12 December


Pumpkin Pie

(Gluten and Dairy Free)

Pumpkin Pie (Allergy-Free)

December 25: National Pumpkin Pie Day

“Rockin’ around the Christmas tree

Let the Christmas spirit ring

Later we’ll have some pumpkin pie

And we’ll do some caroling!”

Now Islander can enjoy a piece of pumpkin pie without worrying that it will bloat her belly like a bowl full of jelly because the recipe that follows features gluten- and dairy-free ingredients!

She found gluten-free pie crusts in the freezer section at Whole Foods market, used coconut instead of cow’s milk and sweetened the batter with maple syrup (hence, our pie is decked out with maple leaves molded from pumpkin-flavored Candy Melts).

Those suffering from food allergies can try this delicious dessert with or without the crust. So celebrate Christmas and National Pumpkin Pie Day with a sweet slice of gluten- and dairy-free pumpkin pie.

Recipe

(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

Ingredients

  • 1 9-inch gluten-free pie crust, baked
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk (use full fat Thai Kitchen brand)
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoon agar-agar powder (do not use bar or flakes)
  • ¾ cup water

Directions

Pre-bake the pie crust according to the package directions. Set aside to cool completely.

Pumpkin Pie (Allergy-Free)

In the blender container, combine the pumpkin, maple syrup and coconut milk.

Pumpkin Pie (Allergy-Free)

Add the tapioca flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt and vanilla.

Pumpkin Pie (Allergy-Free)

Blend until smooth. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the agar-agar powder in water. Simmer to thicken, about 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the pumpkin batter. Bring to a boil and stir until thickened (another 2-3 minutes). Immediately pour into the pie crust. Cool at room temperature then transfer to the refrigerator. When chilled, slice and serve.

Pumpkin Pie (Allergy-Free)

Notes

  • Take a taste test to compare this with a traditional pumpkin pie (see the regular recipe on our blog). The crust is crisp without a buttery taste. The filling is firm and gelatinous and not as creamy. But it is a nice alternative for those with food allergies. Even our friends who can tolerate gluten and dairy do not mind eating this pumpkin pie with us.
  • For another no-bake pumpkin pie, try it St. Martha-style using lactose-free milk.

Fried Shrimp Balls

Shrimp Balls

December 20: National Fried Shrimp Day

Fried shrimp balls may have a naughty name but these appetizers are nice to eat during holiday gatherings (Christmas and New Year) and throughout the year. We like to order fried shrimp balls from the dim sum menu when we at Chinese restaurants that offer them. Some are plain and soft, but we like the crunchy thread-like coating for its artistic presentation.

Be naughty yet nice and fry some shrimp balls for the holidays and on National Fried Shrimp Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Rasa Malaysia)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound shrimp, raw, shelled and deveined
  • 1 egg white
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • white pepper powder, to taste
  • won ton pi (thin wrappers)
  • Oil for frying

Directions

In a blender (we used our nifty Nutribullet), place the egg white and beat until frothy. Place the shrimp, salt and sugar in the container.

Shrimp Balls

Add the corn starch, vegetable or canola oil, sesame oil and white pepper powder in the container.

Shrimp Balls

Blend until all the ingredients become paste-like. Using slightly wet hands, form the paste into one-inch balls. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to set. Slice the won ton pi into thin strips.

Shrimp Balls

Roll the shrimp balls in the strips to coat evenly. Heat the oil and deep fry the shrimp balls until puffed up and golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Transfer to a plate and serve hot with sauce. Yield: 2 dozen fried shrimp balls.

Shrimp Balls

Notes

  • Thanks to our friends Pat and Phyllis S. for helping us prepare the fried shrimp balls for our blog. Phyllis helped to roll them in the won ton pi while Pat fried them in his wok.
  • Serve the shrimp balls with soy sauce or sweet Thai chili sauce.
  • The balls may flatten slightly but will puff up into rounds when fried.
  • If not coating the balls in won ton strips, deep fry plain until golden. Poke toothpicks or skewer a few fried shrimp balls for an appetizing arrangement on a party platter.
  • Search our blog for more shrimp recipes.

