Monday, August 27, 2012

Brown Rice with Beef and Veggies Stir Fry

WARNING: This is an emotional post and it is a long one… You don’t have to read if you’re too busy… if you’re willing to read, some words of encouragement or advice would really help me feel better and would be greatly appreciated. Thank you friends! If you just want to check my take on this week’s Food Matter’s Project recipe, Crisp Rice Cakes with Stir-Fried Vegetables and Chicken, chosen by Small Kitchen College, scroll down to the very bottom of this post.

Hello Bloggers! What sort of inspirations do you have for blog posts? Where do you write your posts… in your office at home, in bed, at the dining table or kitchen counter, on the couch or do you prefer writing at a public place, say a coffee shop or the library?

I usually write my blog posts in our office/entertainment room, sitting on a bouncy ball, with my laptop on DFJ’s trusty desk which is situated by the window, overlooking the river. In between words, I stare outside and watch the cars go by. When the train comes, DFJ and I get excited and we hover by the window.

Right now (5:00 Sunday afternoon), I’m enjoying a glass of wine while getting some blog posts ready for the week, hopping from one post to another. Every now and then, I get distracted and check my work email, worry about the upcoming school year, reach over to DFJ and talk to him (he’s only about 3 feet away from me reading news), search online for some random celebrity news, spy on friends in Facebook, do handstands and headstands, and worry… always the worry.

I worry about my family who live thousands of miles away. Since I moved to the US in 2007, I have never shown my mom how vulnerable I feel during many days, even after five years of being here. She has enough worries and does not need to know how homesick and sad I get. Life here is different… it’s always go-go-go. My mom does not understand this… Our life in the tropics is at a standstill and no one is in a hurry. So this morning when my mom wanted to talk about something that was important and I told her I had to call her back because I had already planned on going to a yoga class, she flipped out on me and started telling me how selfish I am with my time and money, how ungrateful I am, and how I have forgotten where I came from. 

Being called selfish and ungrateful by your mother, even in her state of despair, is pretty hurtful. So, I yelled back at her, threw my phone across the room, threw my purse on the floor, kicked the door, and completely lost it. All this in front of DFJ. How attractive is that?

There are two sides to the story…

My version: This is a special Sunday yoga class in the park with live music, which might be the last one for the year because it will be cold in the next few weeks and I have been planning on going to this class for weeks. My mom’s problem is serious, but it’s not anything either one of us can solve or even do anything about. So, I figured that if we can postpone the conversation and continue talking about it tomorrow, it would be ok.

Her version, which I did not fully analyze until after I talked to my aunt (her sister) is this: She needs someone to vent her frustrations to and because I am the most responsible child she has, I should understand and be ready to sit down and listen with all ears and an open heart.

Well, I wanted to but I had a plan to be somewhere at that time and when I suggested calling her a couple of hours later… she did not understand that. Oh distance and time difference, why do you have to be so far?!?

My mom was widowed when I was seven… She was left with four kids, the oldest (me) was seven and my youngest sister was barely a year old. The day my father died, my mom gripped my hands tightly in hers, looked me in the eye, and said, “From this day on, we are a team”. That meant that I was expected to be the perfect child: with good grades, impeccable manners, and a good role model to my three younger siblings. Guess what? I wasn’t always perfect, I was a semi-rebel who always spoke for myself but also always made sure to please my mother as best as I could.

During my early twenties in the Philippines, I acquired a serious case of wanderlust and despair at how hard it was to get ahead no matter how hard I worked. Our friend family friend, Sally, came to the rescue and helped me come to the US as a student. After that, I got my second degree and became a Special Education teacher in a wonderful school district.   

My mom has never been here and she has never seen nor fully understood what I do every day. What do I do every day anyway? Here it is in a nutshell: I go to work, stay at work an extra hour or two every day to catch up (I think slow and always need more time), go home and take a quick nap or a snack, go to the gym or yoga studio for 1-2 hours to unleash everything, come home for dinner, relax before bedtime (blog, read, or Netflix), and go to bed.

Being a Filipino working overseas, one is always expected to send money home and have time for phone calls to many relatives. I send money home to my mom… but because of how hard life is over there, it is never enough. Also, I feel like I need time for myself, for me, to catch up on work, take care of my well-being, and just relax… I do not have time to call every living relative and catch up every time I have a free time, for heavens’ sakes! Somehow, my mom just knows how to make me feel guilty for not ever sending enough money, not connecting with family, and not having time to talk to her. It always ends up ugly.

Maybe my mom doesn’t even know how much I love her and look up to her because of the way I act towards her due to frustrations, misunderstandings, and miscommunication. She doesn’t know… all she sees is an ungrateful child who has forgotten about her family because she has had some success in America, the land of opportunity.

Any ideas on how to help me and my mom see eye to eye?

After letting all that out, I feel a bit better and am taking deep breaths, grateful for your time and words of wisdom.  

To FMP members, friends, and followers… here’s my take on Mark Bittman’s “Crisp Rice Cakes with Stir-Fried Vegetables and Chicken”. Check out the original Mark Bittman recipe at Small Kitchen College and visit the FMP website to see what other members came up with.

Nothing fancy, as you might have gathered from my heart-pouring story above, I had no energy to be creative… just a simple rice stir fry with leftover brown rice and beef brisket with vegetables. The rice and beef were from my friend Melissa’s birthday party. Yeah, I’m not shy about taking leftovers home.

This rice stir fry was so good! It filled my belly and my heart. This is a perfect all-in-one meal after an emotionally or physically hard day. Rice stir fries are also great for getting rid of leftovers.

