Potstickers (Pork Dumplings)

potstickers

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.

Recipe

(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

Directions

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Directions

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

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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.

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Notes

 

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.

engagementrings

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”.

Recipe

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Notes

  • 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. 

tiffanybridalshower

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

petitfoursgifts

Choco-flan

Chocoflan

September 15-October 15: Hispanic Heritage Month

At a cake club meeting that Islander had attended, one of the members brought in a curious cake called choco-flan. It was a doubly delicious dessert of chocolate and custard. It is also popular among her Mexican friends whose country is known for xocolatl y flan. Islander added Texas’ state nut, pecans, to decorate the top of the cake for a Tex-Mex taste. Thanks to her Mexican friends for introducing this recipe to us. In their honor, and as an homage to all our Hispanic friends, we made this cake in observance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Muchas gracias, amigas.

Recipe

Inspired by nuestras amigas en San Antonio, Tejas

For the cake

  • 1 bottle or can of dulce de leche or cajeta (caramel), divided use
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix (may use devil’s food, triple chocolate fudge or other favorite chocolate cake mix)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup oil
  • 3 eggs

For the flan

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican vainilla (vanilla)

Directions

Grease a 12-cup bundt pan. Then pour about a cup of caramel to coat the sides and bottom. Set aside. Prepare the cake mix as directed on the box by combining the cake mix with water, oil and eggs and blending into a smooth batter. Pour the cake batter over the caramel. Set aside.

Choco-flan

Make the flan by mixing the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs and vanilla.

Choco-flan

Pour the flan mix over the cake. It will sink to the bottom. Place the bundt pan in a larger pan. Pour boiling hot water in the larger pan up to the middle of the sides of the bundt pan to make a “water bath”. Mist a piece of foil with cooking spray and cover the bundt pan with the sprayed side down (this will prevent the risen cake from sticking to the top of the foil). Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, testing the cake for doneness. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator to allow the flan to chill and solidify.

Choco-flan

Take out from the refrigerator and carefully invert on a plate. Drizzle more caramel on top of the choco-flan and let it drip down the middle hole and sides. Toast whole pieces of pecans by heating the nuts in a small skillet, being careful not to burn. Cool the nuts then place them decoratively on top of the choco-flan. Refrigerate. Slice and serve.

Choco-flan

Notes

Apple Chicken Patties

Apple Chicken Patties

September: National Chicken Month

September-November: National Apple Months

Have a hearty breakfast (or snack) before going to school (or work) by cooking up some apple chicken patties. These tasty treats can be made the night before then heated up in the microwave for a quick bite before heading out for another busy day.

The combination of sweet apples and ground chicken are complemented with the herbs and spices for a doubly delicious dish for National Chicken and National Apple months.

Recipe

(Adapted from Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 1 large apple (sweet or tart)
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • cooking oil

Directions

Peel, core and finely dice the apple. Mix in a large bowl with the ground chicken. Mince the garlic and add to the ground chicken mixture.

Apple Chicken Patties

Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Add the dried herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary and marjoram) and mix well. Shape into 2-inch patties. Place on waxed or parchment paper on a flat tray. Cover and refrigerate for an hour to firm up the patty mixture.

Apple Chicken Patties

Heat a little oil in a non-stick skillet. Remove the patties from the refrigerator and fry on one side until brown. Add a little more oil, if necessary, flip and brown the other side, making sure the patties are cooked through. Transfer the patties on paper towels to absorb excess grease. Yield: Approximately one dozen.

Apple Chicken Patties

Notes

  • Lean ground meat makes the patties a little dry. Mixing ground chicken with a little ground pork may make them more moist.
  • Search our blog for more recipes containing apples and chicken in observance of National Apple and Chicken months.

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

September-November: National Apple Months

Apple pie is a popular apple dish to make during the National Apple Months from September to November. Instead of a sweet apple pie, try a savory one instead: apple cheddar bacon mini pies. They are like a small yet hearty quiche full of flavor from apples and applewood smoked bacon.

Islander brought this dish instead of a dessert to the culinary book club meeting at the local library this month, following the apple ingredient theme. Most members brought the typical, sweet apple dishes so they very much welcomed Islander’s contribution to balance out the buffet.

Try something different than the traditional apple pie and make a savory apple cheddar bacon mini pie during National Apple Months.

Recipe

(Adapted from Betty Crocker)

Ingredients

  • 1 package (1 pound) applewood-smoked or regular bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced (equivalent to one cup)
  • ½ cup sweet or white onion, chopped
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup Bisquick mix
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs

Directions

Cook the bacon (fry or bake), drain the grease, let cool and crumble into pieces. Peel and dice the apple.

