Lunar New Year Candy Bars

January 25 (2020): Asian Lunar New Year

Happy new year (again)! In an attempt to make edible spring couplets, Islander asked her adult ESL students to write Korean and Chinese greetings and well wishes on auspiciously red-colored confectioners candy bars. The activity was a nice break from the usual reading/conversation/pronunciation lessons for the day and gave her students a chance to share some sweet candy, traditions and information about their cultural observances of the lunar new year with others at school. Simply make this fun and festive food to ring in the Year of the Rat!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Red candy melts (Wilton brand)
  • White tube icing

Directions

Melt the candy melts according to the package instructions. Stir until smooth. Pour into rectangular candy molds. Cool to set. Unmold carefully onto paper towels.

Using a small round tip on the white tube icing, write short new year greetings in Chinese or Korean characters. Let dry but do not stack.

Notes

Millionaire Shortbread

January 6:National Shortbread Day

Around the holidays and Hogmanay, we usually make some type of shortbread as an ode to Highlander’s Scottish heritage. As we wish for a prosperous new year ahead, we make millionaire’s shortbread. Well, this treat breaks any diet resolutions because it is an ultra rich cookie topped with decadent chocolate with a chewy caramel filling and a sweet shortbread crust (similar to a homemade Twix candy bar)!  But this dessert is so delicious that it is worth indulging on millionaire shortbread, especially on National Shortbread Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, cold and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate (1 bar Baker’s brand chocolate)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour with sugar and salt. Cut in the butter pieces and mix until it resembles coarse peas.

millionaireshortbreadsteps1

Press flour mixture into an 8×8 inch square pan lined with foil. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. In a saucepan, over medium heat, stir the condensed milk with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.

millionaireshortbreadsteps2

Keep stirring until it turns into a light caramel color, around 15 minutes. Pour the caramel over the shortbread cookie layer and spread evenly with a spatula. Cool completely.

millionaireshortbreadsteps3

In a bowl, melt the chocolate according to the package directions. Pour this over the cooled caramel layer.  Let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

millionaireshortbreadsteps4

Chill it in the refrigerator until the chocolate layer is slightly hardened. Using the foil as handles, lift everything out of the pan. Cut off the edges to straighten. Then cut into 16 squares.

millionaireshortbreadsteps5

Notes

  • Make this millionaire shortbread on January 25 for a Scottish Burns Supper dessert. 
  • For a quicker recipe, substitute the sweetened condensed milk and 1 tablespoon of butter for canned dulce de leche
  • Search our blog for more shortbread recipes.

Mochi Matcha Bundt Cake

January 1: New Year’s Day/National Hot Tea Month

Most Asians have a tradition to eat mochi (glutinous rice flour) desserts on New Year’s Day. The sticky chewy texture of the food symbolizes that luck will stick around all year long while the “rice” spelling resembles the word “rich” for prosperity ahead. We have eaten mochi-based Filipino bibingka and Chinese gau many times before. But here now is our double take on this Japanese-inspired mochi matcha bundt cake recipe. The chocolate cake contains mochi for keeping the new year food tradition while the matcha green tea is for commemorating the month-long food holiday. The two-tone color of this mochi matcha bundt cake is a visual representation of celebrating both New Year’s Day and National Hot Tea Month.

Recipe

(Adapted from PopSugar)

Ingredients

  • 1 box (1 pound) mochiko (sweet rice flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

Grease a bundt pant and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the mochiko, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter with the sugar. Stir in the evaporated milk.

Add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.

Divide the batter in half into two bowls. To the first bowl, mix in the cocoa powder. To the second bowl, mix in the matcha green tea powder. Stir in the mini chocolate chips into the cocoa powder mixture.

Pour the chocolate batter into the bundt pan first and smooth it out with a spatula. Next, pour the matcha batter on top of the chocolate batter. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Invert the pan onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice to reveal the two-tone colored cake. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the slices before serving (optional)

Notes

  • This mochi matcha bundt cake bakes up a dull green but photographs okay in the light. Feel free to add a few drops of green food coloring in the matcha batter and mix well to make the hue brighter when baked.
  • Search our blog for other traditional New Year’s and hot tea recipes.

Saltine Toffee

(Christmas Crack)

December 25:Christmas

During the holiday season, Islander participates in many cookie and treat exchanges through her cake and culinary clubs. At different meetings every year, someone has brought “Saltine Toffee”, which are salty crackers topped with toffee, chocolate and nuts. It is also nicknamed “Christmas Crack” because it truly is an addictively sweet-salty-crackly treat. They are popular to give as foodie gifts for family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, to take to holiday potluck parties and to snack on them throughout the Christmas festivities. Bring joy to everyone’s world and make Saltine Toffee!

Recipe

(Adapted from Southern Living Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers (as many pieces to fit in a jelly roll pan)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 package (12 ounces) chocolate chips
  • ½ – 1 cup nuts (we used pecans)

Directions

Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Generously mist with cooking spray. Arrange the crackers to fill the pan. In a saucepan, melt the butter slowly over medium low heat. Slowly stir in the brown sugar.

