Election 2016 Cookies


November 8: Election Day 2016

After several months of crazy campaigning, Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency. But Hillary Clinton’s cookie recipe won by a landslide—for the third time since Family Circle magazine began its election bake-off in 1992.

A few months before Election Day, the magazine prints the favorite cookie recipes shared by spouses of the candidates (back then, Hillary’s husband, Bill Clinton, ran for president). Then the readers vote on which cookie they prefer best. The winning recipe supposedly is a predictor of who becomes the next president.

Since its inaugural year, Family Circle’s track record was accurate. But in 2008, Cindy McCain’s cookie recipe won over Michelle Obama’s (but Barack Obama won the presidency). In 2012, Michelle’s new cookie recipe won over that of Ann Romney, and Barack went on to serve his second term. This year, Bill Clinton re-used his wife’s cookie recipe, which won over Melania Trump’s. But Donald was voted as president.

We baked both the Clinton family cookie recipe and Melania’s cookie recipe for Islander’s brother’s student ministry again this year (our third time during a presidential election). It was a fun food activity for everyone, regardless of age, nationality, race, party affiliation, etc. Despite differences of opinions, this cookie election has brought everyone together. God bless America!


(Adapted from Family Circle)


For the Clinton Family’s Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not the quick-cooking oats)
  • 1 package (12 ounces) chocolate chips


In a small bowl, combine the flour with the baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the vegetable shortening with the brown and white sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs.


Add the vanilla extract. Gradually add the flour mixture and the rolled oats, alternating ingredients during the mix-in. Stir in the chocolate chips.


Scoop a tablespoon onto greased baking sheets 2-3 inches apart to allow for spreading. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: Approximately 4-5 dozen cookies.



For Melania Trump’s Star-Shaped Sugar Cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (we used European-style butter because of Melania Trump’s Slovenian heritage)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream


In a small bowl, combine the flour with the baking soda. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the whole egg and egg yolk.


Mix in the sour cream. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until cookie dough is formed. Roll into a large ball. Then divide dough into two balls.


Flatten into a disk between two sheets of lightly-floured waxed paper. Roll out to 1/8-inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line baking sheets with waxed paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Peel away the waxed paper. Use a 2 ½ – inch star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes, re-rolling the dough scraps as necessary. Place star cookies about 1-2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Refrigerate the whole sheet for another 10 minutes or until the dough firms up again so when the cookies bake, the shape is retained.


Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: Approximately 3 dozen cookies.




Chimichangas San Carlos

Chimichangas San Carlos

November 4: Feast Day of St. Charles Borromeo

Happy birthday to Brother Brian H. who was born on the Feast Day of St. Charles Borromeo (also his patron saint). Brian was one of the less finicky ones to cook for at a Catholic community house whenever the priests, brothers and lay people celebrated their birthdays or saint days (Brian used to live in community with Islander’s brother and others in their congregation).

With rotating “celebrations of life”, we would need to remember who wanted to eat what at the house, which can get confusing! For instance, Father Bill B. does not like coconut but loves anything chocolate; Nicholas M. does not like chocolate but insists on a strawberry-and-cream cake or confetti cake; Father Tim likes rocky road; “sistah” Lisa V. also does not like chocolate but prefers lemon and guava flavors; Justin Q. likes all sweets but does not like fish (which he admits is problematic during Lent); and Brother Dennis likes tres leches but not pasta. But Brian goes along with whatever food we gift him with (he usually combines his cake with Nicholas because their birthdays are within days of each other).

But here is a recipe we tried in honor of Brian and his patron saint—Chimichangas San Carlos. This Tex-Mex dish is deliciously appropriate, since Brian ministers in the area. It is a tortilla filled with a meat mixture, then folded and fried. Similar to a burrito, Chimichangas San Carlos remind us of wrapping a gift for him but it is edible. Try this festive food for birthdays and on the Feast Day of St. Charles Borromeo.


(Adapted from Cooking with the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf)


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef, lean
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1-2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 6-8 large flour tortillas
  • vegetable oil (for frying)


Chop the onions and tomatoes. Set aside. In a large skillet, heat a little vegetable oil and sauté the onions, tomatoes and minced garlic. Add the ground beef and cook until brown.


Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt. Mix well. Drain any liquid. Set the filling aside to cool.


When ready to assemble, slice the avocado and set aside. Place some of the meat mixture in the middle of the tortilla. Sprinkle with a handful of cheese. Top with a few slices of avocado.


