01 January


Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

January 6: National Shortbread Day and Epiphany

“…for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” ~ Matthew 2:2

Guided only by a wondrous star, three kings (Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar) from the Orient (east) made an incredible journey leading westward to visit the King of Kings (Jesus Christ). This biblical account concludes the traditional celebration of the 12 days of Christmas on Epiphany.

To celebrate the Feast Day of the Three Kings, which coincides with National Shortbread Day, we were wise to cut simple star shapes from a brown sugar shortbread recipe. We also sprinkled the cookies with sparkling sugar crystals to give it texture and brilliance, like a star with royal beauty bright.

Bake brown sugar shortbread stars and enjoy both Epiphany and National Shortbread Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Southern Living: Incredible Cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar, dark
  • 2 cups flour
  • sparkling white sugar crystals (we used Wilton brand)

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until well blended. Gradually add the flour. Mix well until a dough is formed.  Roll into a ball and flatten into a disc between sheets of waxed paper. Press down with a rolling pin and smooth out the dough to ¼-inch thickness. Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

Remove from the refrigerator and peel away the top layer of waxed paper. Cut out star shapes on the flattened dough. Use a spatula to transfer the star cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a lightly greased foil). Space the cookies about an inch apart. Continue to re-roll and flatten the scraps of dough and cut more star cookies, refrigerating the dough if it becomes too soft. Sprinkle sugar crystals on top of the star cookies. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until edges are golden.  Remove from the oven and leave to set for about five minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

Notes

  • We halved the recipe above to feed a small group of friends.
  • We used mini star cutters for this recipe. Other shapes besides stars may be used to cut into the brown sugar cookie dough.
  • Search our blog for other shortbread recipes as well as Epiphany-themed recipes.

Marsala Veal

January 1: New Year’s Day (2015)

Inspired by the announcement that the Pantone company chose “marsala” as the color of the year for 2015, Islander cooked Marsala Veal for our first dinner of the new year—in our new home in the Gulf Coast area of Texas. We had moved from Southwest Texas only a few weeks ago during the hectic holiday season and are still organizing our kitchen and pantry.

According to Pantone, “Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, this tasteful hue embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness.”

We blogged about Marsala Chicken a few years ago. We revisited the recipe and used veal instead of chicken as the “propitious protein” for the new year and, like Pantone’s description of the color, Marsala Veal is a fulfilling meal, especially when served with other auspicious foods, such as noodles (“longevity”) or rice (“riches”).

Enjoy the color of the year as well as this recipe for Marsala Veal. Happy 2015!!!

Recipe
(Adapted from the Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 4-5 veal slices for scallopini
  • flour (seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • olive oil
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, cubed
  • 8 ounces mushrooms (baby bella, crimini, porcini, etc.), stemmed and quartered
  • 1 cup Marsala wine (sweet instead of dry)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (mixed with water to form a paste to thicken the sauce)
  • ¼ cup Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped and for optional garnish

 

Directions

Dredge the veal in flour, shaking off the excess. Heat a little olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Fry the veal until both sides are slightly browned, being careful not to overcook the slices or they will not be as tender. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. In the same skillet with the drippings, fry the prosciutto.

Add the mushrooms and sauté until brown. Pour in the Marsala wine and cook for about a minute. Stir in the chicken stock. In a small cup, make a paste with the cornstarch and water. Stir into the sauce to thicken. Put the veal slices back into the skillet. Simmer for about five minutes. Put on a platter and garnish with parsley flakes. Serve with pasta noodles or hot rice with the sauce poured over.

Notes

  • Good luck to Highlander in his new job in the Gulf Coast area of Texas (the reason we moved from our beloved San Antonio). Good luck to all our blog readers in the new year!
  • Search our blog for other new year’s recipes.

 

 

Paprikás Csirke

(Hungarian Paprika Chicken)

Paprika Chicken

January 18: Feast Day of St. Margaret of Hungary

With a large European population in the Chicago suburbs and Northwestern Indiana, there were several interesting international grocery stores where Islander and her Ukrainian friend, Olga W., would often go together to shop for sweets, snacks and spices. Islander bought Hungarian paprika to replace the blander one in her pantry and it made a difference to the dish she cooked by boosting the flavor and color of paprika chicken (also known as chicken paprikash).

Paprika chicken (paprikás csirke) is a popular Hungarian stew. This is a nice recipe to make in observance of the feast days of Hungarian saints, beginning with St. Margaret in January. Jó étvágyat!

 Recipe

(Adapted from Squidoo)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of chicken (drumsticks, thighs, etc.)
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1-2 cups water (enough to cover the chicken)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • parsley, chopped (optional garnish)
  • hot cooked pasta noodles or rice

Directions

Dredge the chicken in the flour. Shake off excess flour and set aside. In a large pan, melt the butter over low heat. Raise the heat and sauté the onions until translucent. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onions from the pan. Keep warm.

Paprika Chicken

In the same pan, brown the chicken, turning to cook all sides. Return the onions to the pan. Pour water over the chicken. Sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika. Lower the heat, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for an hour or until the chicken is tender. Check seasonings and sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper to taste.

