A creative streak comes naturally to me. It shows itself in my home decorating, in my bright colored and stylish clothing, shoes and purses, and all the creative avenues that I’ve partaken in – such as sewing, crocheting knitting macramé, embroidery, cross stitching, cooking and cookbook writing, video blogging and for a very long time, about a lifetime ago, Dollhouseminiatures. During that period of creating I won many ribbons for my miniature projects, mostly from scratch.
Does being creative give you the right to call yourself an artist? Suddenly I have that question in my mind.
Are you a creative, do you call yourself an artist?
Over the past 3 1/2 years, I turn the corner on my creativity. I can give credit to Jennifer. It all started when my daughter fell in love with the art of Romero Brito. Spontaneously, I took out my markers (because as a teacher with experience in primary school education, you always have markers. Teaching students a language requires the use of the philosophy that using art to draw concepts cements the vocabulary). I put together a drawing, trying to emulate his work. One month later, after returning from Sri Lanka, the vision of the palm trees on the beaches of the Indian Ocean were still in my brain. So one day without forethought, I sketched a palm tree. It was lame as it was, but it started the whole ball rolling.
A few months later I went to Italy. As a lone female traveler, I decided to go the safe route and take a six-day workshop with an artist in the north of Tuscany. When a friend Peter saw my Italy sketches, he beamed, asking me if I would draw sketches of the tea making process for his book about Tea in China. Was the Pope Catholic, I thought? I jumped at the opportunity. It gave me a focus for my art because at that point when I was flitting around with Zentangle Art and Mandalas and other topics with no real focus.
Peter designed my first Chinese Chop with the characters that said “LiZhi (my name Lichee in Chinese), Artist”.
Could I call myself an artist then? Well honestly no, I couldn’t, although I continue to use the stamp to this day.
Knowing that I didn’t have enough knowledge and experience about watercolor painting, I attended a weekly Kunming art studio for over a year and got a good grip on how to paint realistic art with watercolors. Learning to see the colors, color mixing, shading, shadows, I tried to learn everything. The owner of the studio offered to do a 2-day art exhibition of all of my paintings and sketches (35 in total) — and it was a huge success. Around that time a friend bought one of my favourite Chinese paintings also.
Could I call myself an artist after that? Crazy as it sounds, no, I knew I still had a lot to learn.
Getting back to teacher art and markers, my proclivity is to small, meticulous details with paper and fine liners and pencils and markers and ink and erasers and rulers in drawings (maybe I should have been an architect, and I do love perspective, which I’m not terribly good at until now). But I still wanted to continue to stretch my skill, watching YouTube and Craftsy videos of artists teaching painting or sketching techniques. Also attending sketching workshops in Florida helped to improve my experience. (Do you see the theme here of travel and art in my life??)
Quite recently I developed an interest in having a more loose style. I spent the morning painting with an artist named Dan Whalen, who goes out with the Toronto Urban Sketchers group, because I really like his freer style of sketching and painting. I knew that if I wanted to try to go out sketching on location again, I would have to have that kind of style too. Why, because you don’t have enough time to finish when you’re out, so you need to be quick, and expressive in your sketching, representing the scene in front of you, all before the rain comes or the sun gets too hot or the shadows move.
Just two weeks ago, I met a lovely Singaporean artist, Beng Choo. She is an experienced artist and we have started the Urban Sketchers Kunming group in Kunming China. We meet every Friday morning and have sketched some wonderful ancient Chinese buildings while dodging the rain and the hot sun.
Then binge watching Ian Fennelly videos has really motivated me. Will I go to the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Hong Kong in April and take a class with Marc Taro Holmes because I’m a 1.5 hour flight away, or to Venice in May for 6 days and learn from Ian? I am considering it all. Because my art has moved away from a very detail-oriented style to towards a more expressive style.
In my quest to learn all I can, and with an art school within a 5-minute walk from my home, I just began a 10-week course, ‘Song Dynasty Chinese Painting on Silk’, which uses traditional Chinese black ink and painting techniques but with Kuretake watercolour paints. The process is very slow and detailed, with many steps so far. I have only learned how to paint the outlines on silk with ink and how to mount and stretch the silk onto a wooden frame. My teacher, Peng, says it takes 10 2-hour classes to complete, but that I am a fast learner!!!!