Black Russian Cupcakes

Black Russian Cupcakes

December 15: National Cupcake Day

When our Ukrainian friend Olga W. got married in 2004, we gifted her groom with a cake. The flavor requested was a Black Russian chocolate cake because 1) they are chocoholics and 2) the flavor gives tribute to Olga’s culture.

The Black Russian cocktail is made with vodka and coffee liqueur (which gives the drink a dark color) and served over ice. The cake also contains both spirits for a doubly delightful dessert.

Instead of a groom’s cake, we made them into mini-sizes for our blog post for National Cupcake Day. Bake Black Russian cupcakes and enjoy! Na zdorovie!

Recipe

(Adapted from “Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor” by Anne Byrn)

For the cupcakes

  • 1 package yellow cake mix (we recommend Duncan Hines brand)
  • 1 package (5.9 ounces) chocolate instant pudding mix
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar, granulated white
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup coffee liqueur (Kahlúa)
  • ¼ cup vodka

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the yellow cake mix and chocolate instant pudding mix. Stir in the oil and water.

Black Russian Cupcakes

Add the sugar, eggs, coffee liqueur and vodka.

Black Russian Cupcakes

Blend well. Scoop the batter into cupcake papers lining muffin tins. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and transfer the cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: Approximately 2 ½ dozen cupcakes.

Black Russian Cupcakes

For the glaze and topping

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup coffee liqueur (Kahlúa)
  • white/vanilla frosting or whipped cream
  • chocolate-covered coffee beans

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar with the coffee liqueur. Mix until smooth. Generously brush the tops of the cooled cupcakes with the glaze. Pipe white/vanilla frosting or whipped cream in the middle of the cupcakes. Top with a chocolate-covered coffee bean. Serve at room temperature.

Black Russian Cupcakes

Notes

  • We used brown “tulip” cupcake papers for this blog recipe post. Check local craft stores and bakery supply shops for an assortment of choices of cupcake paper styles (regular, mini, jumbo, “tulip”, scalloped, ruffled, foil, colored, patterned, etc.).
  • Search our blog post for more cupcake recipes.

Rainbow Cupcakes

Rainbow Cupcakes

December 15: National Cupcake Day

Somewhere over the rainbow—and maybe somewhere closer—rainbow cupcakes are making people smile! Who could resist the colorful confetti in the cake batter, the bright blue sky frosting, the fluffy marshmallow clouds and the sweet-sour strips of chewy candy? We made these rainbow cupcakes for a “Wizard of Oz” themed party and they surely made everyone smile! Some people did not even want to eat them because these Technicolor treats looked so cute. For National Cupcake Day, decorate something over the top and over the rainbow and make rainbow cupcakes!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Cupcakes (we used a confetti cake mix)
  • Blue frosting (we tinted a tub of vanilla frosting with blue food coloring)
  • White tube frosting
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Rainbow candy strips (we used Airheads Xtreme Rainbow Berry brand)

Directions

Bake cupcakes as directed on the box package. Cool completely. Frost the tops with blue frosting.

Rainbow Cupcakes

Cut the rainbow candy strips in half. Use the white tube frosting to pipe some clouds to secure the strip and marshmallows. Arch the rainbow candy strip into the white frosting. Complete the cupcakes by hiding the edges of the strip with mini marshmallows.

Rainbow Cupcakes

Notes

  • February 25 is National Cupcake Day in Canada. It is celebrated as a fundraising event to benefit animal shelters and humane societies.
  • Search our blog for other cupcake recipes and decorating ideas.

