Spoonbread

February: Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)

The fifth U.S. president, James Monroe (April 28, 1758-July 4, 1831), was a Virginian who loved southern home cooking. But his American tastes were probably influenced by the French when he played an integral part in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 19th century.

One of Monroe’s favorite foods was spoonbread, which is like a cross between a simple southern cornbread and a fancy French soufflé. This bread has a somewhat creamy consistency so is eaten with a spoon, instead of handheld like a firmer roll or bun.

In honor of President James Monroe, try spoonbread as a side dish on Presidents’ Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 ½ cups milk, divided
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus extra for greasing the ramekins

Directions

Grease four half-cup ramekins with butter. Set aside on a baking tray. Crack the eggs and separate the whites from the yolks. Beat the egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, stir together the cornmeal with ½ cup of milk. In a saucepan, scald the other one cup of milk. Add the cornmeal mixture, salt and sugar. Keep stirring over medium heat until thickened (about 5-10 minutes).

Remove from heat and mix in the butter and egg yolks. Fold in the egg whites. Divide batter between the prepared ramekins.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes to an hour or until the spoonbread is puffy with a golden brown crust. Serve hot out of the oven with a spoon and an extra pat of butter on top (optional).

Notes

  •  We halved the original recipe to feed just the two of us.
  • Avoid overbaking or microwaving the leftovers as the spoonbread will harden when cooled. It is best to eat this hot right out of the oven.
  • When Islander was a child, she and her family lived in President James Monroe’s home state for four years when her Daddy was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, and served in the U.S. Navy.
  • Search our blog for other Presidents’ Day and patriotic recipes.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!