[Starting in 960 and ending in 1279, the Song Dynasty consisted of the Northern Song (960-1127) and the Southern Song (1127-1279). With a prosperous economy and radiant culture, this period was considered as another period of ‘golden age’ after the glorious Tang Dynasty (618 – 907).]
My first painting will be a copy of a Song Dynasty painting of crab apple flowers and my background is a soft beige colour, not this dark, boring colour.
Do I have the right to call myself an artist now? Have l earned that right yet? I guess the answer is I have to feel it in my heart, and my heart tells me that I am able to represent the feelings I have when I do art so much better than when I first embarked on my art journey a time ago. Stay tuned for more on the answer!
Now here’s a recipe that sings fall! An amazing taste that can’t be better. Your house will smell like pumpkin pie.
I am thrilled that my ebook, pdf and soft cover editions of “Roz Weitzman’s World of Yunnan Cuisine” are finished and ready to share with you on my newly launched website http://www.rozweitzmansworld.com!
It’s been such a fun (and tasty too) recipe writing, cooking, photographing, illustrating and getting ‘Chinese’-creative in the kitchen!
Yunnan is located in southwest China and borders Myanmar, Lao and Viet Nam
70+ Yunnan recipes and beautiful illustrations of the food
- completely made from scratch
- few difficult to find ingredients
- suitable for any cooking level whether you are a beginner or a pro
- most use a simple wok and no fancy equipment
- notes about Yunnan Tea Culture and Tea Brewing
- interesting reads about Local Yunnan Food Culture including a ‘walk’ through a Local Wet Market
- stories about the people in a Local Wet Market, ‘The Bread Couple’ and ‘The Fruit Lady’
- how to cut ingredients the Chinese way with a cleaver
- meal menu plans
- shopping and food prep tips
- suggestions for how to spice it up or ramp it down
- and more!
Why this book?
There any many, many cookbooks out there. So what sets “Roz Weitzman’s World of Yunnan Cuisine”apart?
- No hard-to-find ingredients – everyone has the access and budget!
- No difficult techniques – Yunnan food isn’t tough to make!
- Short prep and cook time – people are busy! Most recipes take 30 minutes or less to make.
- No fancy equipment – all you need is a wok pan, a pot, a wok spatula and a cleaver.
- Single/four-serving – but easily scalable to feed more or less!
- No more boring Chinese Stir Fry!
Available in softcover, epub, mobi, and pdf!
Let me prove to you that ANYONE can cook mind-blowingly delicious and simple Yunnan Cuisine with accessible ingredients.
If you are a beginner: this is the perfect book for you. I will guide you, step by step, from grocery shopping –> prep –> creating inspiring food.
If you are an experienced cook: this is also the perfect book for you. Use my recipes, traditional Yunnan flavors, and methods as inspiration to build upon!
Order this book online , directly from Roz if you’re in China through a Chinese bank transfer or I’ll send to you in mid-July when I’ll be bringing copies to Toronto.
Soft cover book is $22.00 + Shipping or 132 RMB + Shipping
Order this book now!
Feel free to forward this email to someone who likes cookbooks.
Any mushrooms will do but wild ones have more flavour.
1 small cooking onion, chopped finely
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound fresh wild mushrooms, any variety, washed with stems separated from the tops
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
3 cups water, divided
2 cup whole milk or light 10% cream or 1 cup 35% cream
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Optional: ¼ cup of dry white wine
Stir-fry chopped onion is a medium pot or wok. Onions are completely cooked when they are translucent.
Finely chop the stems of the mushrooms, add them to the onions along with several twists of fresh black pepper and salt to taste. Add one cup of hot water, stir and cook for 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft. Remove from the heat and leave in the pot or wok. When cooled, use a handheld blender to puree the mixture.
Thinly slice and then roughly chop the tops of the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms and the remaining ingredients to the wok. Stir and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the mushrooms are well cooked. Stir occasionally and add more water if the soup becomes too thick.
Garnish bowls of soup with a sprinkling of parsley.
Better than any coffee shop blueberry muffin, these really are ‘to die for’.