Keep stirring the brown sugar until bubbling and thickened (about 3 minutes). Pour evenly over the crackers. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread the chocolate chips on top while the crackers-toffee are still hot.

Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top (return to the oven for a minute or two if needed to melt more). Sprinkle with nuts. Let cool to room temperature then place in the refrigerator to set until firm. Slice or break into pieces. Store chilled in airtight container.

Notes

  • Avoid stacking the Saltine Toffee to avoid sticking and melting together. Place the pieces between sheets of waxed or parchment paper. Or layer them loosely on a serving platter.
  • Merry Christmas to our blog readers!

Christmas Morning Punch

December 25: Christmas

Boozy beverages like egg nog or Christmas cocktails are popular at parties for grown-ups. But on Christmas morning, kid-friendly fruit juice is a festive alternative for the whole family. Serve this punch while everyone gathers ‘round for breakfast or brunch, before going to Christ’s mass or church service or during the opening of presents under the tree together. Make this morning merrier with a sweet and simple Christmas Morning Punch recipe. Merry Christmas!

Recipe

(From Steve A.)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup ginger ale soda
  • orange slices, frozen whole cranberries and fresh mint leaves (optional garnishes)

Directions

In a large pitcher, pour the orange, cranberry and pineapple juices. Stir in the ginger ale soda. Refrigerate. Serve chilled in glasses. Garnish with fruit and mint leaves (optional).

Notes

  • Lemon-lime soda may be used as a substitute for ginger ale.
  • Search our blog for other Christmas/winter beverages.

Coquito

(Puerto Rican Egg Nog)

December 24:National Egg Nog Day

Egg-less egg nog? We were skeptical at first, but after tasting Puerto Rican Brother Jose M.’s recipe for coquito, we were hooked! Coquito features two kinds of rum from his island—clear (white) and gold or spiced—and sweetened with a tropical flavor, cream of coconut—hence, the name is translated as “little coco”. Brother Jose makes and bottles coquito and gives them away to his campus ministry staff. From him we received his recipe as a great gift to share with our blog readers during this holy holiday season and on National Egg Nog Day. Gracias, Jose, and Feliz Navidad to everyone on Christmas Eve!

Recipe

(From Jose M.)

  • 1 can (15 ounces) cream of coconut
  • 2 cans (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • ½ can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cups white rum
  • ½ cup gold or spiced rum
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Nutmeg to taste

In a large container, place the cream of coconut, evaporated milk, sweetened condense milk and white rum.

Pour in the gold or spiced rum. Season with cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (start with ½ teaspoon each). Pour into a blender and stir until well mixed but not too foamy. Place in a glass pitcher and chill for at least an hour to thicken. Before serving and pouring into glasses, mix to break up any thick liquid.

Notes

  • Some coquito recipes do add eggs to this Puerto Rican egg nog, which make this drink thicker. But the fats in the cream of coconut, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk help to thicken the coquito over time as it chills in the refrigerator.
  • Try the recipes for egg nog white Russian, egg nog ice cream and Mexican egg nog gelatin for more National Egg Nog Day deliciousness!

Fried Shrimp Dumplings

December 20: National Fried Shrimp Day

Yum yum, dim sum! Fried shrimp dumplings with sweet mayonnaise dipping sauce are Islander’s favorite, among her other top choices of siu mai (pork hash), har gao and char siu so.

Dim sum is literally translated as “touch the heart”. It is not often that we eat at a dim sum restaurant, unless it is for a special occasion or when Phyllis S., our American Chinese friend visits us from San Antonio, Texas (she is a Hawaii ex-pat like Islander). Then we eat dim sum to our heart’s content!

Islander and Phyllis try to make dim sum, too. They make a lot of won ton, egg rolls, manapua (char siu bao), shrimp balls, fried shrimp dumplings, etc., and take home half of the work they do together so they can enjoy the food later with their families. This has become their friendly motto:

Even though we’re far apart…our dim sum will always “touch the heart”!

Make, cook and eat dim sum with a beloved friend, particularly fried shrimp dumplings on National Fried Shrimp Day.

Recipe

For the fried shrimp dumplings

  • 1 pound shrimp, uncooked
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • round won ton wrappers
  • water for sealing the wrappers
  • oil for frying

Directions

Wash, dry, remove shells and devein the shrimp. Mince finely and place in a mixing bowl. Stir in the egg whites and olive oil.

Stir in the sesame oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything well, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to develop and ingredients to stick together.

Place the a tablespoon of filling in the center of a round won ton wrapper. Moisten finger from the water bowl and trace around the edges. Fold and pleat the edges.

Deep fry the shrimp in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with sweet mayonnaise dipping sauce or other favorite sauce (soy, chili or hot sauce).

For the mayonnaise dipping sauce

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions

In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, milk and honey. Transfer to a dipping saucer and serve with hot fried shrimp dumpling.

Notes

  • Cover the won ton wrappers with a moist cloth or paper towel when not using to prevent them from drying out.
  • We hope Phyllis S. visits more often so we can eat dim sum every day while we are together!
  • Make dim sum for the lunar new year or for Asian-inspired tea parties.
  • Find other fried shrimp recipes on our blog for National Fried Shrimp Day.