Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Discrimination hasn't died. Recipe: Chicken lo mein.

This is kind of a heavy post, so just read the recipe and running parts if you want to avoid feeling pulled down! Sometimes life isn't brilliant all the time. But it's okay. It is wonderful most of the time. My next post is going to be full of smiles and happy thoughts - I PROMISE!

Recipes: Chicken Lo Mein (pictured above before the noodles were added)
This is an adaptation from's chicken lo mein recipe. We love it. It is so easy and so good, and a great way to get veggies in the kids!
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Marinade:
  • 4 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. tsp. Chinese sweet cooking rice wine (you can omit this and just use a little apple juice or white grape juice - or you can omit it all together, not a big deal.)
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame seed oil
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • Sauce:
  • 1 1/2 Cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 Cups plus 1 teaspoon oyster sauce (this really is a must - for a great taste).
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • Other:
  • 1 lb. Chinese noodles (thin or thick noodles are fine) OR we often just use thin spaghetti noodles (cooked al dente)
  • 2 cups shredded carrots (about 1 carrot) OR just use pre-cut packaged matchstick carrots. Saves time.
  • 2 (8 ounce) can straw mushrooms - or really you can use any kind of mushrooms.
  • Any other vegetables you like! We use broccoli, sweet peppers, onions, green onions, summer squash, zucchini, or any other stir-fry friendly vegies.
  • 6 Tbs. vegetable or peanut oil for stir-frying, or as needed
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste, if desired

1. Cut the chicken into thin strips about 2 inches long. (It’s easiest to do this if the chicken is slightly frozen). Add the light soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, sesame oil and the cornstarch. Marinate the chicken for 20 minutes.

2. While the chicken is marinating, prepare the other ingredients: Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Chinese Noodles: Cook the noodles in boiling water until they are cooked al dente (tender but still firm). This will take about 3 minutes for fresh noodles, and 4 - 5 minutes for dried noodles. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

Spaghetti or other thin noodles: cook al dente in salted water according to package directions. Drain, rinse briefly to stop the cooking.

3. Cut the carrot into thin strips to match the chicken (Or use matchstick carrots - MUCH easier and faster). Rinse the mushrooms under running water to remove any “tinny” taste. Drain thoroughly.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high to high heat. Add the garlic, stir-fry for a few seconds until aromatic, then add the chicken. Stir-fry the chicken until it changes color and is 80 percent cooked. (If you need more oil, try adding 1 tablespoon water). Remove the chicken and clean out the wok.

5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil and the salt in the wok. Add the carrots and mushrooms. Stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the chicken. Add the noodles, stirring to mix in with the other ingredients. Add the sauce into the wok, mixing with the other ingredients.

