Month: June 2009

Cheater’s char siu bao – Chinese BBQ pork steamed buns

I love Chinese BBQ pork steamed buns (as well as the baked version, which is like bread stuffed with tasty bits of meat with a sticky-sweet glaze on top). Since I know how to make steamed pork buns and I recently found a great recipe for homemade char siu, I thought I’d concoct my own version of a BBQ pork steamed bun.

I’m not sure if it’s entirely ethical to write out the recipe I used from The Best International Recipe which involved a simple marinade (for at least 4 hours or overnight) for pork (I used strips of country-style pork ribs instead of the recommended pork butt), which was roasted in the oven, then broiled while brushing a honey/ketchup/marinade glaze on top. So instead, I’ll link to the Chinese Barbequed Pork recipe on cooksillustrated.com and let you decide if you want to try it for free for a few days to get that recipe or look up the cookbook next time you’re in a library or book store. (Or you can try one of the many recipes out there on the web.)

After enjoying your delicious hunks of meat over rice with some steamed or stir-fried veggies on the side, reserve some of the meat for your steamed pork buns. I ended up using two and a half country-style pork ribs for the filling; unfortunately, I have no idea how much that translates to weight, but it resulted in probably 3-4 cups of filling after I ran it through the food processor.

Which leads me to the “cheater’s” portion of this recipe. More authentic recipes have you stir fry the cubed or chopped pork with mushrooms, green onions, bamboo shoots, and extra seasonings. I wanted a meatier bun, so I cut the pork into food-processor-sized chunks and pulsed it until the pork was minced up, then mixed some of the yummy leftover meat juice/marinade with the minced pork to make it more “pasty.”

I made the dough according to my basic steamed pork bun recipe, filled up the pieces of dough with spoonfuls of filling, steamed the buns, and ate. Yum

Reading: YA novels and mysteries

Photo taken 6/2/2009

The Apostates Tale by Margaret Frazer – Another Dame Frevisse mystery. Sadly, our library system doesn’t have all of the books from this series, so this might be the last one that I read for a while.

The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee – Ten year old Jenny has lost her singing voice. How she lost it is tied up in the story of her sister’s lost innocence and eventual death (that’s not a spoiler – you find out about her sister in the first few pages) and her family’s disintegration. The novel was beautifully written but rather depressing. Not exactly a “feel good” novel.

Rebel Angels by Libby Bray – I gave an unfavorable review in my last reading post for the prequel of this novel, and I didn’t enjoy this one any more (although I still like the cover art). The author made ample room for another sequel, but I probably won’t be reading it.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Katsa is a Graceling – someone who has an exceptional talent – except that her Grace is that of killing. Her uncle, the king of one of seven kingdoms, uses her as a deadly tool to do his will, and she goes along with it until she comes across Prince Po, whose fighting Grace is nearly equal her own. Their friendship results in her discovery that her Grace is not all that she thinks it is – and soon she must turn her skills to untangle a plot that has the whole of the seven kingdoms in danger. This was a beautiful and enjoyable novel – I loved it!

A Spoonful of Poison by M.C. Beaton – Agatha Raisin, the self-centered, middle-aged, easily-obsessed sleuth in M.C. Beaton’s mysteries, is back with a vengeance, investigating a poisoning that happens during a village fete that she’s in charge of while trying to impress a good-looking widower. As with the other Agatha Raisin novels, I alternated between wanting to strangle Agatha in frustration and laughing at her escapades.

Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier – A long-awaited novel following the Sevenwaters trilogy, this one follows Clodagh, the daughter of Sean and Aisling (and thus the granddaughter of Sorcha from the first Sevenwaters book). The Fair Folk steal her baby brother and replace him with an odd child of leaves and sticks that seems alive only to her — and to the man who must share her quest to find her baby brother and bring him back. The dangerous journey that they make has the usual twists and turns in Juliet’s novels and was thoroughly enjoyable.

