Life at Warp Speed

life, faith, food, parenting, homeschooling and just about anything else that is on my mind

Split Pea Soup September 29, 2013

Filed under: American,Recipes — lifeatwarpspeed @ 8:50 pm
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Who doesn’t notice Andersen Pea Soup when making the trek up or down the 5? Our last road trip to the Bay Area made me think about split pea soup. Since there is no way I was going to pay that crazy tourist pricing for a bowl of soup, I decided to make a whole pot for less than the same price as one bowl. Even though it isn’t anywhere close to winter here in SD, I decided today to work on my next incarnation of split pea soup. Since this one turned out well, I will share it with all of you as the weather is getting a bit nippy for my friends in the northern states.
  • 1 pound dried split peas
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 1/2 pounds of ham bone, smoked ham hocks or shanks
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oil (coconut, avocado or olive are preferred)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional topping ideas to serve: crumbled bacon, croutons, shredded cheese, curry powder or sour cream


  1. Pick over the peas to any debris or undesirable peas. In a large stock pot, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. Soaking overnight removes naturally occurring toxins from the peas. I do not recommend skipping this step.
  2. Once peas are soaked, rinse and drain the peas. While the peas are draining, heat oil over medium heat in the pot, Add the onions and cook over medium low heat until they start to get soft, translucent and slightly browned.
  3. Return the peas to the pot, add ham bone, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Pour in the water and cover, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add water if you want a thinner soup. Continue to cook and reduce if you prefer a thicker soup consistency.
  4. Remove bone; cut off meat, dice or shred, and return meat to soup. If you want to have smooth soup, use an immersion blender before adding back the meat. Add diced celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook slowly, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper if desired to taste.

This recipe can be adapted for a slow cooker.



Panzanella – Italian Bread Salad February 25, 2012

Filed under: European (French, Italian, etc.) — lifeatwarpspeed @ 8:00 pm
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Summer equals juicy, sweet tomatoes which means it is the perfect time for Panzanella. Please make this with home grown or farmer’s market tomatoes. It makes all the difference in this dish. With all the warm weather, I am dreaming of the day that I can make this yummy bread salad. This is the version I developed after testing out a few different versions.


Serves 6 to 8

  • 6 cups of bread cubes (or use bread that is slightly old and skip the toasting step)
  • 3 large tomatoes, cut into chunks.
  • 3 to 5  slices of red onion, quartered (depends on your tastes)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 large cucumber, cut into chunks (seeded if needed)
  • 1/4 cup of basil leaves, shredded
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 T of red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place bread cubes on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Transfer bread to a large bowl.

Add tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, garlic and vinegar and toss to mix well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Add the olive oil and basil and mix. Allow salad to sit at room temperature for up to one hour to allow the flavors to develop and the bread to absorb the juices. Taste and add more vinegar, olive oil, salt or pepper as desired.


For a gluten free version, toast cubes of Udi’s white sandwich bread instead.


5-4-3-2-1 Chinese Spareribs February 24, 2012

Filed under: Chinese — lifeatwarpspeed @ 10:08 pm
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People often think Chinese cooking just takes too much prep work and cutting. This is a pretty simple, tasty recipe to make. There are plenty of variations out there of this quick Taiwanese recipe.

Here is my version:

5-4-3-2-1 Chinese Spareribs

Makes: 4 to 6 servings


  • 2 lbs pork ribs (cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks)*
  • 5 T water
  • 4 T soy sauce (can sub light soy or use less to taste)
  • 3 T of rice wine
  • 2 T of sugar (or brown sugar or use Chinese rock sugar)
  • 1 T vinegar (or rice vinegar or black vinegar)
  • 1 T of vegetable oil.

Note: you can switch sugar and vinegar measurements if you like a more tart, tangy flavor.

In a large wide-mouthed heavy-bottomed pot or wok, heat oil. When hot, add spareribs and cook until browned. Add the water, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and vinegar. Stir and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary to prevent the ribs from drying out. The ribs are ready when the meat is tender and glossed with a sticky, reddish-brown glaze. Serve with freshly steamed rice and some Chinese greens.


*Asian markets will cut spareribs across the bone into strips. If you are unable to get ribs cut like this, you can substitute country style ribs.


Braised Oxtails with Star Anise and Chinese Greens February 17, 2012

Filed under: Chinese — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:36 am
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It has been a little chilly here lately in SD, so I pulled out this old favorite that I found years ago in Bon Appetit. This is really a warm, comforting meal on a cold evening. It is a variation of Chinese beef stew which you ca n find many different incarnations of depending on which region of China you are talking about. This is probably most similar to Cantonese style ones.

