02 February


Kiwi Pavlova

Kiwi Pavlova

February 6: Waitangi Day (New Zealand)

We met our wedding godparents, Drs. Mark and Natalie R., in a Midwest college town where he was a chemistry professor and we were graduate students at the same university. God brought all of us together somehow from different parts of the globe—Highlander from Canada, Islander from Hawaii, Godfather Mark from New Zealand/Aotearoa and Godmother Natalie from France—when we attended services at a small, new church (Highlander and Islander were the music ministers). Mark and Natalie frequently invited us to their home to enjoy home-cooked Sunday meals with their teen daughters when the cafeterias on campus were closed. We enjoyed the company as well as the delicious dinners—and, of course, the desserts, often something sweet and simple, like pavlova, a popular treat from Mark’s country.

Pavlova is a light and airy meringue smothered in whipped cream and topped with fresh fruit. We decorated ours with slices of native New Zealand kiwi only since passion fruit was not available at the time. Pavlova is a wonderful treat on Waitangi Day or any time one wants a delightful dessert.

Recipe

From Drs. Mark and Natalie R.

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons water, cold
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1-2 cups sweetened whipped cream, cold
  • 3-5 fresh kiwis, sliced

Directions

In a grease-free cold bowl, beat the egg whites until fluffy. Add the water and beat again. Gradually add the sugar while beating. Add the vinegar, vanilla and cornstarch.

Kiwi Pavlova

Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spread the meringue into a circle shape (8-10 inches in diameter) on the parchment paper. Bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven, crack the door slightly open and leave the meringue inside until cool. Remove from the oven.

Kiwi Pavlova

When ready to serve, spread sweetened whipped cream over the top of the meringue. Add slices of fresh kiwis to cover the meringue. Slice and serve immediately.

Kiwi Pavlova

Notes

  • The kiwi pavlova in the food photo above is resting on Islander’s traditional Maori skirt. She learned how to twirl poi balls while taking hula and Tahitian dance classes when she was younger.
  • Room temperature instead of cold egg whites beat fluffier and fuller.
  • The meringue can stay crisp on the outside and chewy in the inside if covered in an airtight container until ready to serve. Spread the cream and fruit just before ready to serve to avoid a soggy meringue.
  • Feel free to add other fresh fruits, such as passion fruit (lilikoi in Hawaiian), berries, citrus, mango slices, etc.

Elmo Candy

Elmo Candy

February 3: Elmo’s Birthday

Happy birthday to Islander’s favorite furry friend—Elmo! She adores the Sesame Street character so much that she was inspired to try a candy decoration project to mark her muse’s special day. It is a simple sugar arts technique that involves tracing and flooding over a pattern. The finished candy piece may be eaten as is or used as a cake decoration.

Elmo was a simple pattern with a few candy melt colors that Islander had on hand for her first candy project. Other clipart or coloring page patterns and chocolate or candy melt colors may be used—the possibilities are endless for a fun and personalized project. But for today, enjoy an edible Elmo on his birthday.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Black (or dark chocolate) candy melts
  • Red candy melts
  • Orange candy melts
  • White (or white chocolate) candy melts

Directions

Print out a clipart or coloring page of Elmo. Put the image on a cake board, cardboard or cutting board. Tape waxed paper over it. Melt the black or dark chocolate candy melts. Let cool slightly. Fill a piping bag outfitted with Wilton tip #3. Trace the outline of Elmo, flooding the mouth area. Refrigerate for a few minutes until the candy is set.

Elmo Candy

Melt the red candy melts. Let cool slightly. Fill a piping bag outfitted with Wilton tip #3. Flood the body area. Do the same for the nose using the orange candy melts.

Elmo Candy

Melt the white chocolate candy melts. Let cool slightly. Fill a piping bag outfitted with Wilton tip #3. Flood the eye area. Refrigerate for a few minutes until the candy is set.

Elmo Candy

Use the remaining melted white chocolate candy melts to trace all over Elmo’s body and flood the area completely. This makes the overall candy sturdier. Go ¼-inch past the edges with an outer outline (optional). Refrigerate for a few minutes until the candy is set. Remove the tape from the wax paper. Turn the hardened candy Elmo over on the flat surface. Carefully peel away the waxed paper. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve or decorate a cake.