Fold like a square envelope, beginning with the sides. Secure the tortilla flap with a toothpick.


Place side down on a baking sheet. Continue to fold the rest of the chimichangas. Heat a deep fryer with oil. Carefully lower the chimichangas into the oil and fry until brown. Remove with a slotted spatula and drain on paper towels. Take out the toothpick. Serve hot with shredded lettuce and condiments (hot sauce, sour cream or salsa).



  • Warm the tortillas according to the package directions so they are more pliable and won’t tear as easily.
  • Search our blog for other Mexican or Tex-Mex recipes.



October 31: Halloween

Channel Dr. Frankenstein in his lab and create some not-so-creepy Frankenpops in your kitchen. These green-hued, rice cereal marshmallow monster treats are a festive food for Fright Night. So make some Frankenpops and have a Happy Halloween!



  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 package (10 ounces) or 5 cups regular marshmallows (or 4 cups miniature marshmallows)
  • 6 cups rice cereal
  • green food coloring
  • dark chocolate or black candy melts
  • small pretzel sticks, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • white tube frosting/icing
  • candy eye balls
  • red candy melts


In a large pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Tint with green food coloring. Mix in the cereal until combined well.


Spread the mixture into a greased 13×9-inch pan. Press down evenly using parchment or waxed paper. Allow to cool for easier handling, then cut into 12 rectangles. Push lollipop sticks or straws into one end of the rectangle treats.


Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Dip the other end of the treats in melted dark chocolate/black candy melts. Set on the waxed paper to cool. Insert pretzel pieces into the bottom sides of the treats.


Use the white frosting/icing from the tube and squeeze out two dots to secure the candy eye balls in place. Melt some red candy melts and put in a piping bag with a small round tip. Pipe the stitches on the “forehead” of the Frankenpops. Put some melted dark chocolate/black candy melts in a piping bag with a small round tip. Pipe zigzags for the mouth. Let all the candy melts set.



  • See our theme menu list for more Halloween food ideas.

Amarula Cake

Amarula Cake

October 16: National Liqueur Day

In one of the many bridal magazines that Islander reads, she once saw an ad for Amarula, a cream liqueur made from the marula fruit. It was touting Amarula as a unique alternative to champagne at wedding receptions.

Marula comes from a special, sacred tree grown in southern Africa and Madagascar, which is also referred to as the “marriage tree”. The tree is dioecious (meaning that there are both a male and female marula tree). When in season, the fruit grows abundantly from the female tree, symbolizing fertility in a marriage. Some use the fruit as part of a cleansing ritual before the wedding. And a few tribes (and tourists) exchange their marriage vows beneath the shade of the trees.

Having worked in a bridal shop, and currently serving as a marriage sponsor at church, Islander was sold on the Amarula ad in the wedding magazine. She immediately bought a bottle and we thought it would taste like Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur. The caramel color is similar but Amarula is stronger/boozier! And the marula fruit notes are definitely different.

We actually used the marula fruit cream liqueur in our anniversary cake this past summer. It seemed appropriate to follow the “marriage tree” theme when celebrating our marriage milestone. Now we can bake an Amarula cake for our engaged couples when we host them in our home during marriage preparation sessions. Amarula cake is also perfect for preparing on National Liqueur Day.


(Adapted from SA Promo Magazine)

For the Amarula cake

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup Amarula
  • ¼ cup milk


In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder.

Amarula Cake

Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the Amarula and milk, until the batter is smooth. Divide evenly in two, greased round 6-inch baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees F in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or until done. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool completely before stacking and frosting them.

Amarula Cake

For the Amarula buttercream frosting

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup Amarula 
  • 2+ tablespoons heavy whipping cream (or milk)


In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar. After two cups of sugar, pour in the Amarula. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and mix well. Thin to a frosting consistency with cream or milk. Smear a little frosting on a cake pedestal or board to act as an adhesive to the bottom layer of the cake.

