Mu-Shu a la Wu with Tofu

Mr. Wu wowed me this weekend with Mu Shu with Crispy Tofu.

Oh my, quelle deliciousness! Give me a MU! Give me a SHU. And then give me some crispy fried TOFU! Wrap it all up, and what have you got? Yet another crunchy, zesty, hand-held morsel of joy created by his most excellent cheffness, Mr. Wu.

There are no other Mu-Shu’s like Mr. Wu’s. First, there are his primo ingredients. And then there is that sauce, that fabulous sauce that Mr. Wu concocts that is like makeup for veggies–we are talking transformative.  Like the cabbage he wrapped the red snapper in that time …my, oh my, I must say that Mr. Wu’s expert steaming gives me the vapors!

What I loved about the Mu-Shu with Tofu was the perfect pairing of the crunchy veggies with the custard-like cubes of crispy tofu–which let the veggies do the singing, and allowed the sauce to play an Oscar-worthy supporting role in amping up the entire dish. Wow.  Mr. Wu has taken me to veggie paradise.

Now if I can only talk him into re-branding and changing the name of the Royal Panda to “Shanghai Shangri La”.


From Zen to Sin with Chik’n

My colorful array of vegalicious delights.

Oh woe is me.

All it took was one step away from Mr. Wu and away I slipped on a banana peel.

Which was  pretty apropos for the day. I also slid down Poplar this afternoon on a slushy river of snow and ice that turned the commute home into  a scary two hour expedition. Normally, it takes something like  twenty to thirty minutes to take me  from store to front door.

With a laundry list of “got-to-get-dones”  today that I had to get to  before the snow arrived, I ran out of the house without eating breakfast. Then worked through lunch in order to take care of several  projects that required the hand of our graphic designer.

By the time I completed the iditarod trip home and  stomped across my snowy alpine-like front yard and finally  shook the snow off of my sock feet  in the foyer (clogs in snow–a fashion don’t), I was, as one says, as  “hungry as a bear wolf.” A large and starving bear wolf. One that has just emerged from hibernation and that went into hibernation without first eating its customary bowl of oatmeal!

So downstairs, in sweatpants and wrapped in a fuzzy robe, feeling sublimely warm and cozy,  I opened the fridge to admire my colorful array of healthy organic and vegalicious foodstuffs. Hmmm. what could go wrong? I felt, dare I say it, empowered!

Well, how the mighty fall.

It wasn’t  WHAT I ate—it was how much. With no neat boxes  of Wu food to delineate the “enough” from the “too much”, I munched through a handful of pistachios, almonds, and cashews, an avocado–yes the WHOLE  yummy avocado with a lovely splash of tantalizing balsamic vinegar and sliced grape tomatoes, and then toasted not one–but TWO of the mini pitas and filled them with that pretend crunchy baked chicken and a melted  slice of pretend Swiss cheese and broccoli sprouts. Oh my–’twas loverly. Or as Jerry Clower would say, “Ooooooooweeeeee!”

But after I came up out of my ether of nobility, I began to count up how many calories I had just consumed. YIKES! I figure it was around 600-700!Maybe more.

Even though  that wound up being the “meal of the day”– that is just not good, because one thing I have learned from the Wu Food Project is that I am a lot better off eating meals throughout the day that are fairly evenly divided in terms of calories.

As I said, it wasn’t what I ate–it was how much I ate because I had let myself get too hungry. I was very put out with myself as I was driving home, because I would not have been nearly as tense if I had eaten the two missed meals.And I was very tense.

I’ll do better tomorrow, but I am still very disappointed in myself today.

The box containing the pretend chicken called it “chik’n”. What a difference a couple of letters can make when they are out of kilter. I was so proud of myself yesterday, and then in one lusty, zesty munch fest this afternoon, I went from zen to sin.

As it turned out,  it wasn’t the ice I was in danger of slipping on today.  It was  my silly pride that caused me to fall.

But tomorrow is another day. And it will begin the way Mr. Wu begins his day–with a bowl of oatmeal and some fruit.


A Drift in Memories

A photo of me and my pet, "Little Red Hen" that I'd hoped to add to an earlier entry suddenly surfaced in my sifting today.