Avocado-Mushroom-Onion Omelet

Avocado Omelet

February: National Avocado Month

Islander was so shy in kindergarten when students were asked to name a fruit during a food lesson. All the other classmates stated the obvious—apples, bananas, oranges—and local Hawaiian favorites—coconuts, pineapples, papayas, mangos, lychees, lilikoi, etc. She regrets not having spoken up and saying “avocado” especially since her family had an avocado tree in the back yard of her childhood home in Pearl Harbor that was located across the street from the school!

Now, 40+ years later, Islander is using this blog as a medium to say that avocado is botanically a fruit. But because it is green and used in many savory recipes, many might confuse it as a vegetable.

In observing National Avocado Month, we put avocado slices in an omelet filled with mushrooms and caramelized onions for a hearty and healthy brunch. Celebrate February with a fruit and add an avocado to an omelet!

Recipe

(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

Ingredients

  • Olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • ¼ cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup mushrooms (we used oyster), sliced
  • 4 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, sliced
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced into wedges

Directions

Slice the mushrooms, chives, onion and avocado. In a skillet, sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until caramelized (around 10 minutes). Add the water to deglaze. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Avocado Omelet

In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon of oil and add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe down the skillet and heat with 1 teaspoon of oil. Pour in half the beaten egg-water mixture and swirl around to cover the bottom of the skillet. Sprinkle in the chives. Cook for about a minute or two. On one side of the omelet, sprinkle half the onions and mushrooms.

Avocado Omelet

Fan out the avocado slices on top. When the eggs are slightly set, fold the other side of the omelet over the filling. Slide the omelet onto a plate and keep warm. Repeat the process for the second omelet. Yield: 2 servings.

Avocado Omelet

Notes

  • Sprinkle a little lemon juice on the avocado slices to prevent browning after cutting.
  • Search our blog for additional avocado recipes.

Sesame Choy Sum

Sesame Choy Sum

February 17: National Cabbage Day

We always made plans to celebrate the Asian lunar new year with our friend Phyllis S., a Chinese-American and fellow expatriate local from Hawaii, and her family when we lived in South Texas. Since we have moved, we still try to observe the cultural holiday, as Islander has Chinese relatives as well. Phyllis introduced us to Sesame Choy Sum, a simple yet symbolic side dish with a salty-sweet sauce that is poured over quickly cooked “Chinese flowering cabbage”. Traditionally, the vegetable represents health and its green color symbolizes money/wealth. So cook up some Sesame Choy Sum on National Cabbage Day or during the Asian lunar new year for health and wealth!

Recipe

From Phyllis S.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh choy sum
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (we used Aloha Shoyu brand)
  • ½ tablespoon sesame seeds

 Directions

Wash the choy sum and trim the bottom. In a large pot, boil some water. Add the choy sum and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the stovetop and drain well. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Run cool water over the choy sum and squeeze out excess water. Place the choy sum on a platter.

Sesame Choy Sum

In a measuring cup, combine the oyster sauce, sesame oil and soy sauce. Mix well and let stand for 10 minutes. Drizzle over the choy sum. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. May be served hot or cold.

Sesame Choy Sum

Notes

  • Phyllis likes to cut the choy sum in half and boil the stems for a minute or two before adding the leaves to the pot, as the stems are thicker and take longer to cook.
  • Search our blog for other recipes containing cabbage as an ingredient.
  • Kung Hei Fat Happy (Lunar) New Year!

Rice Krispies Footballs

February: Super Bowl

Celebrate Super Bowl Sunday and the end of football season with a simple sweet treat: Rice Krispies Footballs. Islander makes these and other game day desserts ahead of time so she can help Highlander prepare other foods when we host a Super Bowl Sunday supper and invite our neighbors, Glenn and Anna Maria B., to join us to watch the game on our big screen TV. Score a touchdown at the table with these Rice Krispies Footballs. They are fun and festive and are sure to be a favorite football food!

Recipe

(Adapted from Rice Krispies)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 package (10 ounces) or 5 cups chocolate-flavored regular marshmallows
    (or 4 cups miniature marshmallows)
  • ½ cup peanut butter (optional)
  • 6 cups chocolate-flavored rice cereal (Cocoa Krispies)
  • white fondant (optional)
  • white tube frosting

Directions

In a large pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows (and peanut butter, if using) and stir until completely melted. Mix in the cereal until combined well. Remove from heat.