Pan de Polvo

Pan de Polvo

December 4: National Cookie Day

At the various cookie exchange parties that Islander attends around this time of the year in South Texas, one cookie that is almost always present is pan de polvo, a type of Mexican shortbread with a dusting of cinnamon-sugar. These sweet treats have a crumbly texture that make them so irresistibly tasty that it is impossible to eat just one!

For those who plan to bake a batch of pan de polvo for a cookie exchange, this recipe is ideal because the cinnamon-anise tea can be used at least three times; tripling the dough recipe yields beyond a dozen of a baker’s dozen! These cookies are easy to make for a crowd, whether for cookie exchanges, Christmas, Advent, weddings, special holidays and especially for National Cookie Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Eva Longoria in InStyle.com)

For the cinnamon-anise tea

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
  • ¾ – 1 cup water

For the cookie dough

  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening, butter-flavored
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (we used Mexican vainilla)
  • ½ cup sugar

For the topping

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup ground cinnamon

Directions

In a small saucepan, boil the cinnamon sticks and anise seeds in water for about five minutes. Remove from the stovetop and cool to room temperature. Strain over a sieve and refrigerate until ready to use the cinnamon-anise tea in the dough.

Pan de Polvo

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a larger bowl, cream the shortening with the vanilla extract and sugar.  Pour in ¼ cup chilled cinnamon-anise tea and mix well.

Pan de Polvo

Gradually add the flour mixture and blend until the dough sticks together. Form into a ball and refrigerate for about 15-30 minutes for easier handling. Pinch out 1-inch balls and roll until smooth. Place on a greased cookie sheet about two inches apart. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for 20 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned on the edges.

Pan de Polvo

Meanwhile, make the topping. While the cookies are still warm and moist, immediately roll them in the cinnamon-sugar. Place the cookies in a shallow container and seal until ready to serve.

Pan de Polvo

Notes

  • There is enough cinnamon-anise tea to use in three batches of cookie dough. Each batch yields approximately 4-4 ½ dozen cookies (3×4.5=13.5 dozen or more than 160 pan de polvo). Double the amount for the cinnamon-sugar topping if making many cookies.
  • Related cookies are Mexican wedding cookies and crescent cookies.
  • Search our blog for other cookie recipes.

Chocolate Crème de Menthe

Wreath Cupcakes

Wreath Cupcakes

December: Advent

December may be the last month in the Western calendar year, but it is the first month in the Christian liturgical year. During this time, the faithful observe Advent traditions in preparation for the coming of Christ on His birthday, December 25. The word Advent is derived from Latin, meaning “the coming”.

The most popular symbol of Advent is a wreath. So we decorated chocolate crème de menthe cupcakes as wreaths. Prepare these desserts during Advent and prepare to welcome into your heart Baby Jesus on Christmas day!

Recipe

(Adapted from Busy Cooks via About.com)

For the chocolate crème de menthe cupcakes

  • 1 box chocolate cake mix (we used Duncan Hines brand devil’s food flavor)
  • 1 ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons crème de menthe liqueur
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon mint extract
  • 1 cup crème de menthe chips (we used Andes mint candies)

 Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, water, crème de menthe liqueur and melted butter.

Wreath Cupcakes

Beat in the eggs. Stir in the mint extract. Chop up the crème de menthe chips (if not using the baking chips) and fold into the batter.

Wreath Cupcakes

Scoop into a muffin tin lined with cupcake papers. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Yield: Approximately 2 ½ dozen cupcakes.

Wreath Cupcakes

For the chocolate crème de menthe ganache frosting

  • 8 ounces (2 bars) semi-sweet chocolate (we used Baker’s brand)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon crème de menthe liqueur
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon mint extract

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the melted chocolate with the hot cream. Stir until smooth. Add the crème de menthe liqueur and mint extract. Let stand for at least 30 minutes to thicken slightly. Frost the top of the cupcakes and let set.

Wreath Cupcakes

For the mint green buttercream frosting and wreath decorations

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons crème de menthe
  • green food coloring
  • red round candies (Cinnamon Red Hots, M&Ms, etc.)