Paprika Chicken

When cooked, remove the chicken, leaving the sauce in the pan. Add the sour cream and stir constantly until smooth (do not allow to curdle). Place the thickened sauce in a plate and add the chicken on top. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve over hot cooked pasta noodles or rice.

Paprika Chicken

Notes

  • Some calendars list the feast day of St. Margaret of Hungary on January 19 and 26.

Fig Newton Bibles

Fig Newton Bibles

January 16: National Fig Newton Day

With 50+ references in Scriptures, the fig is the most mentioned fruit in the Holy Bible. The first instance is in Genesis 3:7, when Adam and Eve used fig leaves to clothe themselves. Figs are abundant in the Holy Land and the Middle East and is used in many regional recipes. Ancient Egyptians made a rolled pastry filled with fig paste. Nabisco brand’s Fig Newtons are a modern version of these sweet snacks.

Going back to its biblical roots, we literally fashioned Fig Newtons into the blessed book. Fig Newton bibles are a cute cookie to serve for Sunday school, bible study, prayer group meetings and especially National Fig Newton Day!

Recipe

(Inspired by Catholic Cuisine)

Ingredients

  • Fig Newtons
  • Red fruit roll-up
  • White icing (we used Cake Mate brand bakery frosting)

Directions

Slice each Fig Newton down one side instead of laying it flat for a cleaner cut. Set aside. Open a red fruit roll-up.

Fig Newton Bibles

Slice the fruit roll-up into thin strips to make the bookmarks. Cut into smaller pieces with angled ends. Position the bookmarks on the bottom of one of the Fig Newtons using a toothpick.  Use white icing from the tube to outline the book cover.

Fig Newton Bibles

Pipe in the spine of the book and add a cross on the cover. Allow the frosting on the Fig Newton bibles to dry completely. Arrange on a platter and serve.

Fig Newton Bibles

Chicken Curry Puffs

Chicken Curry Puffs

January 12: National Curried Chicken Day

During our graduate school days, Islander’s “Singapore Sister” AAW introduced her to her country’s quintessential street food—curry puffs. These snacks satisfied her study-buddy when working together on projects late into the night at AAW’s apartment. Islander liked that her classmate had a small but private cooking area, unlike the inconvenience of the shared community kitchen in our dorm.

Curry puffs are delicious dumplings reminiscent of European pasties, Latin empanadas and Indian samosas. Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and China have various versions as well, with different fillings inside a doughy shell.

AAW makes her curry puffs with potatoes, chicken, onions and spices and deep-fries the half circle-shaped parcels. We have adapted her recipe by using store-bought puff pastry, shaping them into triangles and baking them in the oven (although they can be fried, too).

Fried or baked, try cooking a Singaporean snack, chicken curry puffs, on National Curried Chicken Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from AAW)

Ingredients

  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked chicken breast meat, finely diced
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon korma curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed (we used Pepperidge Farm brand)

Directions

Wash the potato and place in a pot of water. Cover and boil for 20-25 minutes; the potato does not have to be cooked all the way through as it will be sautéed and then baked/fried later in the process. Remove the potato from the pot, cool, peel and dice into small squares. Set aside.

Chicken Curry Puffs

Finely chop the onion and chicken. Set aside. In a skillet or wok, heat the oil. Sauté the onions until they are translucent. Add the curry, chili and turmeric powders and stir well, being careful not to burn the onions.

Chicken Curry Puffs

Mix in the chicken, sugar and salt and pepper and sauté for about five minutes. Stir in the potatoes and blend well. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Chicken Curry Puffs

Remove the thawed puff pastry from the package and unfold them on a lightly floured surface. Cut each sheet into nine squares for a total of 18 pieces. Place a tablespoonful of filling in the middle of one square. Moisten two adjacent edges of the puff pastry with water. Fold into a triangle and press down on the edges. Use the tines of a fork to mark and seal. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Continue making the rest of the curry puffs.

Chicken Curry Puffs

The curry puffs may be frozen and cooked at a later time. To bake them, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, then bake the curry puffs for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve hot. To deep-fry them, heat the oil until hot. Carefully place the frozen parcels into the oil and fry for about five minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Transfer to a platter and serve hot.

Chicken Curry Puffs

Notes

  • We are still in touch with our “Singapore Sister”. Like us, AAW is in an intermarriage; her husband, Lars, is from Germany. We look forward to seeing them at Islander’s conferences and hope that she and AAW will continue working on special research projects about intermarriage.
  • Korma curry powder may be found in Indian or Asian grocers or in the international foods section of the local supermarket. If this is unavailable, omit it and double up on the regular curry powder.
  • Optional: If baking the curry puffs, brush the tops of the pastry with an egg wash (1 beaten egg with 1 teaspoon water) before baking. This will give a nice, golden brown sheen to the dumplings.
  • We made our curry puffs into triangles to avoid wasting scraps of dough. But they can be made into the traditional half-circle shapes by using a 3-inch round cookie cutter on the puff pastry dough.
  • Check out our other international curried chicken recipes from Sri Lanka and Hawaii by searching our blog.