6. Cook for 2 more minutes. Taste and add salt or pepper if desired. Serve hot.

Running: 7 1/2 today (outside, hills), rest yesterday, and 7 (treadmill) on Monday. Last week I logged around 40 miles. That's a high mileage week for me. But everything is relative: there's a lady from Idaho (Lisa Smith-Batchen) running 50 miles A DAY in each of the 50 states over a period of 62 days (she takes a rest day every 5th day). And she's doing it to raise money for orphans. How cool is that?
I had a lot of energy last week, left-over glycogen in my muscles from fueling on the marathon the Saturday before. It took me all week to deplete the stores, and finally felt the bonk around mile 5 of my 14 1/2 mile run this past Saturday. I was actually relieved. It means I know where I am (nutritionally) and know how to handle each day as I get ready for another marathon in 2 1/2 weeks. I think I will have to fuel better beforehand this next race - fuel didn't kick in until mile 10 - and will start w/the gels probably the day before. Not everybody's body acts like mine, so I don't dare recommend this as a general rule. Most people will be fine if they stick with the food carb-loading approach. But I metabolize things really slowly - I know that. (For example, at the dentists or doc's whenever I need an anesthetic, it always takes way longer and way more than most people.) Never try anything new on race day, they say. And they're right - I've had really bad experiences with trying something new on a race. But I don't want to try it on this week's long run because I don't want to take another week of heavy training to deplete the glycogen stores - it's too close to the race and won't give me enough time to recover. So I'm going against all wisdom, and justifying it with the thought that I'm just taking in fuel a little earlier than usual... (I hope I'm not shooting myself in the foot with this one).
Towards the end of the week after my June 12th marathon I want to join Lisa on her final run. I would love to do all 50 miles with her, but I don't know how I'll have recovered after the race. I think I'll just see how much I can do, take my phone with me, and call my husband to retrieve me when I bonk. We'll see.
Reading: Oh my. My heart feels as if it will break with sadness after having finished, "Left to Tell." I really do not, can not, nor want to ever understand how people can be hardened, evil, and malicious. To slaughter men, women, children, babies, old people...I can't even bear to think of it. Instead I have to dwell on the lessons Immaculee learned and teaches - faith and forgiveness, and a relationship with God that gave her the strength and perspective to conquer the fear, hatred, and evil that threatened to kill her soul. It can be done, although I doubt I could ever be so strong. I do not understand what would ever motivate someone to be cruel...okay, Satan, but I don't understand why anyone would listen to him. He's not worth any attention.
Ruminations: On Discrimination: So "Left to Tell" is on my mind. I keep thinking it over, trying to sort it out, trying to understand Immaculee's miracles and miraculous existence, trying to feel the kind of forgiving love Immaculee did for the cruel enemies around here - the strangers who did me no harm, but murdered her family. I do not have good feelings for them, to say the least. But she forgave them. I should, too. That the Hutu killers could be so barbaric to the Tutsis still is unfathomable. (Not all Hutus were like that, of course!). Thinking of discrimination drew me back to my past to a time that I had at one time wished to forget, but never have - and now I realize things like this are good to remember for the lessons learned.
I lived in a small town in New Hampshire, went to a small school, and attended a small (tiny) congregation called a "Branch" in the LDS (Mormon) faith. I loved the people in my church. There were so few of us in that whole area that we really got to know each other well and felt like family. Outside of my home, it was where I felt loved the most.
In my school, I was one of three Mormons (my brother and another boy were the other two). It didn't bother me, I didn't feel odd. It wasn't a big deal. I even went to Mass with some of my Catholic friends, and it was fine. Other kids went to different churches, if they went at all, and life went on. My family had lived in New Hampshire almost two years and I was just beginning to feel settled with the kids at school. 7th Grade had been fine, but 6th Grade had been tough since I was the new kid. 8th Grade promised to be better, maybe even great. By Christmas I finally felt like I belonged. By January I was making wonderful friendships. February, and I was part of a group of good friends.
8th Grade. The worst possible year to be a girl. Maybe a boy, too, but I don't know about that.

The Mormon (LDS) church asks all young men to serve missions when they are 19 years old. It is a privilege and a commandment to share the gospel with the world, to give everyone the opportunity to learn, accept, or reject the LDS faith and understanding of God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. These young men leave their homes for 2 years to preach the Gospel, paying for their expenses out of their own pockets. During those 2 years, there is a lot of down time when there isn't anyone to teach, especially in places like New Hampshire. The missionaries (also known as "Elders") would often stop in at our home, unannounced, to visit and grab something to eat, before heading back out. The Elders felt very comfortable and happy with my family, and we loved having them there.
So I didn't think anything of it when I had a friend come to my house for a sleep-over and the missionaries planned to stop in the next day.
Earlier that Friday evening, my friend (let's call her Sue) had come with me to a presentation put on by the Elders at the little Methodist Church we rented for our church services. She had permission from her parents. It was a no-pressure, informational, refreshments-provided get-together with lots of people, and we had fun just hanging out.
From my journal:
February 19, 1988 Friday
[Sue]'s here! We just got back from the meeting. It was okay. I hope Sue liked it. She's talking about it right now. The Elders are the BEST! They're coming over tomorrow. Oh, Sue and I are going to the Snooty Fox, a restaurant down the street, for lunch! We're going to wear bow ties, black pants, and white shirts.