I often alter this recipe by using beef shanks, stew meat, tendons, tripe or any combination of beef cuts that you think you would like. P’s favorite is always stew meat and tendons. You can alter the cooking time depending on the cuts you decide to use. I will also usually add in thick chunks of daikon and carrots during the last hour of cooking to up the nutritional value of the meal.

The flavor does really improve overnight and even more after a couple of days, so this recipe works better if you make it ahead on the weekend and eat it during the week. Also, if you happen to have a cast iron pot, I recommend using it over a regular pot. I also will serve this with cooked thick Chinese noodles as a soup noodle dish by adding a bit more chicken stock to the bowls and skipping the reduction step.


Braised Oxtails with Star Anise and Chinese Greens


  • 12 (2- to 2 1/2-inch-thick) oxtail pieces (about 4 1/2 pounds), fat trimmed
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth (or water)
  • 1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 8 whole star anise
  • 6 (1/4-inch-thick) rounds fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese brown bean sauce (not ground)
  • 12 to 18 yu choy, baby choy sum, or baby bok choy
  • Chopped green onions


Arrange oxtails in single layer in heavy large pot. Add next 8 ingredients, then enough water to cover oxtails by 1/2 inch; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer until very tender, adding more water by 1/2 cupfuls as needed to keep oxtails covered, about 3 hours. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled at least 1 day and up to 3 days.

Spoon off and discard fat from sauce. Rewarm oxtails over low heat. Transfer oxtails to large plate. Boil sauce just until reduced enough to coat spoon thinly (do not reduce too much or sauce may become salty). Discard ginger slices and star anise.

Meanwhile, cook yu choy in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain well.

Divide yu choy among shallow bowls. Top with oxtails and sauce and sprinkle with green onions.





Better than Best Roast Turkey Recipe November 17, 2011

Filed under: American — lifeatwarpspeed @ 12:04 am
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It is that time of year again when all the print ads have those gorgeously browned photos of a perfectly roasted turkey. Then everyone starts searching for a new turkey recipe to try out on their family. I used to collect recipes to try year after year trying to recreate what my eyes were telling me this classic Norman Rockwell image a turkey should taste like.

After 12 years of testing a wide variety of recipes (and sometimes doing 2 or 3 different recipes in during a single Thanksgiving season), I have done all sorts of different types: Asian inspired, BBQ, rotisserie, smoked, brined, all sorts of different herbs, seasonings, aromatics, and even fruit. (I never deep fried for two reasons: fear of fire and the highest incidence of ER visits on Thanksgiving every year is from deep fryer turkey accidents.) I finally came across this recipe one year in Parade magazine. I saw the title of the recipe, and I thought to myself what an arrogant name for a recipe. Obviously, I felt compelled to test it just because of the arrogance of the name.

Now eight years later (if you are counting 20 years of turkeys, then yes, doing the math, I did start cooking them in early college), this is the recipe I make every year. Believe it or not, I am not tempted at all to try any other recipe. I don’t need or want to make whatever is trending at the moment. I want my turkey to be the classic, evenly browned turkey that has great tasting white and dark meat. I want it to look and taste exactly what you would imagine this Norman Rockwell turkey would be in real life.

There are some suggestions to keep in mind when undertaking this recipe. I strongly encourage you to stick to the weight guidelines. A bird that is under 15 pounds is a hen (toms are always the bigger birds) which is far better tasting as the flesh isn’t tough. It also keeps the cooking time down so you don’t run the risk of drying out. If you have a large crowd, I suggest doing two turkeys or a turkey roll earlier during the day and carving that up to serve. It rewarms well in a foil covered pan in the oven with a little stock (I use the giblet stock I make ahead). This way you will still end up with a gorgeous turkey for table-side carving.

Although you can turn the turkey very carefully with wads of paper towels, it works much better to use a pair of insulated BBQ gloves. They can handle the heat and won’t absorb any of the butter and moisture from the turkey. I also prefer to use a V-rack myself since I find it works better for me to hold the turkey in the position that I want it to be in. I also use a silicon brush to baste the turkey since it is easy to clean and doesn’t risk carrying any off-flavors from anything else you cooked with before.

Does the brining issue get you stumped on how and where? Some people brine using a large cooler to free up refrigerator space. I use a large basin/bowl and a large plastic bag so that when I tie up the bag, the turkey remains submerged in the brine without spilling or leaking all over the refrigerator.