Makes 12 large muffins
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter softened to room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
Place vegetable oil into a 1-cup measuring cup. Add the egg and then enough milk to fill the cup, which is approximately 1/3 cup of milk. Pour into a mixing bowl, add the vanilla and combine well with a fork.
Add flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into the liquid mixture and blend well. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together the brown sugar, flour, butter, and cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking. Makes 8-9 muffins.
Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven until done or a toothpick inserted into centre of a muffin comes out clean.
The triple chocolate comes from cocoa powder, chocolate bits and fudge icing!
Makes one 8- or 9-inch baking pan
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup crushed walnuts (optional)
½ cup semi sweet chocolate bits (optional)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Use parchment paper to line an 8- or 9-inch square pan.
Melt 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan or in microwave. Remove from heat or microwave and stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat in the cocoa, flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 28 minutes. Do not overcook. Almost immediately remove from the pan by lifting it out with the parchment paper. Let cool but not completely for about 10 minutes.
To Make Fudge Icing: Combine butter, cocoa, honey, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar. Frost brownies while they are still warm so the icing will melt and spread easily.
Cut into long, thin rectangles. Enjoy!
As a regular contributor and resident chef of the ezine, GoKunming, the following recipes and articles have been published to date:
Exploring Kunming Bread: Guandu Baba December 24, 2013
Yunnan-Style Sweet & Sour Ribs May 28, 2013
Yunnan Copper Pot Rice April 19, 2013
Yunnan-Style Hong Shao Rou March 19, 2013
Yunnan Mint & Green Onions February 27, 2013
Yunnan-Style Red Beans & Shiitakes January 29, 2013
Yunnan-Style Tomato Salad December 24, 2012
Yunnan Shredded Chicken With Chili Sauce November 29, 2012
Yunnan Spicy Taro & Greens November 11, 2012
Yunnan-Style Pork & Egg Custard October 2, 2012
Yunnan-Style Lotus Root & Pork September 16, 2012
Yunnan-Style Edamame Beans & Garlic September 1, 2012
Every country throughout the world has their own typical or cultural bread. China is no exception with their mantou and baozi, which are rolls of dough steamed in stacked covered bamboo or (now) metal baskets at boiling temperature, sometimes being stuffed with meats or vegetable combinations. But perhaps a fairly unknown but interesting, tasty and most-like Western bread is Guandu Baba.
Baba is a yeast bread, made in my local neighbourhood market near Guandu Ancient Town in a 40 meter square bake shop. But it’s not your traditional Western loaf, cut into slices, but a 10-15 centimetre round, so delicious with a wonderful texture like some Western breads. Since finding Baba, the baking couple have become my friends, sharing our creations in bread making and our little secrets (even though the language barrier is great, we still enjoy our short conversations). When I asked to watch them and know more about this bread process, they obliged.
I have used Guandu Baba for making salty and fruit pizzas as well as my main breakfast food – cut into quarters, sliced in half through the middle, toasted in my small oven, and eaten with butter or jam or cream cheese. At this point I’d bet it’s even delicious with peanut butter.
No matter where you live in the world, if you’re a bread maker, your work starts way before your customers get their hankering for a slice of your bread or toast, and usually even before the sun comes up. My bakers, who come from DongBei in northern China, are no different. Mr. Wang Jing Zhang and Mrs. Bi Yi Min start their loaves rising at 6am and continue to bake and serve their customers until the last of their daily supply is sold – that’s usually 8pm. You could say that bread making is not an easy life. But it’s a rewarding one – as “bakers feed the world”.
It’s said that Westerners eat bread and Chinese eat rice. Of course there is much truth to that in general, however Westerners eat bread more often in loaves, whereas Chinese have just as many varieties of bread products to choose from. What starts off as basic dough, but by changing the shape or changing from wheat to rice flour, produces a huge variety of foods by mixing in or sprinkling on some spices, more or less salt or sugar, other ingredients, such as eggs, or vegetables, or adding or subtracting oil.
(I like to call them) my bakers use one small grill-type round ‘oven’ for their many varieties of bread-type foods. Interesting enough, the temperature of 150C was used for all products, only shortening or lengthening the cooking/baking time…all done without a timer, amazingly!