Portuguese Bean Soup (Slow Cooker)

Portuguese Bean Soup

January 6: National Bean Day

Although Pacific Islanders and Asians dominate Hawaii’s immigrant population, there is a sizable settlement of Europeans (Brits, Scots, Russians, Germans, Spaniards and Portuguese) on the islands.

Portuguese cuisine is especially popular in Hawaii as the people shared their cultural cooking customs at the historic plantations. We especially love their donuts (malassadas), sweet bread (pão doce), sausage (linguiça) and bean soup served in several restaurants and food trucks.

This blog post presents a slow cooker recipe for Portuguese bean soup, a hearty stew of linguiça, ham hocks, vegetables and kidney beans. Portuguese bean soup is perfect for cold winter days, during January’s National Soup Month and National Slow Cooker Month and on National Bean Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from the Star-Advertiser)

For the soup stock

  • 2-3 smoked ham hocks
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions

Line a 6-quart slow cooker with the appropriate cooking bag. Place the ham hocks in the crock pot and pour water over them. Sprinkle rosemary and crushed garlic.

Portuguese Bean Soup

Chop the cilantro and add to the crock  pot. Cover with the lid and cook on low for at least four hours until the ham hocks are tender. Remove the ham hocks from the crock pot and slice off the meat, discarding the bones and fatty skin. Return to the crock pot and add the remaining stew ingredients.

Portuguese Bean Soup

 For the stew

  • 12 ounces Portuguese sausage, sliced ½-inch thick
  • 2 cups tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, sliced and quartered
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) kidney beans with liquid
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 3 cups cabbage, shredded

Directions

In the crock pot, add the sliced Portuguese sausage, tomatoes, onions and potatoes.

Portuguese Bean Soup

Mix in the carrots, kidney beans and tomato sauce. Stir until blended. Cover and cook on low for 6-10 hours or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the cabbage, cover and cook for another 30 minutes or until the cabbage is soft. Ladle the stew into soup bowls and garnish with a sprigs of fresh cilantro or parsley. Serve hot with Portuguese sweet bread or over steamed white rice.

Portuguese Bean Soup

Notes

  • Obrigado (thanks) to Lisa L. for the San Miguel rooster prop in the final food photo above that she got for us in Portugal. She also used to be stationed in Hawaii years ago and is back this year for a few months working for the U.S. Navy. Lucky for her, she gets to eat Portuguese bean soup and other authentic local-style foods in Islander’s home state!
  • Other versions of the Portuguese bean soup recipe include macaroni to add texture and thickness to the broth.

Cock-a-Leekie

(Scottish Chicken and Leeks Soup)

Cock-a-leekie

January: National Soup Month

The ultimate comfort food for cold weather (and for colds and flu) is chicken soup. We have blogged before about tinolang manok, a Filipino-style chicken soup. But this recipe post is for cock-a-leekie, a Scottish-style chicken soup, for Hogmanay (Scottish New Year) and the upcoming Burns Supper celebrations in the latter part of January.

Highlander’s Scottish relatives shared several versions of their recipes with us but we have adapted one for our own tastes and kept the traditional ingredients—cock (chicken), leekie (leeks) and prunes. Other recipes add bacon rashers, rice or barley as thickeners, carrots, celery and onions. The hot broth is heart-warming, the chicken provides protein to the body, leeks lend a natural flavor and the prunes are for fiber.

During National Soup Month, cook a comfort food, cock-a-leekie, (Scottish chicken and leeks soup). Slàinte mhor (great health)!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 leeks, sliced (white parts only)
  • 6 chicken drumsticks (2 leg quarters or 4 thighs)
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped (optional)
  • 8+ cups of chicken stock
  • bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf and parsley mix)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ – 1 cup prunes, cut in half

Directions

Wash the leeks thoroughly to remove the dirt embedded below the green tops. Trim the bottom of the leeks and slice the white parts. In a large pot, brown the chicken in melted butter. Stir in the chopped bacon and cook till crisp.

Cock-a-leekie

Add the sliced leeks. Pour in the chicken stock and bouquet garni. Cover the pot with a lid and reduce the heat to simmer. Let it stew for one hour, stirring occasionally and adding a cup or two of water to the broth, if more liquid is needed.

Cock-a-leekie

Remove the chicken from the pot, then take the meat off the bones and chop coarsely. Return the chopped chicken meat to the soup pot and season with salt and pepper. Add the prunes and simmer for 15 more minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls or cups. Serve hot with crusty bread.

Cock-a-leekie

Notes 

  • Happy Hogmanay (Scottish New Year) to all our blog readers! Have a happy and healthy new year!
  • We made a bouquet garni by putting a half teaspoon of dried thyme, one bay leaf and a teaspoon of dried parsley in a tea bag. Soak it in the soup while it is simmering over the stovetop. Discard after cooking.
  • Check out other chicken soup recipes by searching our blog.

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