Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My lazy tomato sandwich

I used to hate the taste of garlic and cilantro, but a few year ago, my taste buds did a 180 and now I love it. So on the days when there isn't anything to good to eat, I just make this tomato garlic and cilantro sandwich. It has my favorite flavors and it's so easy to do. I dice half a tomato, chop cilantro and garlic, mix it all together and pile it on a slice of bread. Then I add shredded cheese over it. Pop it in the toaster oven and I'm done.

unofficial theme song for ER visits: (I want to go) home by Michael Bublé

(note: duet with Blake Shelton, my mom's favorite American singer purely based on looks. lol)

Last Monday, my mom had to be admitted to the hospital. My mom went to the doctor's office for routine blood work and was told she couldn't go home. I had anticipated her counts being low, but not that low. Her hemoglobin count was at 5 (10 is the lowest point of normal range) and her platelets were at 14,000. Normal platelet should be at least 150,000. I declined their offer to get a squad car to take her to the hospital. Instead, I hurried to the doctor's office to pick up my mom and head to the ER.

The emergency room at Robert Wood Johnson is always a mad house. Because of her low counts, she had to be in "isolation." They gave her blood and platelets. I appreciated that they were quick about this. However, Robert Wood takes FOREVER to get a room up on the oncology floor. We arrived at 6pm and at 2am, finally were told that they had a room waiting. Another hour passes and they said oops, they were misinformed. The room they found was for the wrong location.

I planned on sleeping at the hospital with my mom. But in the ER, there were only chairs to sit in so by 3am, I went home to get some shut eye.

When did my mom finally get taken to a proper room? Drum roll please....

At 4pm the next day. %&@#$^!!!!! (insert angry emoticon here)

I feel uncomfortable in the ER not just because of the incredibly long wait time to get a room and not just because it's loud and crazy.

Reason #1: The ER only has TWO toilets. One on each side of the floor. If my mom needs to go to the bathroom, I hurry ahead of her to make sure there is one available. I grab sterile gloves and lysol wipes and wipe down everything...the floor, the seat, the water faucet handles. Her low counts make her very susceptible to infections, etc., so I make damn sure the bathroom's clean.

Things just get complicated when there's more people in need of a bathroom. When the one closest to us became occupied, but the one on the other side was open, I race to her bed and anxiously tell her to hurry to the bathroom. It then becomes a mad dash to the bathroom because there's a huge chance that by the time she arrives, it'll be taken.

Reason #2: My mom was in an isolation room to lower risk of infection. But ironically, the room we were in was not sanitized. I saw 2 cockroach-like bugs in the room. Now, I understand that the ER is super busy and people are coming in and out. But for people who are neutropenic, doesn't it make sense that their rooms just get a quick wipe down before a patient with a low immune system enters?

Well, we were in Monday night and left on Wednesday, late afternoon. I was glad the visit was relatively short.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Savory Quinoa Porridge Recipe

Traditional Chinese Porridge. You can find traditional recipe here.
I wanted to share a recipe of what I make for my mom sometimes on the days that she doesn't want to eat. Rice porridge is pretty common in Asian culture. It's sort of like our version of chicken noodle soup. The taste is not overwhelming and it's super easy to make. Chinese porridge (pronounced "jook" in Cantonese and also known as Congee) is basically rice cooked in a lot of water or chicken stock. It’s a good way to use up the leftover rice. The rice is cooked for a long time until it breaks down and the porridge thickens.
I made a different version with quinoa.You can get a four pound bag from Costco for $8 or $9 bucks.

My mom is very much a purist in terms of food and sometimes I'll get away will cooking only quinoa, but most of the time, I use a mix of quinoa and rice so she can't tell. I'm a big fan of quinoa because of it's health benefits. It's high in protein, fiber and a good source of iron, zinc, vitamin E, and selenium. The thing about this porridge is that it's very flexible. You can add peanuts or beans. Use chicken instead of pork. Add yams to sweeten it. Whatever.

Below is my recipe for quinoa and rice savory porridge with carrots.