Directions

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar until well blended. Thin with crème de menthe liqueur to a piping consistency. Tint the frosting with green food coloring.

Wreath Cupcakes

Fill a decorator’s bag outfitted with a star or leaf tip (we used Wilton tip 2D) with green frosting. Pipe around the edges of the cupcake to form a circle of “leaves”. Press red candies onto the green frosting to complete the wreath cupcakes.

Wreath Cupcakes

Notes

  • The original recipe calls for mint chocolate chips instead of the crème de menthe Andes mint candies (the latter tends to sink toward the bottom of the cupcake). But we wanted to use them to reinforce the crème de menthe flavor. The candies may be chopped but they can also be purchased ready-made as baking chips to save preparation time in the kitchen.
  • Optional: Use red frosting from a tube with a small round tip to pipe a bow on the wreath cupcakes
  • Replace the red candies with three purple candles and one pink candle for an Advent-looking wreath.
  • Learn more about Advent from the About Christianity website.
  • For an easier edible wreath, make one with corn flakes. See the recipe on our blog here.

Black Bun

Black Bun

December 31: Hogmanay

Highlander grew up eating fruit cake, mince meat tarts and shortbread during the holiday season. Following Scottish tradition, he also snacks on slices of black bun during Hogmanay (Scottish word for “last day of the year”). The dessert gets its name from the dark and dense rich filling of raisins and currants. Moreover, ground black pepper is one of the dark spices included in the ingredients.

A popular tradition on Hogmanay, which is celebrated all night on new year’s eve until the wee hours of new year’s day, is “first-footing.” If a tall, dark-haired male is the first visitor to enter one’s home after midnight, he is considered the bringer of good luck in the coming year. The first-footer also brings presents, such as a coin, bread, salt, coal, whisky and, of course, black bun. These lucky gifts represent fortune, bounty, warmth and good cheer.

Celebrate the new year with a sweet Scottish black bun. Happy Hogmanay to all of our HI Cookery blog readers!

Recipe

(Adapted from “Scottish Heritage Food and Cooking” by Carol Wilson and Christopher Trotter)

For the “bun” pastry

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, slightly softened and cut into cubes
  • cold water

Directions

Generously grease an 8-inch loaf pan. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add the cubes of butter. Mix with fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. Moisten with enough water until a dough is formed. Roll into a ball.

Black Bun

On a floured surface, roll out the dough thinly, making sure it is large enough to line the pan with a little overhang. Trim excess dough and roll out another piece large enough to cover the top of the pan. Set aside and make the filling.

Black Bun

For the “black” filling

  • 4 cups raisins
  • 3 cups currants
  • 1 ½ cups plain flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup almonds, chopped, sliced or slivered
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten (1 for the filling, 1 for the glaze)
  • 1-2 tablespoons brandy
  • 5 tablespoons milk

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the raisins with the currants. Mix in the flour and brown sugar.

Black Bun

Stir in the almonds. In a small bowl, combine the cream of tartar, allspice, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper. Mix the spices into the filling. Moisten with one beaten egg, brandy and milk.

Black Bun

Spoon the filling into the pastry, pressing down to pack it all in. Moisten the edges with a little water and cover with the remaining pastry. Trim with a knife as necessary. Press the edges to seal well.

Black Bun

Prick the top with the tines of a fork. Brush with egg glaze. Bake in a preheated oven at 225 degrees F for 3 hours. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Remove from the pan and wrap in foil. Store in an airtight container until Hogmanay.

Black Bun

When ready to serve, place onto a cutting board and slice to reveal the black filling.

Black Bun

Notes

  • Black Bun is traditionally made several weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container to allow the flavors to develop and mature. Then it is served on New Year’s Eve and Day.
  • See our shortbread recipes (traditional, chocolate and lemon) on January 6 (National Shortbread Day).

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