It was a day spent sifting through drifts of old letters, documents and receipts, sympathy cards, and photos.

I woke up this morning with both ears aching and a scratchy throat, a discomfort  I’ll blame on dusty excavations in an abandoned bedroom. The chore has been easily avoided. There were, and still are other tasks that seem more compelling, more needed per the triage of the day.

Rummaging through the flotsam and jetsam of the accumulated clutter recalls memories. Some are tough to take. The most painful reminders are often the sweetest, sending a shooting pain like sugar to a sore tooth in what is  an excruciating stab to the heart.

And so I stay busy. Very busy. But business, like a balm,  works for me, giving me the chance to take  doses of the past like treatments of chemo and radiation, allowing time between the exposure to my losses.

It’s all good. Stops and starts are okay. Pushing on is what counts.

To read the blog that goes with the photo, go to:

Tofu with Mixed Chinese Vegetables

Funny thing–to get myself back on a really healthy track yesterday, I’d ordered Mr. Wu’s clean and refreshing dish of tofu with mixed greens. Last week included some dietary detours, and it was good to drink tea yesterday and today, and to enjoy the delicate flavors of Mr. Wu’s fresh vegetables.

A Basket of Goodies

It’s a sweet karmic coincidence that the Kroger, where I did most of my grocery shopping prior to the Wu Food Project,  has been undergoing extensive renovations.

Today I went grocery shopping for the first time in a couple of months. Talk about establishing a new path or tao –everything in the store has  been uprooted and  transplanted into  new areas, and even better,  now I can choose from many new products and items.

It’s pretty unbelievable.  The decision to go grocery shopping was totally spontaneous. Much like a loon aware  of approaching winter, I suppose  I just decided it was time for me to migrate back to my old habitat and feeding fields.

This would not be everyone’s idea of a fabulous Saturday night, but it had that sense of warm satisfaction that comes cloaked in a soft sweater, a fleece jacket, and a comfortable pair of jeans–when you do what you want to do, and take care of your own untended business. It was a very very weekend moment.

So after picking up some photos for our company scrapbook, I drifted downhill (it’s a very slopey parking lot)  to forage for healthy vittles.

I like veggies, and because of my limited budget for Wu Food, I think that I might be missing out on as many veggies–both in terms of variety, and quantity, as I might like. So the first things that went in the basket were carrots,  asparagus, and red, yellow and orange peppers. Mr. Wu is big on snow peas, broccoli, spinach and green beans, so I am okay on those.

I’ve often wished I had  a goodly amount of lettuce to accompany some of Mr. Wu’s delicious cold noodle salads, so a lovely head of butter lettuce joined the entourage. And good fortune! Organic chives, basil leaves, and cilantro were marked down to 99 cents! Yum, I loves me some of those flavors!

The strawberries looked groovily red and juicy. Now that I almost never experience the taste overload of sugar, they register as  unbelievably sweet. Strawberries are like the “short story” of fruit, where as  delving into a melon or carving up a pineapple  is more like getting into an entire novel. I am a short story kind of person, which may be why Fredric Koeppel, in his infinite wisdom, only asked me to review books of short stories. Ah, time gone by, and along with it, the book pages, too.

Then off to find my new best friend, brown rice. I not only found some brown rice that was microwavable for time crunch emergencies (let’s see, like everyday?) but found out my rustic friend hanging out with an interesting posse that included the more exotic grain, quinoa.  Next, I examined their new collection of Indian pre-packaged foods that the composer of our operapella had recommended to me when we last  had lunch at Mr. Wu’s.

One pouch of this fragrant and spicy sauce packs enough wallop for at least two meals.

I selected several vegetarian dishes–and for supper I tried the one that featured a spicy pureed vegetable and  tomato sauce over some brown rice and a handful of  shrimp I found in the seafood department. The dinners  all look good. I wanted to buy tofu–but they did not have what I was looking for–and it may be that there was more of a selection in  another department.

When I got to the meat department, well, I just couldn’t do it. I looked at all those chickens  in their naked,  shiny cellophaned  glory, and all I could think about was their miserable little lives. Not their death mind you–but their pathetically chaotic and nasty existence.  Same with the beef.

If you want to know why I feel this way, you should go back and read one of my earlier entries when I explained how bothersome I find the current state of our meat production system, which is very far afield from the Charlotte’s Web lives of the animals we ate when I when I was growing up in Alabama. They lived well.

At any rate, I splurged on some sea bass for tomorrow, and some already cooked shrimp for a quick meal tonight.  Hard to tell if the lobsters were relieved or not, observing me from their watery, sensory deprived confinement.  I do believe  that I heard at least one of them screaming the words of Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty, or give me death.”  Indeed, how one lives is the only variable for each of us. Death comes with certainty.

But canoodling along here on a brighter note, I bought some rice noodles and some Japanese buckwheat soba noodles.

The noodles bring to mind the entire point of the Wu Food Project, which is to use my noodle and to retrain my palate to enjoy a healthier diet. Next week I ‘ll be preparing some of my own dinners, and we will see how that goes.

Me, Wu and Tofu

Little Red Hen was a wonderful bird. Note her noble profile and patient acceptance of my childish hug.

I think I am in the process of redefining comfort food.

Gradually I am beginning to think of  comfort food as food I feel comfortable eating, and right now,  that means I’d have to define it as vegetables, tofu, and fish.

There are already a host of consumer items that no respectful person would purchase, because no one wishes to support corporations or products that harm the environment or victimize the helpless.

After the recent salmonella outbreak, it was “discovered” that the chickens had been warehoused in odious conditions.  Anyone keeping a pet in similar circumstances would instantly have landed in court on animal cruelty charges.

As it so happens, I have a very soft place in my heart for chickens. When I was a child, living in the country, my daddy and I went into town to the feed and seed store and bought 50 chicks. They were very noisy, and we had to build them a special little nursery–I think it was called a brooder, with light bulbs to keep them cozy.

The chicks  required a great deal of care and attention, and it was with some degree of pride we saw them grow up to become  healthy chickens leading productive chicken lives.  Chickens are purposeful creatures, clucking amongst themselves, pecking and scratching (the ground, not themselves), and preening  throughout the day. Then, they sensibly  call it a night and go up to roost so that they can crow and cackle and do it all over again the next day. Left to their own devices, there is a definite order to their lives.

When finally the big day arrived and  they had  reached critical mass,  it was time for the chickens to go to chicken heaven. The next day, all of my aunts and uncles and cousins assembled for a Sunday dinner of fried chicken at my grandmother’s house. Long tables covered with table cloths were set up under the trees end-to-end.  I must have been about six, when I asked my Uncle Olen to “please pass George”.

Now to me, George, who had lived a noble and bucolic life in happy dignity, was better served, so to speak, than the anonymous chicken available by the pound at the supermarket who spent its woeful life in an over-crowded chicken ghetto.

All this to say, that our society may be beginning to see a nexus that will give us all pause as to how much meat–how much chicken–even how much fish– we all consume.  Science is telling us that just as what we pay at the pump is a trivial amount compared to the general and overall  effect emissions have on the planet, so we will begin to ponder the price of  meat farming  and its effect on our general health and to the environment.

I have a vivid memory of the mornings when I would  slip my small hand under the warm feathered body of a hen to collect her egg.  And I have spent many a summer afternoon with the three hens that furnished our family with eggs. Their names were Fluffy, Scrawny, and Little Red Hen, who was  my beloved favorite,  following me around like a puppy.

The American obsession with pets paired with  its odd disregard for the life of the animals they eat is a paradox.  But as the planet and our country and our resources become more limited, it seems to me we had better begin to think  more carefully about how what we eat impacts the world that  our children, and our children’s children, will have to survive in.

To that end, I give a tremendous Green Giant thumbs up to Mr. Wu, who has a way with tofu and vegetables that demonstrates how satisfying and  delicious a meal can be with or without meat. Tonight’s meal of tofu and mixed vegetables was sensational.

The Wu Food Project continues to lead me in a new and exciting direction.

Life is for learning.

–Joni Mitchell