Lastly, I may be biased, but I really do prefer the flavor of fresh, free range, organically raised turkeys. However, those are pricey. You can still get a good tasting turkey using a frozen one.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Enjoy your turkey for me since this is the first year I won’t be roasting a turkey since we are officially moved out for our relocation to San Diego and thus beginning a return to apartment living for the first time since I’ve been married.


Better than Best Roast Turkey

Serving Size  : 12

2           cups  kosher salt

12         pounds  turkey — up to 14 pounds

3           medium  onions — chopped

2           small  carrots — chopped

2           celery ribs — chopped

6           sprigs  fresh thyme

6           tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted (more may be needed)


Rinse turkey and reserve giblets, neck and tail for gravy. Dissolve salt in 2 gallons of cold water in a large container. If you have extra fresh thyme add sprigs to salt water. Add turkey to water and set aside for 4 to 6 hours.

Remove turkey and rinse well. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack set over a pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 8 to 24 hours.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss 1/3 of onions, carrots, and celery with 2 sprigs of thyme and 1 T of butter in a medium bowl and fill cavity with mixture. Tuck wings behind back and truss turkey with a five foot length of kitchen twine.

Scatter remaining vegetables and thyme in shallow roasting pan, adding 1 cup of water over the vegetables. Prepare V-rack by lining with foil and spraying with vegetable spray. Cut about 30 slits in foil to allow drippings to flow through. Brush turkey with butter and set turkey breast side down on rack. Brush back with butter and roast in oven for 45 minutes.

Remove turkey and brush back with butter. Rotate turkey to leg/wing side up and brush with butter. Add 1/2 cup of water if liquid has evaporated. Return to oven and roast for 15 minutes.

Remove turkey and brush exposed surfaces with butter. Rotate turkey so that the opposite left wing side is up and brush with butter. Return to oven and roast for 15 minutes.

Remove turkey and brush exposed surfaces with butter. Rotate turkey breast side up. Add more water to pan if needed. Return to oven and roast for 30 to 45 minutes longer. Move turkey from rack to carving board and let rest about 20 to 30 minutes. Carve and serve with gravy, if desired.


Bon Appetit: Pasta Perfect – Free right now August 29, 2011

Filed under: Apps,European (French, Italian, etc.) — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:30 pm
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Bon Appetit: Pasta Perfect for iPad on the iTunes App Store.

Just noticed this app is being offered today for free for a very limited time. I am not exactly sure what time it will go back to $3.99, but foodies should definitely download this one. 100 recipes with drool worthy photos included in this iPad only app with videos featuring chef Mark Ladner of New York City’s Del Posto restaurant. Recipes are grouped in the following categories: New classics, baked, ravioli & filled pasta, gnocchi & spaetzel, pasta salads, and sauces.

Don’t miss out!



Pork and Summer Squash Potstickers August 24, 2011

Filed under: Chinese,Cookbooks,Parenting — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:30 am
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I saw my cousin’s comment on the Beef and Tomato Potstickers recipe ( about being reminded about her mom’s marathon potstickers sessions. Now as an adult, I have very fond memories of sitting in my aunt’s kitchen with my cousins pressed into service to mass produce handmade skins for folding all sorts of dumplings. As a kid, I have to confess I would have been much happier reading instead. Isn’t that the irony about childhood experiences? Sometimes those things we resented so much as children become precious, valued, and even yearned for again with the passage of time.

It does make me think about the things I do with M which quite often are not fun at all for him. Someday, I hope that my parenting choices will be appreciated decades from now when he is able to see the long view. There are so many things that my parents and our wider family clan have taught me for which I have greater appreciation. I use “clan” in the fullest sense of the word since I am related to well over 250 people just in the Bay Area. It can be mind-boggling to contemplate the full impact of that.

Before I go too far off on this bunny trail, I will say that I will probably post more on those topics when I have time to do it justice. Let’s get back to the whole point of this which is sharing with you, my tweaking of another recipe from Stuart Chang Berman’s Potsticker Chronicles (  His recipe calls for lamb, so I substituted ground pork. I really think the world is divided into lamb and non-lamb people; either you love it or you hate it. Obviously, I am in the latter camp.

This is a really great way to use up all that squash that seems to grow like weeds in my backyard. Homegrown squash is so good compared to supermarket squash. There is almost a sweet flavor profile to the squash, and this tastes fantastic in this recipe. It works better to use younger, more tender squash than overgrown gigantic squash the size of your arm.