February 20, 1988 Saturday
Tomorrow is the last day of vacation. I want vacation to go on, but I want to go to school because my friends are there. Sue and I had fun at the Snooty Fox. The Elders came over today.

February 22, 1988 Monday
Sue was a real jerk until the last two periods.

February 23, 1988 Tuesday
No one likes me anymore. It was awful. What did I do that was so wrong?

March 1, 1988 Tuesday
I went to sit with my friends. They picked up their books and walked off to another table and left me by myself. I just sat there, feeling miserable and rejected. What did I do wrong?
...I was reading the scriptures, looking up "loneliness", when all of a sudden a feeling came over me that God loves me and doesn't want me to be lonely. No matter what happens, He loves me. Even if everyone rejects me, I still have a friend. He loves me. Thank you, Father. I love you, too.
The rest of the school year was awful because of the rejection of those few girls who had been my best friends. They talked about me behind my back, walked away from me, laughed at me, and were basically cruel. I had received nominations for "prettiest" and "smartest" for yearbook, and my friends said, "I don't know why anyone would vote for her," within earshot. My teachers noticed. I think their pitying eyes were by far the most painful part of the whole ordeal.
During the last few months of 8th grade I found new friends in a couple of boys who were like brothers to me. I often think they saved my life. That, and - like Immaculee - the peace that came when I turned to God.
9th grade started at the High School. God must have known I could take no more, because he sent me an incredible blessing in some of the best friends of my life. It was an entirely different experience, having so many friends - truly true friends, who knew me, my beliefs, my quirks, and just loved me for being me.
I forgave the girls. I really did. I even told a couple of the girls at the beginning of 9th grade that I still thought of them as my friends. One girl blushed bright red and apologized. Another wrote me a note, saying she was so sorry. The two worst ones were in boarding schools, but when I saw them during vacation, they refused to meet my eyes. I managed to tell them anyway that it was okay, I was okay, and I didn't hold it against them. One felt really awkward and left, and the other one looked relieved and smiled.
I realized (with some further information) it was because Sue's mother was afraid of Mormons. When she found out that Sue had met the Elders I'm sure all sorts of motherly fears surfaced. I don't blame her. I'm protective of my children, too. I do wish things could have been resolved differently. It would have saved me months of tears and loneliness, and thoughts of suicide. I begged my mother to take me out of school and homeschool me. I begged God to give me cancer or anything else that in my mind seemed an easier burden. But I wasn't released from the trial of discrimination. If I had been, I would have missed the important lessons I learned, the pain of being different, the fear of what each day had in store, the misery of rejection, the emptiness of being alone, and the questions of confusion. I had friends one week, and over the course of a weekend, I was friendless. I learned empathy for those who are discriminated against. Thankfully, I never had to endure the pain Immaculee did in having her "friends" turn into her family's killers. Like I said, I do not think I would ever be strong enough to forgive as she did, but she is an example of what forgiving is.
And while I truly have forgiven, and most of the time have forgotten, I do remember what it felt like. I don't think I should ever forget that. I would not want anyone to ever feel that, and I would not want those months to have been in vain. I only want to remember so that perhaps I can shield someone else or help another who maybe feels that way.


  1. I'm so excited about this recipe! You are an amazing cook! I LOVE them all and keep them coming! As for the rest of your blog--shesh, Steph--great run and amazingly HARD junior high school. Girls are just jerks sometimes. I"m so sorry you had to deal with that. It makes me want kick them in their pants. I'm so glad you could get up and over it. You're phenomenal in every way.

  2. I'm sorry for the horrible year you had in 8th Grade. I had a very lonely, sad year when I was in 7th Grade, though it wasn't as hard as yours sounds. I am so glad you had such a strong testimony at that age. That's what pulled me through, and I'm sure it is what sustained you as well. You are a better person for it!