Relevant resources:
This is the recipe I started with, which is kinda messy
This is the method I switched to

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Weekend getaway I: Black Bean Chili

It’s been an exciting week. Even as I settled into the routine of work, we managed to sneak in a weekend getaway… to Mexico! Well, maybe closer to Texas or CA, but somewhere in that general idea. I explored a few new foods and new possibilities that I’d never considered affordable, like quesadillas, which might be mundane for some people cooking in North America but is kind of a huge deal over here. Tortillas? Avocados? They’ll add up quick, and you might as well go out for an overpriced meal at a mediocre-but-trendy “Mexican” restaurant. (There is an affordable burrito place near my office that I’ve been meaning to check out, though!)

But I found a few of those elusive ingredients at the Avocado Lady, and realized it was possible to venture beyond the 10 or so veggies that feature in our stir-fry rotation (eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic, onion, green pepper, carrot, potato, tomato [not a vegetable but whatever]). Having educated myself on the benefits of beans and prompted by a recipe my sister e-mailed over, I decided to make black bean chili for dinner last Saturday. I’ve probably had chili about once in my life, and it hadn’t been a very memorable experience, but it seemed like a practical way to make something of 300g of dried black beans.

I put them to soak in the morning. A couple hours later they started looking like pill bugs, ughh.

We prefaced the meal, which ended up not being ready til 9pm, with a mozzarella-tomato-basil appetizer which I’ve always loved but never felt “western” enough to make. Unfortunately, the tomato I used was a bit overripe, making the whole thing mushier than it should be; also, I realized how hard it is to slice mozzarella. Excusing the crappy presentation, the combination of flavours, especially the bit of salt that brought out the sweetness of the tomato, was still fantastic.

As we continued to wait for the beans — which I’d forgotten need 2 hours to cook — to be ready, we dug into the ripe Mexican avocado that I’d gotten at the same store (10 RMB). Sean spread his half on toast but I ate mine right off the spoon with a bit of salt (I know I’d said we were conserving, but sometimes there’s no alternative!). I don’t remember the last time I was able to take such liberties with an avocado. It’s always so stingily laid out inside overpriced “gourmet” sandwiches.

With about 20 minutes left on the beans, I started getting to work on the chili. I set diced carrots to boil in clean water, chopped up garlic, onion, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, and green pepper, and fried them (minus the tomatoes) in some olive oil.

When the beans and carrots (in separate pots) were done, I drained them and put them back in the large pot along with the tomatoes, vegetables, and a bunch of spices (red chili powder, basil, cumin, paprika, dill, black pepper, salt). Also poured most of the water I’d saved from boiling the beans/carrots, and simmered for half an hour.

I’d bought a pack of frozen tortillas (10RMB for 12) so I thawed a bunch and reheated them one at a time on a non-stick pan on low heat, flipping every 20 seconds or so.

The chili ended up looking more like soup than my idea of chili, but I ladled it into our bowls with a slotted spatula so the water drained back into the pot. It was colourful, hearty, and warming, and delightful wrapped in soft tortilla.

The best part: after stuffing ourselves, we had a giant bowl of the stuff left over! We rarely have leftovers, so that was exciting.

This is the recipe I used (thanks Florence!), with modifications in parentheses:

Black bean and vegetable chili

1 cup dried black beans, rinsed (~1.5 cups)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (1 whole head)
2 stalks celery, sliced (skipped, yuck)
2 large carrots, diced
1 cup each diced zucchini, onions, mushrooms, bell pepper (1 yellow squash, 1 zucchini, 1 large red onion, 2 green peppers)
1 can tomatoes, chopped (3 fresh tomatoes)
1 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock (water from boiling carrots & beans)
1/2 chopped parsley (skipped)
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp each dried basil and oregano
1 tsp each salt and ground cumin
1/2 tsp pepper
(I at least doubled all of the spices coz it turned out to be a huge pot)

– Cook black beans (or used canned). Drain.
– In large pot (or saucepan), heat oil over medium heat. Add all vegetables, stir for about 7 min or until softened.
– Add beans, tomatoes, water, spices. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 min or until cooked.

Where to find…

  • Dried black beans (organic): City Shop, ~18 RMB/330g [Edit: Trust Mart, 10.80 RMB/350g]
  • Fresh mozzarella: Avocado Lady, 17 RMB/100g
  • Avocado: Avocado Lady, 10 RMB each
  • Flour tortillas (frozen): Avocado Lady, 10 RMB/pack of 12
  • Yellow squash/zucchini: Avocado Lady, ~4.5 RMB each
  • Basil, paprika: Carrefour, 13-14 RMB/jar

  • Relevant resources:

  • How to cook black beans
  • Mozzarella-tomato-basil appetizer


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    Recreate: the egg and cheese

    I’ve been a fan of McDonald’s sausage and egg mcmuffin for as long as I can remember, but my discovery of the much superior breakfast hoagie began with the $2.50 sausage and egg from Bui’s food truck at Penn. Bui’s sandwiches were known by many as the hangover cure, but for me it was the cure for just about any type of physical or emotional ailment.

    When I started working at a center city office after graduation I moved on to egg and cheeses (with pepper and ketchup, please), partly ’cause it was minimally cheaper and partly due to my unfounded belief that cheese was healthier than sausage. Philly is known for having one of the highest obesity rates in the US, and I was getting ready to join the stats.

    But then I left. When I went back to Philly for two days last November, I made sure to stop at the center city cart to grab one (although I hate the lady who owns it, but that’s another story). There it is in all its soft and chewy, sweet and salty glory:

    And then I came back to Shanghai. And it took until yesterday, when I was at City Shop buying a baguette, mixed greens, and brie for lunch, for me to realize that I COULD MAKE THIS MYSELF! I’d been caught up by the fact that hoagie rolls don’t exist here (that I know of), but baguettes were just as good, if not better.

    So this morning I recreated the egg and cheese using brie and leftover baguette, whipping the egg with a bit of milk and toasting the bread on the pan next to the frying egg. I don’t even know how to describe how satisfying it was, so here’s a picture. (I will get better with food descriptions, I promise!)

    I can’t make this a habit though :(

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