Amarula Cake

Place one of the cakes on the bottom. Spread a generous amount of frosting on top. Stack the other cake on top of the frosting. Spread more frosting on the top and sides of the cake until completely covered. Chill in the refrigerator to let the frosting set. Let the cake come back to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Amarula Cake


  • This recipe is originally for a dozen cupcakes. We made this into a double layer 6-inch round cake.
  • This is a denser and drier instead of fluffier and moist cake. The caramel-colored frosting reinforces the fruity flavor of the marula with a sophisticated and sweet “spirit”. This Amarula cake recipe is suitable for those who prefer a pound cake.
  • Learn more about the legends of marula from Marula.org

Sautéed Kale

Sauteed Kale

October 3: National Kale Day

We usually put spinach in our smoothies but have gradually added or substituted kale for the leafy green ingredient. Both are considered super foods but kale is considered the winner with more vitamins (A, C and K) , minerals (calcium) and protein than spinach. Kale tastes somewhat bitter, though, and its leaves may be harder to chew and digest. Fortunately, we have found a kale salad recipe that is cooked with garlic and red wine vinegar to mask its strong flavor. The steamed leaves are wilted so they are easier to chew. If we do not drink our kale smoothie for the day, we would eat sautéed kale as a side salad for dinner. This healthy recipe is perfect for observing National Kale Day.


(Adapted from New York Times Cooking)


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 bunch of kale leaves (stemmed and chopped)
  • 1/3 – ½ cup vegetable stock or water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • cooked bacon bits (optional)


In a large skillet or pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic pieces until soft. Add the kale leaves.


Pour in the vegetable stock or water. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the kale is soft and wilted. Stir occasionally until the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in the red wine vinegar. Dish out and sprinkle cooked bacon bits on top (optional).



  • Thanks to Highlander’s co-worker, Luchie A., for the fresh, organic kale from her garden.
  • Learn more about National Kale Day at http://nationalkaleday.org.

Potstickers (Pork Dumplings)


September 26: National Dumpling Day

We just celebrated a belated 20th anniversary (married in the summer of 1996) by taking a trip to China. The gift associated with this milestone year is china, as in fine bone or porcelain, but we went on a guided tour to the country instead to mark our two decades of marriage.

After stopping in Taiwan for a few days to visit Islander’s college roommate, Monica C., in preparation for the Harvest Moon Festival, we headed to Beijing, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Wuzhen and Shanghai. Of course, we have witnessed many Chinese chefs making delicious dumplings and we have also eaten our fair share of them during our travel!

We have made many meat-filled dishes before but one of our favorite dumplings is potstickers. These appetizers are soft yet a bit crunchy at the same time and are very tasty with a dipping sauce. Sure, they are much easier to order at the Chinese restaurant or buy them frozen at the grocery store. But making these potstickers brings back memories of our most recent anniversary trip and it was a good excuse to cook them in observance of National Dumpling Day.


(Adapted from Thyme Bombe)

For the potstickers

  • ½ pound ground pork (or chicken or turkey)
  • 1-2 stalks green onion, chopped (green part only)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice cooking wine (Shaoxing or mirin) or sherry
  • round potsticker or won top wrappers
  • vegetable or peanut oil for frying
  • ¼ cup water


In a bowl, mix the ground meat with the chopped green onions. Add the garlic and ginger.


Sprinkle in the sesame seeds. Mix in the soy sauce and rice cooking wine to complete the filling.


Moisten the edges of the wrapper with a little water. Scoop a tablespoon of filling onto the center. Fold over into a half circle and seal.


Moisten the top outer edge of the wrapper with a little water. Starting on one side, fold a little pleat near the end. Move a little up the wrapper curve and fold a few more pleats. Press down to make sure the pleats are kept folded. Place each potsticker in a single layer on a waxed paper-lined tray and refrigerate until ready to cook.


In a skillet, cover the bottom with a very thin layer of vegetable oil. When it is hot, turn down to medium heat and carefully slip the potstickers in the skillet. Avoid overcrowding and overlapping so they do not stick together. Fry until the bottom is slightly browned (about 2-3 minutes). Do not turn over. Pour the water carefully (it will sizzle and splatter a bit). Cover the skillet immediately. Steam until the water has almost evaporated (about 4-5 minutes). Remove the cover and continue heating the potstickers until the filling is cooked through. Transfer the potstickers onto a paper towel to drain. Serve hot with soy sauce or dipping sauce.


For the dipping sauce

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes


In a measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar. Stir in the minced garlic.


Add the sesame oil. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the sesame oil has been incorporated. Pour into a sauce dish or ramekin. Serve with hot potstickers.