I apologize for not being able to share a concrete recipe. All I did was chop some ingredients, toss everything in the pan, and season the dish with sesame oil, fish sauce, salt, and pepper. Feel free to add any vegetables you wish to, use any meat, or even use soy sauce or rice vinegar. This is a no-fail dish and you can add and taste as you go. 


Brown Rice with Beef and Veggies Stir Fry (Makes 4 servings)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
about 2 cups of chopped beef brisket
1 large carrot, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
¼ of a zucchini, diced
4-5 cups cooked brown rice
1 egg, beaten
1/8 cup roasted tomatoes, chopped
a generous splash of sesame oil
a generous splash of fish sauce
salt and pepper to taste  
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic until golden brown. Toss in the beef brisket, diced carrot, bell pepper, and zucchini. Stir until the beef and vegetables are semi hot, then add the rice. Continue to stir until everything heats up, then add the egg and roasted tomatoes. Stir to make sure the egg is spread all throughout until the egg is not runny anymore. Cover with the skillet lid or foil for about a minute. Remove the cover and splash in some sesame oil and fish sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Delicious, hearty, easy… my kind of meal!


  1. Margarita - that sounds like a really rough day. I don't know that you will ever see eye to eye since you are coming from two completely different worlds. Maybe try writing her a letter once a month and mailing it to her (not email) just to keep the flow of communication open and to keep her feeling included in your life in a more deep way. Sorry friend! xoxox

  2. Snail mail is a great idea... It is special and speaks more than emails do. My mom is old fash anyway and doesn't email. Thank you Alyssa! :)

  3. Margarita, I had the same relationship with my mother while growing up. I always said that mother's know how to push your buttons because they are the ones who install them. When she was younger we had battles (I was a rebel) but now she is 85 and starting to have health problems. She has mellowed and so have I. I cherish the time I have left with her. I like Alyssa's idea of letters and mother's love to receive cards.

    Love the brisket in the stir fry.

    1. Lexi... The button analogy totally cheered me up. You are so right. Haha! Thank you for your encouraging words... I don't wanna wait too long to solve this... You have convinced me.

  4. Sigh. Any kind of cultural or generational differences are really hard to bridge. Even my mom doesn't quite understand anything about my lifestyle even though we're both here in the US, a mere 20 minutes away from each other. I think the best you can do is try to explain your point of view to her and try to understand hers. And just tell her you love her a whole lot. :)

    Love that we both went for fried rice!

    1. Thank you Joanne... I do love her a lot and should make more of an effort to show her so and let her know so. :) Glad to know I'm not the only one who suffers from mom disagreements. *wink*

  5. I will try to speak to you as a child of a mother and as a mother. As a child of a mother I faced similar problems with you. Even though I am the first child in the family, the second child was a boy, my brother, I was always asked to back off in almost everything for my brother. It is true that sometimes parents can become arrogant and they loose communication with their children. Now as a mother I can relate with your mother and I sympathise her. It is very hard to loose your husband and left alone with children. Sometimes when I think of this it brings tears in my eyes. Too much burdain on her shoulders Margarita and sometimes this is unbearable. And there comes your part, she needs you to just relief her with your words. I know it is not fair but life has not been fair to her either. My suggestion would be to try and communicate with her more often. Forget about the relatives, just with her and say to her a few words of love and sympathy. I know how hectic life is in the countries of the west and it would be better for you to arrange when to call her. If you call her regularly and you get to pick the time that is more convinient for you then she will not call you in time where you have other things to do. I think this would be better and both of you will be happy! family relations can be hard sometimes, but with good will and patience I am sure you will find a path of communication with your mom!

    1. I can sympathize with you on the brother thing coz that was my situation too. Somehow he was always more special... Thank you for the advice Katerina... I really need to set aside a time just for talking to my mom. She deserves to be heard. Hearing both points of view was very helpful. Thank you!

  6. Wow. This is quite the day.
    You are such a warm hearted individual that I hate to see you pulling out your hair like this. At least you can see both sides of the argument. That is a good first step. The thing with this is, this sounds exactly like what was going on between my mother and my grandmother. My mom was here, and my grandmother was in the Philippines. She would send over clothes we grew out of, extra food we had.. But it wasn't enough. She would try to make time and phone her, but it was busy here. Soon, my mom stopped calling, she thought it was frustrating talking to my grandmother because nothing she said made sense (we found out later that she had alzheimer's). She thought that it would be okay, because she was one of 9 children, and one of the younger ones too. Most of her brothers and sisters were still in the Philippines. But one day, we get a phone call, informing us that my grandmother had passed away (this was last year). My mother felt awful, and regretted taking the time to phone, and talk to her more.
    I'm not saying that this is you situation or make you feel bad. When I read what your mother said, how you were a team, I think I almost cried. I'm sure you feel enough guilt as it is. My heart goes out to you, and I hope you can resolve this argument. I'm glad the venting helped. I guess you get that from you mom ;) I know you love her a lot, and it shows.

    Well now that I wrote you a little novel, I sure could use some of your quick and easy stir fry right now. I also take the leftovers. Nothing wrong with that ;)

    1. Oh Cathleen... I am sorry to hear about your mom's regret over not fully patching things up with your grandmother and I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother too. Thank you for your advice and yes, I will try to resolve this before it festers for too long and gets worse. Your novel writing is ok. I love it!

  7. Margie -- I agree with many here. I think it's easy to get caught up in the moment and snap. It's better to have heart-to-heart and resolve before matters gets worse.


  8. A little behind my reading of blogs lately! Apologies! I think everyone has rough days, and it's always difficult to understand what people are going through when you're not there on a day-to-day basis. One day at a time, right? Lots of hugs and I hope things are better.


Let me know what your thoughts are... Your comments always make my day!