1. First, marinate a pound of thinly sliced pork butt or loin by combining the following ingredients in a bowl with the meat:

1 teaspoons of light soy sauce
½ teaspoon of rice wine
Sprinkle of ground white pepper
Pinch of sugar
2 teaspoons of corn starch

Leave aside.

*If you prefer this to be meatless, you can skip step 1 and just substitute by adding chicken bouillon later instead.

2. Take half a cup of uncooked rice and rinse it in a bowl until the water no longer has white residue. Then take half a cup of quinoa and pour it into the bowl with rice. Rinse once more.

3. Measure a quarter cup of soybeans.

4. Poor all ingredients into a medium pot and fill the pot with water leaving 2-3 inches unfilled.

5. Chop 2 carrots and add to pot.

6. Cover pot and boil. After it reaches full boil, just when it's about to boil over, place lid open just a crack to let the steam escape. Then place on low-medium heat and cook for 30 minutes.

7. Add the marinated pork from step 1 and boil for another 10 minutes, or until it reaches a desired consistency.

8. It's now ready for consumption.
savory quinoa and rice porridge with carrots

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When roles reverse

I'm 27. I know that at this age, my mother already lived through a number of hardships, struggles, and tough times. But she at 27, she also found love and happiness. She found my father. She found America. She found opportunity.

My mom has worked hard all her life. She told me that even as a child, my grandma worried about her extreme work ethic. She would say, "you can work and work, but it will never buy you all the money in the world, so don't work so hard." She's the type of person who would see an annoying spot on her car and try to scrub and scrub and scrub it away, only to be left with added scratch marks to the car. She's also the type of person who would wear latex gloves over winter gloves as she washed the car herself in 20-something degree weather.

When my dad died, my mom worked more. She hardly attended any of my after school activities because she was working. I think I made my mom feel guilty not realizing that she sacrificed so much for the sake of her children. But it was what it was. I have memories of seeing my mom's car in the parking lot after school and running home with a huge smile on my face, remembering it was her one day off.

Without a doubt, my mom and I are really tight. I'm with her every step of the way in this "journey" and I'm often scared as hell. But no matter what, I will stand by my mom's side.

The only thing is, now that my care giving responsibilities have stepped up, I feel like I'm always one step behind. I'm taking care of my mom the best I can, but it seems like I'm always a bit short on getting a handle on things. The house is not as clean. My cooking is not up to par and usually a crap shoot. Balancing work and care giving has become difficult. Even though I'm 27, I still feel like I'm a child trying to play a grown up. I'm often scared shitless and my mind is never at rest. But I try to take things one step at a time. A few weeks ago, my mom went to take a bath and she had to call me in to help bathe her. I was uncomfortable for a second but then I put on my big girl badge and helped my mom. It honestly made me sad and reflect on how much things have change. As common in Asian households, I always knew one day I'd take care of my mom but I imagined/ hoped it would be much later.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The first time my mom tasted butter

One day soon I hope, I will write the story of my mom's childhood and her journey to this country. But for now, snippets will have to do. And I guess it's appropriate because that's how my mom tells me about her past. We'll be sitting in the living room and something will remind her of her childhood and she'll tell me about it.

Well, we were eating steamed corn, and naturally, it tastes better with butter. That's when she said, "I remember the first time I tasted butter"....
I was in Guangzhou watching living with your aunt and watching her children. I was probably 13 or 14. A relative of neighbor came to visit from Cuba, and at that time, they couldn't bring back money. So as gifts, he brought butter. It was in a tin can. We opened it and poured it over rice. And that was a very delicious meal.
I think it wasn't until many years later did she taste butter again. That's the story. The end.

The funny thing about time

Sometimes I want time to stand still, especially during the good moments, when my mom's feeling well and we're in good company. She's not tired and she's her usual energetic, funny and inquisitive self. There are times when I have trouble sleeping, or rather, it's more like I don't want to sleep because I want to drag out time, if that makes sense. I don't want things to move forward because the future is unknown and scary.  But then on other days, I just want things to fast forward a million times, so that she could be here when I one day get married or when she becomes a grandmother...hallmarks of life everyone deserves to experience. Even though I'm 27, experience-wise, I feel like I'm 50. And I'm feeling tired.