Tiffany Box Petit Fours

Tiffany Petit Fours

September 18: Tiffany & Co. founded in 1837

The perfect proposal is considered to be when a young man drops down on bended knee before his lady love and surprises her with a diamond engagement ring, like the popular Tiffany setting. Tiffany & Co. developed the six-prong setting in 1886 to maximize the sparkle of the diamond solitaire by raising it up on its simple, silver band. Many jewelers have copied this setting but only Tiffany & Co. trademarked their design.

While the proposal seems like a dreamy scenario, most often promoted in movies and magazines—and by jewelers!—not everyone follows this tradition, including us. We were both studying for our graduate degrees when we got engaged. Highlander was barely earning any money as an engineering lab assistant to afford a token “worth two months of his salary” (an amount determined by a diamond company for sales and advertising) and Islander just did not care to wear an engagement ring at all. We personally wanted to spend the money on finishing our education and paying for our own wedding (we did get each other beautiful matching Hawaiian heirloom gold bands).

Over two decades later, as marriage sponsors at church, we have listened to many couples share their engagement stories with us. They range from sweet and simple to over-the-top proposals! We have seen our brides wear different styles of engagement rings, too, including the occasional Tiffany setting.


Inspired by Tiffany’s iconic blue package with white bows, we made engagement box petit fours to mark the company’s founding date. These petit fours are perfect for serving at engagement parties and bridal showers.

Congratulations to everyone who recently got engaged. Ring or no ring, we pray that their marriage lasts a lifetime—just like “a diamond is forever”.


(Adapted from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-B6Xewa4ItQ)


  • 1 frozen pound cake loaf (such as Sara Lee brand)
  • seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 large container vanilla or cream cheese-flavored frosting
  • turquoise food coloring gel paste (such as AmeriColor or Wilton brand)
  • cornstarch or powdered sugar (to dust work surface)
  • white fondant


Thaw the pound cake in the refrigerator overnight but keep it chilled for easier slicing. Slice down the pound cake about ¼ – 1/3 inches thick. Discard the ends. Using a 1 ½-inch square cookie cutter, cut out two squares per pound cake slice.


Stir the seedless raspberry jam in the jar until smooth. Spread a tiny bit of jam on one pound cake square for the bottom of the petit four. Top with another square for the middle. Spread a tiny bit of jam on the middle square and top it off with a last square for a total of three stacked squares. Chill to set in the refrigerator for at least half an hour. Line a jelly roll pan with waxed paper to catch the frosting underneath. Place a wire rack over the prepared pan. Put a few stacked pound cake squares on the wire rack.


Tint the frosting with a little food coloring gel paste to get the desired color of “Tiffany Blue”. Stir well. Place half the amount of frosting into a microwavable measuring cup. Heat on high for 15-20 seconds. It should be slightly runny and thick but not too thin. If the frosting is too hot and runny, let it cool for a few minutes to a pourable consistency. Stir until smooth. Pour the frosting over the top of the squares, moving around the edges to allow drippings on all sides. Use an angled spatula on the bottom of the square to transfer the petit four to another pan or plate lined with waxed paper. Scrape up the frosting drippings on the waxed paper and put back in the microwavable measuring cup. Reheat and reuse for the remaining petit fours. Chill all frosted squares in the refrigerator until set.


Dust a clean work surface with cornstarch or powdered sugar before rolling out fondant (this prevents it from sticking). Knead fondant and roll out thinly (about 1/16 inch). Use a pizza cutter or fondant ribbon slicer to cut strips 1/8 inch wide. Brush a fondant strip with a little water and apply to the petit four. Repeat with the other strip for a cross over. Trim the edges with a knife. Refrigerate while making the bows.


Dust the silicone bow mold with cornstarch or powdered sugar. Knead a little fondant and press into the cavities of the mold. Remove the bows and let them air dry for at least half an hour. Brush a little water on the back of the bow and adhere to the center of the petit four. Chill until ready to serve.



  • We used a bow mold from First Impressions Mold company. Each bow measures 1 x 1/2 x 1/8 inches.
  • Try our Tiffany macaron recipe for another sweet treat.
  • Islander attended a Tiffany-themed bridal shower brunch this past summer. It was fun dressing up in a little black dress and a pearl necklace, just like actress Audrey Hepburn did in the 1961 movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.  For this event, she helped her friend Margarita F. at M5 Cake finish putting the criss-cross strips on the Tiffany box mini cakes. 


  • Change the colors of the poured frosting and fondant for other party presents petit fours.