When asked how she learned to make these breads, Yu Min, replies, “There’s no big secret to our recipes. These are the original green foods, free from chemicals with no food additives and made with pure ingredients. They’re the ones that we’ve been eating since we were little kids.”
The baba dough consists of plain wheat flour, water, yeast and a very tiny amount of MSG. When saying this she puts her thumb and finger together to suggest a pinch! The dough is mixed and shaped into larger than fist sized discs and set aside in their warm, small shop to rise on baking sheets until about doubled in size. The baking procedure is simple. Three babas at a time are placed on bottom of the ‘oven’ – a very lightly greased surface – and using the hand, are flattened. Then the lid of the ‘oven’ is closed. The babas bake on one side for 5 minutes, then are turned with wooden tongs and cooked on the other side for another 2 minutes with the lid closed again. After much discussion about the correct name for this oven, it’s been determined that the oven is called a “Bing Cheng 饼铛”. Voila, fresh, hot, wonderful smelling Guandu Baba!
This dough is also used to make the large flat pancakes with a heavy, long rolling pin, in two flavours. More oil is added and the first pancakes come out of the oven quickly, then are sprinkled with sesame seeds on top, cut into small bits and put into a small plastic bag with a toothpick from snacking as you walk along doing your errands. There’s a lovely, crispy sesame taste to these.
The same pancake is morphed into a spicier snack, with a mixture of chilli sauce, sprinkled with green onion on the top.
The dough that’s wrapped in clear plastic is the original recipe with some oil and eggs added into the dough, and following the same procedure as above, is cooked in more oil and done very quickly.
The morning I was there, they had already made over 30 babas, many other kinds of bread products, and nice warm soya bean milk. And that was at 9:00 in the morning. During the mid day they will make another batch or two of dough and continue to bake more breads throughout the day, keeping their booth stocked with the tasty morsels that the customers have grown to love over the 6 years they have been in Kunming.
I am wondering if they’re going to expand or sell their business. Just last week, they had a woman and her son working together and the baker seemed to be teaching his sister-in-law and nephew how to do what he and his wife have been doing for so long…baking baba and traditional street snacks. It’s quite normal that with two more pairs of hands in the back, their business will improve, just as long as they don’t move or close down that will be fine…that would be a pity for all of the residents of my neighbourhood but mostly for me!
My hats off to this talented couple who, like so many others in the same shoes all over China, work incredibly long hours in cramped quarters with recipes passed down from generations using simple utensils and equipment to feed the masses with ever tasty and predicable breads!
Don’t you just love the smell in the house when anything is being made with oranges. And what about that beautiful orange colour….so dramatic and alive! Well I have been trying many different recipes that meld cranberries with citrusy flavours like lemon and orange, and have come up with a fluffy, yummy, melt-in-your-mouth kinda muffin – not one of those hard, heavy and dry ones. So give it a try!
Makes 16 muffins
1 cup cranberries
2 large Jaffa (or substitute) oranges
1 large egg
1/2 cup butter (margarine can substitute)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Sugar (coarse granulated sugar is optimum) to sprinkle on top.
Preheat oven to 400F. Fill a muffin tin with muffin papers and set aside. (you’ll need to repeat with 4 more papers after the first batch are baked).
Chop the cranberries by hand with a knife or in your food processor. Set aside.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the oranges. Place in a food processor to chop the peel. Leave the peel pieces in the bowl. Then cut off the bottom and top of the oranges and score the pith (the bitter white insides of the oranges). Remove the outer pith and break the orange sections apart. Cut each section into 4 pieces and put into a food processor (or blender) along with the peel and process or blend until pureed. Set aside.
Place the egg and butter in a large bowl and mix well. Add the pureed orange.
Combine the remaining ingredients to the orange mixture and continue to stir until blended.
Fill 12 muffin cups about 3/4 full. There will be enough dough left over to make 4 more. Sprinkle the tops with 1 teaspoon each of granulated sugar.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes; remove from oven and let stand until slightly cooled before removing muffins.
Repeat with remaining dough to make 4 more muffins. Enjoy!
Looking to cook something different for dinner….check out my latest cookbook, Roz Weitzman’s World of Chinese Comfort Food, Illustrated Version at the Apple iTunes Store: