Marathon 26.2


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Authentic Asian Cooking (Taiwanese Ba wan Tips)

Normally, I blog about my knitting and crocheting. I have finished a few big projects since my last post but today's blog will be about cooking. Lately, I have been doing alot of authentic cooking. I think it started off with wanting to make some chinese curry pastry and that has snowballed into so much more. I have made steam pork buns, egg rolls, braised tofu, stir fry eggplant, braised eggs w/ beef, red bean filled mochi, soybean sprout side dish and radish salad.

Here are some great sites I found for authentic asian cooking:,,,, and the you tube video "How to Make Mochi" in 30 minutes or less by Intelliot. Thanks to all these great sites and video.

After making all these dishes, I had a sudden craving for my aunt's Taiwanese ba-wan (meatball). Because I live so far away from a large asian community I have to make most of the food myself. Getting some of the ingredients were tricky such as the potato flour. After a few failed attempted to find the right flour, I ended up buying it on line. When the flour arrived, I was so excited to make it. My first experience was a disaster where the skin did not get hard.

My aunt had heard about my disaster and called me to give me a few pointers. She does not use "sweet potato" flour. Yes, potato flour and sweet potato flour are not the same. Instead, she said she uses tapioca flour. Great, tapioca flour is more accessible for me to get. (I discovered that there was a small asian market an hour away vs. the 2 hour drive to the larger asian market).

I purchased several bags of tapioca flour yesterday so I was ready to try again. After cooking up my ingredients, I was ready to make the meat ball again. This time, I thought I would only make 2 at a time to ensure the skin would get hard. The skin on these 2 ba-wan was much harder so I proceeded to make 4 more. I later realize that the skin was not quite hard enough and added 2 more cups of tapioca to the mix. The 3rd batch was better but after trying to remove the ba-wan from the bowl, it still fell apart. To my disappointment and 4-5 hours of work, I tossed the remaining batter and all but the last of the ba wan I made. I was discouraged.

This morning, I decided I will make only half the batch. I still have plenty of meat filling left so why not? One last try. Previously, I had been using the "glutious" rice flour but this time, I used "Mochiko" sweet rice flour. 1/2 cup of it with 2 cups of water. I brought it to a boil, stirring constantly. It gets to be very thick after a few minutes. I turned off the heat and added 2 cups of tapioca starch. The mixture gets to be very thick (see tip below). I then spread some on the bottom of the bowl, add meat filling, spread more mixture on top and steam for 10 minutes! Success at last :).

Here are the lessons I learned:

1. Use Mochiko sweet rice flour. It makes a big difference, not glutious rice flour in the green package.

2. The consistency has to be thick. How thick? Thick to where it's getting hard to stir. It's sticky yet thick. Harder than new playdo. Almost like dough, thick yet still pliable.

3. Water works wonders! A. When assembling, you can even spread this mixture using your fingers and water! It really keeps it from sticking. B. Let the ba-wan cool after cooking and loosen with a butter knife. Add a bunch of water to it and it will loosen up, come right out of the bowl without falling apart. What a great trick I learned! (Don't worry about adding too much water to the mixture, go ahead add water! It comes right off the ba-wan).

There you go, after much help from my cousin (Debbie), my aunt, countless website (some mentioned above), research and experiment, my ba-wan is a success. If I had known those 3 little things tips, it would of made it a lot easier. But would I had learned all these great lessons?

I hope these tips will be helpful to someone who is making this delicious dish! Sorry, I did not post the recipe.

My ba-wan without sauce:

I thought I would also post a picture of my mochi w/ red bean paste. These mochi are coated with potato starch instead of coconut flakes. So delicous!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Finished (knit) project

I've been wanting to knit this pattern for a while, probably since I first saw it in Ravelry 4 years ago? Has it been that long? Trying to find a pattern that I like and using yarn in my stash, makes it harder to find the "right" project.

The picovoli top is knitted on a much smaller needle than I'm use to, size 4. I made 1 slight modification which was to add about 8-9 rows to length the top. I opted to do the picot edging along the neckline only. I didn't like how it curled up. I also liked how the designer had added waist and hip shaping which gave it a really good fit. The cotton/linen blend yarn gives this top some ease that is needed! Overall, this was a very satisfying knit. Fast and easy to follow. I'm happy with this project. It's nice to finally finish a project and have it fit! :)

Here's a photo:

Since I'm feeling good about finishing this top, I've started on another project called the Olivia top. I'm a bit comprehensive because my last top from the same designer didn't turn out well. I really like her simple designs so I thought I give it try at another pattern. A big plus was the pattern was only $1! This time, the top is knitted in a fingering yarn on a size 7 needle! I have some fingering yarn in my stash so why not? Surprisingly, it's knitting up relatively fast - I have the first 7 rows of ribbing done and now I've done 5 sets of increases so it's going well. This project will be a good project to knit since it's mostly stockingnette stitch (again). I do love cables and lace but it's so time consuming, not to mention I really have to concentrate on what I'm doing.

There was another road race this weekend but I didn't run in it. I actually trying to set a goal for myself! I think I always had a goal but it was just to finish the race and maybe place in my age group. Now, I have a "plan" where I'm actually training. This includes doing speed workouts, lengthening my stride, long(er) runs, etc. I hope to really cut down my time, My next race will be on 4th of July.

I hope all the dad's out there have a Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Second Road Race (in A long time)

This has already been a busy week so far but things are settling down.

I ran my second road race this past Saturday.  (Not the second race ever but in a long time).  The race was held in another town in conjunction with a Festival. I was excited to participate in another race and I hoped to run with a large group of runners. This year, there was also another race on the same day so the numbers of runners were down from last year. There were less than 200 runners that participated in this run. The race started at 7:30am so I had to be up around 4:30am. At 11:00pm the night before, I was still trying to download songs to my ipod for my race! Talk about last minute! At 5am, I was out the door and I stopped at the local walmart to buy an armband to hold my ipod. Yes, I'm a procrastinator but I got everything done and I made it to the starting time in plenty of time! It was nice to run in much cooler temperature and the course was relatively flat, with a few slight inclines. Running with headphones help me maintain my pace and also help to motivate me. I was able to run a minute faster than the last race! To my surprise, I did place 2nd in my age group. This is one time that I'm happy to say that there's an advantage to aging... I came home proudly holding my trophy!

Here's a photo of my trophy:

Because it's been a busy week, I have not been doing a lot of knitting. My latest project is a top that I can actually wear in this 100 degree weather. This top is from the pattern called Picovoli ( It's knitted on a size 4 needle using a DK cotton. I happen to have 4 skeins of the CotLin yarn from Knit Picks that I've been saving so it worked out well. Hopefully, that will be enough yarn to finish this top. Here's what I've done so far:

I'm sad to say that my last, the Kourtney top is in the scrap pile! My short rows for the arm straps came out all wrong and therefore ended up way too long! I attempted to correct this problem but then I realized that I wouldn't be happy with the fit anyways. The top was too big and it just didn't look good on me! Hopefully, I'll find another project to put the yarn to good use.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Road Race Report

Last night I ran in a road race, the first one in a very long time. It seems that around every April, I get interested in running again. It's probably because of the Freihofer's Run for Women. It's a big race that held annually in Albany, New York. The race is actually today. I've ran in this race several times, starting in my early 20's. Unfortunately this year, I wasn't able to make the race so instead I opted for a more locally run race, hence yesterday's race. I knew that I wouldn't be able to make a race today (lack of baby sitter) so a Friday race seemed like a good solution.

Surprising, I wasn't really that nervous....not until an hour before the race. I left at 6pm and arrived around 6:40, giving me enough time to pick up my packet and get to the starting line at 7pm. It was a good turnout, maybe 200 runners. (I'm still waiting for the race result to be posted to get an exact count).

It was a really hot evening. Even at 7pm, it was still in the 90s. High temps for Friday was around 100 degrees. As I was running, I was thinking to myself why did I do an evening race? It was so hot! I imagine, a lot of the other runners were thinking the same thing!

I had a few goals. The foremost, is to finish the race. Finish at a respectable time and I hope to place 1st in my age group. Okay, I had really high expectations for someone who just started running in late April and I've only been running 2 miles instead of the 3.1 miles. I figure my chances of placing (for my age group) was a lot higher in a smaller group of runners.

I finished the race! I ran the whole 5K. As tempting as it was to stop and walk for a few seconds, I opted not to. I knew that if I had stop at all to walk, I would NOT want to start running again. After a long hiatus from running in a race, I've ran in my first race in quite a few years. I think the last race I ran in was the Freihofer's Run for Women 3 years ago?

I'm happy to say that I placed 2nd in my age group! Here is my plaque:

No live shots with me getting my plaque :(

Today, I'm going back to enjoy the Festival with my daughter!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Road Race on Friday

Today, I sent in my entry form to run in a road race on Friday. It's a little scary since I've only started running (again) about a month ago. I've been running about 2 miles at least 4x a week. This will be a 5k. It's also going to be an evening race, at 7pm so I hope it won't be too hot! Temperatures are expected to reach 100 degrees on Friday. Wish me luck and I'll blog my experience next time!

I've started a summer project using a sports weight yarn. It's called Kourtney. Pattern found here: I started this on May 28th and I've been lots of progress on it already! I already have about 21" knitted! Stockinette Stitch goes fast for me and I've been a bit obsessive about knitting this thing! I'm currently working on the bust shaping and will be working on the straps this evening. I hope to have this done in the next few days. I thought this would be a cute top to wear during my vacation to Florida later this month.

Photo of my progress:

I had this pink yarn in my stash. I knew that I had 4 balls of a darker pink and 2 balls of the lighter pink. I thought that I could do the bottom band and the ruffles in light pink. As it turned out, I had 3 shades of pink! Luckily for me, I used the middle shade of pink for the bottom so I think it may be okay. I'm anxious to get this finish because I'm curious of how it will fit. I have not seen a photo of the top actually be worn on a (real) person.

So far, I'm enjoying my summer vacation. Already it's been hot but that's to be expected in this region of the country! I'm looking forward to doing some road trips this summer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fresh Fruit

This weekend I decided to take a short road trip. On the way, I passed several fruit stands. I couldn't resist all the signs that screamed out at me "Fresh Peaches, Tree Ripened." What better than a fresh juicy peach? So on my way home, I stopped and got a bag of peaches. I couldn't wait to bite into the peach but to my big disappointment, they were not sweet at all. I attempted to make a peach cobbler but I was a big failure. I used splenda which is not good for baking and also unsweet peaches. (In fact, splenda is not good for any type of baking, hence the last bagel disaster)! Next time, it's regular sugar for all my bake goods. Anyways, I have 3 peaches left and I'll slice them up and add them to my yogurt for a special treat!

Recently, we also purchased a 4 wheeler. My daughter loves riding on it. It's nice to be able to see our whole property. We discovered that we have several blueberry bushes along with blackberries! Last night, I picked a bunch of blackberries and I've been enjoying them by the handful! I may opt to try making a blackberry cobbler later.

I have not made a lot progress on my knitting. I have less than 10" done for my top. I had to undo several rows because my cables didn't flow. I probably still need to undo a few more and see where it goes. I may jump back to my anisette cardigan and seam all the pieces together.

This morning, the whole family went over to the park. There's a walking/running trail there. I thought it would be good for the family to get some exercise in. I ran 2 miles (3 times around the trail) and hubby walked about 1 1/2 miles with my daughter. It was good to get up early and get some exercise in for the day!

An update on my goats. I'm really enjoying them. I was thinking when hubby went out to buy them, they were going to be the minature ones but these 2 goats have really grown on me! I find myself going out to feed them corn and carrots. They are getting more comfortable with me where they will come up to me and take the carrots from my hands! I now have 1 dog, 20? chickens and 2 goats! I hope to add some sheeps in the future.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Wow, my last post was back in July of 2010. That's a long time. I guess I got busy with LIFE.

My little girl has graduated from Kindergarten! Her ceremony was this Monday. Thursday was her official start of Summer vacation. Where has the time gone? It turned into a great year where she had the best teacher and paraprofessional I could ask for.

My daughter is awesome with computers. We discovered a few years ago that she learns extremely well with computers so we've been buying different education games. When her teacher suggested that we buy her an ipad around Christmas time, I wasn't so sure. I had no idea what an ipad, ipod, 3 G etc were. After doing some research, I am now very familiar with all those items and terms. I bought my daughter an ipad then decided an ipod may work better for her. (She loves both). I have actually grown to love the ipad which we share. I've loaded a lot of educational and DORA apps for her while I surf the net and play games. I never thought I would be into gadget but I can see how useful they are. I find myself using them alot because there's such a wealth of information at your finger tips. The best thing is that with a touch of a button your on the net, no waiting. Instant gratification!

Today, we added 2 new additions to our family. We purchased 2 goats. We've been talking about getting them for some time now and finally we did. We have a big property for them to eat the shrubs! Hopefully, they will also keep the snakes away too! I hope to add sheeps eventually so I can learn to spin yarn!

Speaking of yarn...I still enjoy knitting. I must admit that my knitting has really slowed down. It's hard to believe that I use to be able to knit a sweater in 2 weeks, now it's a month or more. I though with my daughter being in school, I'd have more free time for with my knitting. I get busy or just plain lazy. I also find that I'm so much more pickier with my choice of patterns. My patterns are free or purchased online. If I have to buy a pattern book or magazine, most of the time I just skip it, all together. Maybe I'm just moving on to the next phase of knitting and I need to come up with my own designs or pattern? Anyways, here's a few of my favorites that I've knitted. (I've fallen in love with cables, they are currently my favorite things to knit)!

The green sweater is called Valpuri, the gray sweater is the Star Cross'd Love Cardigan and the Red Skirt is called Carnaby.

My current knitting projects are the Anisette Cardigan and a cabled top. I am done knitting all the pieces for the Anisette Cardigan. I just have to sew the pieces together and then pick up stitches for the front band. I started the cabled top today. I'm basically winging this one and picking out a cable design I like and adding/changing some things to it. Hopefully, it will turn out nice in the end.

Well, I think that's it for now! Hopefully, I'll start to blog a little more regularly now and I'll be able to catch up on other people's blog too! :)