Generously butter hands and form mixture into football shapes. Place on a tray lined with waxed paper. Set aside. Roll out a small ball of white fondant, if using, flatten into 1/8-inch thickness and slice into thin strips.

Position on the football shapes (brush a little water on the strips before positioning, if necessary). With a small round trip on the white tube frosting, squeeze out the stitching detail on the football shapes. Yield: 18 two-inch size Rice Krispies footballs.

Notes

Margarita Cupcakes

Margarita Cupcakes 
February 22: National Margarita Day 

When we go out to eat with our Tex-Mex neighbors, Glenn and Ana Maria B., who like to take advantage of happy hour prices at their favorite authentic Mexican restaurants in San Antonio, Texas, Highlander would order a cerveza (beer) while Islander tries a margarita. She personally finds the alcohol too strong for her tastes. But she likes margarita cupcakes over the cocktail and often bakes this boozy dessert for fiestas and get-togethers. Make margarita cupcakes for National Margarita Day. Son muy deliciosos.

Recipe

(Adapted from Diana’s Desserts)

For the margarita cupcakes

  • 1 box white cake mix (we used Duncan Hines brand)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 (10 ounces) can of non-alcoholic lime margarita mix, thawed (we used Bacardi brand), divided use (3/4 cup for the cupcakes, remainder for the frosting)
  • 3 tablespoons orange liqueur (we used Triple Sec)
  • 1 tablespoon tequila
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 4-5 drops of green food coloring

Directions

Zest the lime and set aside. Separate the eggs, reserving the yolks for another recipe.

Margarita Cupcakes

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix and egg whites. Add the lime margarita mix, orange liqueur, tequila and vegetable oil. Mix in the lime zest.

Margarita Cupcakes

Tint the batter with green food coloring. Blend until smooth. Scoop batter into cupcakes papers lining a muffin pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until done. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Yield: 2 dozen. 

Margarita Cupcakes

For the frosting

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (we used Wilton brand clear vanilla)
  • 2-3 tablespoons non-alcoholic lime margarita mix, thawed (from the cupcake ingredients above)
  • lime wedges/half slices or curly peel (optional garnish)
  • green sugar sprinkles (optional decorations)

Directions

Cream the butter. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla. Thin with 2-3 tablespoons of lime margarita mix until the frosting is a spreadable consistency.

Margarita Cupcakes

Frost the cupcakes (or fill a pastry bag with frosting and decorate with a swirl on top; we used Wilton tip 1M). Garnish with a lime wedge/slice. Sprinkle green sugar on top. Refrigerate to set. Thaw at room temperature before serving.

Margarita Cupcakes 

Notes

  • Also try our Texas Margarita Pie recipe for National Margarita Day. 
  • Search our blog for other Mexican-inspired recipes.

Gumdrop Cookies

Gumdrop Cookies

February 15: National Gumdrop Day

We used to play the board game, Candy Land, when we were kids. In the vintage version, our game pieces traveled through Gumdrop Mountains. In newer layouts of the game, the journey through Candy Land took players through Gumdrop Pass. We are not sure if gumdrop locations still exist in the newer and online editions. But gumdrops, in all its colorful, sugar-coated gummy goodness, are a classic candy! Whenever we bake them in cookies, kids and kids-at-heart enjoy the crisp confection with chewy-gooey gumdrops. These sweet snacks are a treat to eat while playing Candy Land and celebrating National Gumdrop Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar, divided use
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup gumdrop candies (spiced or fruit-flavored), chopped
  • 2 egg whites

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening with ¾ cup sugar. Stir in the almond extract. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with the baking soda and salt. Gradually mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones (the dough will be dry).

Gumdrop Cookies

Mix in the chopped gumdrops. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Then gradually add the remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the dough until moistened.

Gumdrop Cookies

On foil-lined ungreased cookie sheets, drop by teaspoonsful about two inches apart. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool to a crisp. Yield: Approximately 2 ½ – 3 dozen gumdrop cookies.

Gumdrop Cookies

Notes

  • For bigger mounds of gumdrop cookies, scoop tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheet and bake for another 5 minutes. For flatter cookies, press down on the dough before baking.
  • For holiday baking, change the colors of the gumdrops to black and orange for Halloween and red and green for Christmas.

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