Pork and Summer Squash Potstickers


1 pound summer squash, finely minced
1 pound ground pork
1 bunch green onions, finely minced
5 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, or mushroom soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
48 store bought or handmade potsticker skins
1 egg white, lightly beaten (optional)


1.    Place squash in the center of a cloth. Gather the edges of the cloth to form a ball. Twist the gathered fabric and the ball in opposite directions to squeeze as much water out of the squash as possible.
2.    Place the squeezed squash in a mixing bowl. Add the pork, green onions, garlic, soy sauces, rice wine, sesame oil, and black pepper to the squash and mix well with a pair of chopsticks.
3.    To wrap dumplings, you can either use lukewarm water or egg white to moisten one side of each skin. Place about 1 tsp of filling in the center of each skin. Fold and crimp into crescent-like shapes. (Here is a youtube video on how to fold potstickers. Place on a floured tray. Potstickers may be cooked immediately or frozen on the tray. Once frozen, transfer the dumplings to a freezer bags for storage.
4.    You can either boil (Northern style) or pan fry (Canto style) the dumplings to your preference. I find that pan frying works best when you freeze the pot stickers first.

Note: The potstickers turn out better if you use the fattier ground pork available at the Asian markets.


Beef and Tomato Potstickers August 21, 2011

Filed under: Chinese,Cookbooks — lifeatwarpspeed @ 8:00 am
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Nothing says summer to me like super sweet and juicy tomatoes growing outside my kitchen window. I love home grown tomatoes whose flavor can’t be matched by the supermarket. So, what do you do with all those tomatoes? During the peak of tomato season, I like to make one of P’s favorites: Beef and Tomato Potstickers from the Pot Sticker Chronicles. My rule of thumb with cookbooks is generally this. The better ones never seem have a lot of expensive glossy pictures. You won’t find any color photos in The Pot Sticker Chronicles, just stuffed to the brim with lots of recipes.

If you know me in IRL, you know that I hate buying frozen store-bought dumplings with a passion. Don’t even get me started on what I think about those Ling Ling ones that you find at Costco and the supermarket. I think it speaks for itself that no Asian market stocks Ling Ling in their freezer section.

Homemade potstickers are always better. When I make potstickers, it is usually major endeavor, I make hundreds at one time to freeze for later use. This is especially helpful when I have unexpected guests over and I need to make something quick. Whether I make 4 dozen or 24 dozen, the time sink is mostly in the wrapping. I usually make up the fillings during the day and allow them to chill in the fridge until I put M to bed a night. Then I set up my wrapping assembly line and turn on my Tivo and get caught up on my favorite shows while I get to work. It helps to wrap my remote in plastic wrap to keep things sanitary.

The filling is easily multiplied, and it doesn’t require that much effort to make 2 or 3 different fillings. Most people stick making with the pork and cabbage types. If you have ever traveled in China, you learn that there are all sorts of different fillings for dumplings. Today, I want to share this beef and tomato one that has a bit of a spicy kick.


You should not use a low fat ground beef for this otherwise the filling will not be juicy and as flavorful.

As always whenever you work with ground beef, do not over work the meat as it will make the texture of the beef too tough.

You can choose to seed and peel your tomatoes if you like, but it is not necessary.

Leftover wrappers can be frozen. I wrap them up  in plastic wrap, then again with aluminum foil. Then I put the whole thing in a freezer bag. Thaw in the fridge the next time you make potstickers.


Beef and Tomato Potstickers from Pot Sticker Chronicles by Stuart Chang Berman (

Serves 4 to 6 (approx. 48 potstickers)


1 pound ground chuck
3 medium tomatoes, finely minced and drained well
1 bunch green onions, finely minced
6 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 whole egg
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce, or mushroom soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine
5 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon serrano peppers, finely minced
48 potsticker wrappers, store bought or handmade
1 egg white, lightly beaten, optional


1.    Combine all ingredients except the wrappers and egg white  in a mixing bowl and mix well with a pair of chopsticks. Transfer filling to a colander and allow to drain.
2.    To wrap dumplings, you can either use lukewarm water or egg white to moisten one side of each skin. Place about 1 tsp of filling in the center of each skin. Fold and crimp into crescent-like shapes. (Here is a youtube video on how to fold potstickers. Place on a floured tray. Potstickers may be cooked immediately or frozen on the tray. Once frozen, transfer the dumplings to a freezer bags for storage.
3.    You can either boil (Northern style) or pan fry (Canto style) the dumplings to your preference. I find that pan frying works best when you freeze the pot stickers first.

* If you want to reduce the heat, scrape out the the ribs and seeds of the pepper first. That’s where most of the heat is in a hot pepper.


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