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

Chop the onions. Place in a large bowl with the cheddar cheese. Chop the sage and add to the bowl. Sprinkle the salt and mix well.

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

In a separate bowl, stir the Bisquick mix with milk. Beat the eggs into the Bisquick mix until the batter is smooth. Mist a standard-size muffin pan with cooking spray.

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

Place a scant tablespoon of the batter into each of the 12-15 compartments. Divide the apple-cheddar-bacon mixture and scoop into each compartment (about ¼ cup or 4 tablespoons). Top with remaining batter. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for five minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

Notes

  • As a shortcut, use two packages (3 ounces each) of pre-cooked real bacon bits and pieces.
  • Search our blog for other recipes containing apples as an ingredient.

Chicken Chop Suey

Chicken Chop Suey

August 29: Chop Suey Day

When Islander was a baby, she and her Mommy and Daddy lived temporarily in a tiny apartment above a strip mall in Aiea, Oahu, Hawaii, while waiting to move into a military base family housing unit in Pearl Harbor. Their apartment was above Waimalu Chop Suey House.

Decades later this iconic Chinese restaurant still remains in its busy location. But its crispy gau gee (dumpling) is more famous than its namesake chop suey. Whenever we go back to visit Islander’s family on Oahu, Waimalu Chop Suey is one of the places where we like to eat—for both nostalgia and the food.

Chop suey, which translates to “mixed vegetables” or “assorted pieces”, has as many origin stories as recipe versions. But the common ingredients include mung bean sprouts and a soy sauce-based gravy. Meat and eggs can be added in this easy vegetable stir-fry dish, if available and if desired. Chop suey can be eaten with rice or noodles for a simple, savory and satisfying meal.

Check out our chicken chop suey recipe version below for Chop Suey Day!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ pound chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, fresh grated
  • ½ cup onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, grated or julienned
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups bean sprouts
  • 1 cup cabbage, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. In a medium bowl, make the marinade for the chicken by mixing together two tablespoons of soy sauce with the sugar, garlic and ginger. Toss the chicken in this marinade, cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, prepare the other vegetables (or use a chop suey vegetable mix—canned or bagged—see Notes).

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In a large wok or skillet, heat a little oil. Sauté the marinated chicken pieces until brown and the liquid has been reduced. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. In the same skillet, add a little more oil. Sauté the onions until soft. Add the carrot, celery, bean sprouts and cabbage.

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Make a well in the middle of the vegetables and pour the chicken stock. Return the chicken to the pan and mix well. In a small cup, mix the remaining two tablespoons of soy sauce with cornstarch to make a slurry. Stir into the wok/skillet until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dish out onto a platter.

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Notes

  • Serve chicken chop suey hot with rice or over noodles. Or sprinkle won ton strips over it as a garnish and serve as a side dish.
  • Chop suey vegetables are available in a can (La Choy brand)! Take a cooking shortcut with a less tinny taste and use fresh mixed vegetables in a bag (Taro Brand).
  • Watch a YouTube video of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, Flower Drum Song, entitled “Chop Suey”.

Banana Buttermilk Pancakes

bananapancakes

August 27: National Banana Lovers Day

Pancakes are among our favorite breakfast/brunch foods to have on Saturday mornings when we have more time to relax instead of rush out the door to beat the traffic to work. We have cooked traditional buttermilk pancakes and sometimes others made with blueberries and poi before. But we love the ones made with mashed bananas the best because the pancakes are so moist and naturally sweet (we omit the sugar in the recipe). Banana pancakes are perfect for breakfast, brunch and especially National Banana Lovers Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Food.com)

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas, ripe and mashed (about 1 cup)
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, granulated white (we omitted this)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups buttermilk (see Notes)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • oil for frying

Directions

Peel and mash the bananas. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar (if using) and baking soda. Add the walnuts (if using). Beat in the eggs.

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Pour in the buttermilk and melted butter. Add the mashed bananas. Mix well until moistened. Grease a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, pour some of the pancake batter. Wait until it slowly bubbles and browns on the bottom before flipping it over to finish cooking. Transfer to a plate, keep warm and finish cooking the rest of the pancakes. Serve in a stack with a pat of butter, syrup and slices of fresh banana, if desired.

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Notes

  • Buttermilk can be made at home! Instead of the packaged product, simply mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice to 1 cup milk and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. Mix well before using in the recipe.
  • Banana pancakes also may be enjoyed on September 26, which is National Pancake Day in the United States, and on Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday, a movable feast day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.
  • We prepare these pancakes ahead of time and refrigerate them when we expect to have overnight guests. Banana pancakes are still moist and flavorful to heat up for breakfast the next morning, which is a time-saver!
  • Love bananas like we do? Look for other banana recipes by searching our blog.