Foxmask by Juliet Marillier – A sequel to Wolfskin. Nessa and Eyvind’s daughter, Creidhe, is in love with Somerled’s son Thorvald. Thorvald goes on a quest to find his father and Creidhe sneaks along for the ride, only to find herself in a dangerous situation that could claim her life and those of her friends. Again, another rich novel by Juliet Marillier that I could barely put down to make dinner, take care of a baby, and work.

Trace by Patricia Cornwell – Another Kay Scarpetta novel.

Tales from the Dad Side by Steve Doocy – I’m finding that the “humor” genre just isn’t what I’m into. I enjoyed reading the jacket blurb and the first few pages but soon got tired of the wisecracks and ended up not finishing this book. I enjoy a dry wit and situational humor, but 224 pages of over-obvious comedy was more than I could handle.

Photo taken 6/10/2009

Edwin of the Iron Shoes by Marcia Muller – A new mystery series that I’m trying out and so far, have enjoyed. Sharon McHone is an investigator for a law firm, but turns to investigating a murder when one of their clients is killed.

The Midas Box by G.P. Taylor – I guess this is what you’d call a young adult thriller — sort of spooky, riveting page-turner, mixed with fantasy and myth. I had to quickly skim through it in an evening and morning because it was on hold and I couldn’t renew it – I’m glad I made the time for it.

Cruel and Unusual, From Potter’s Field, and The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell – I’m finding that this is an unusual mystery series from what I’m used to reading in that characters can dramatically change from one book to the next as several years may pass from the events of one book to another. These earlier samples of Patricia’s books have been pretty intense – and the “bad guy” is not always apprehended by the end of the book. Now that I’m reading these in order, I’m enjoying them more

Reading: The Noticer by Andy Andrews

The NoticerI’ve joined the Book Review Blogger program at Thomas Nelson, and as my first book, downloaded an ebook version of The Noticer by Andy Andrews. This short, fast read compresses common wisdom and live-your-best-life principles in a fictional tale of a man named Jones who mysteriously appears at critical moments of peoples’ lives to provide “a little perspective.” Jones’ advice enables the residents of the small town depicted in the novel — whether struggling with a broken marriage, loneliness, financial problems, or what-have-you– to understand why their lives are the way they are and what they can do to change them.

I suppose if you’ve never read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman or kept a gratitude journal, this book might be life-changing for the simplistic way it distills principles from many of the other self-help books out there. Overall, I found it a nice review of good-to-remember principles when it comes to living life and loving people, but the sermon-disguised-as-story and stereotyped, one-dimensional characters made this less than impressive fiction. All the same, the book was such a quick read — and a free review copy! — that I didn’t mind taking the extra time to compose a review.

Plants in the ground

I finally transplanted all of the pepper and basil seedlings into our planter boxes this past weekend and sowed a row of spring onions as well. The tomato cage is over the spring onions to discourage certain cats from using our planter box as a litter box.

The Golden Jubilee and Roma tomato plants are getting big, and there are several green tomatoes forming!

The Sweet 100 is getting ginormous!

Yesterday I spotted our first ripening cherry tomatoes:

And the rogue butternut squash are thriving as well. There are at least two tiny squash that have formed:

Finally, I planted one of our rogue Sweet 100 seedlings in the front yard planter box. We’ll see how it goes.

Expenditures from the past few weeks:

  • New 100′ no-kink garden hose – ours burst open: $56.01
  • Drip irrigation materials (another weekend project for the future): $38.32
  • Another ultomato stake – $6.45
  • Organic plant food – $6.44

Expenditures summary:

  • One-time: $138.04

    • Herbs for front planter box: $10.37
    • Gear: Tools, hoses, tomato stakes, etc.: $127.67
  • This season: $24.50
    • Plant starters and plant food: $8.58
    • Seeds and seedlings: $15.92

As beginning gardeners, our one-time expenses this season are getting pretty high. I’m interested to see how our expenses will compare next season.

Now, I need to figure out how I’m going to keep track of our production!