01 January


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.

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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.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon,

Garlic and Shallots

January 31: Eat Brussels Sprouts Day

Just a month into the new year, Islander continues her resolution to try new recipes and eat more greens. She dislikes Brussels sprouts when Highlander would steam them plain. They are just too bitter for her tastes and avoided eating the mini-looking cabbages—until she tried a soup recipe shared by her college roommate. Then she tasted other Brussels sprouts dishes at a restaurant and potluck parties and wanted to discover other ways to cook them (to the delight of Highlander who loves to eat Brussels sprouts). Of course, Islander believes anything tastes better with bacon so she sautéed it with the vegetable and flavored them with garlic and shallots. Discover how delicious and easy this side dish is to make—cook Brussels sprouts and eat them today!

Recipe

(Adapted from MyRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 – 1½ pounds fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 slices center cut bacon, chopped
  • ¼ – ½ cup chicken broth (we used fat free and lower sodium)
  • salt and pepper to taste

 Directions

Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts. Cut off the stem and slice in half. Set aside. Peel the garlic cloves and slice thinly. Peel the shallots and slice thinly.

Chop the bacon. Sauté the bacon over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Discard all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon drippings. Use this to sauté the shallots.

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Add the Brussels sprouts and sauté around 5 minutes, allowing some of the leaves to become tender and brown. Stir in the garlic and mix for another 5 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and heat on high for 2 minutes until evaporated. Remove the pan from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot in a bowl as a side dish.

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Notes

  • Raw Brussels sprouts are a healthy vegetable full of vitamins B, C and K. With essential minerals and dietary fiber, they also have anti-cancer properties.
  • We resolve to cook more Brussels sprouts and share the recipes in future blog posts.

Massaman Chicken Curry

January 12: National Curried Chicken Day

We tend to be creatures of habit, ordering the same old foods whenever we go out to our favorite restaurants. Highlander almost always orders massaman chicken curry at Thai eateries. He loves different kinds of chicken curry that we have several recipe versions posted on our blog for National Curried Chicken Day.

Massaman curry, in particular, is derived from an archaic word “mussulman” for Muslim, which influenced Thailand’s cooking style for this curry during the early centuries of trading between the Middle East and South Asia. Curry paste is first mixed with coconut milk or cream, making this dish slightly sweeter than other curries. A 2011 CNNGo reader’s survey even ranked massaman curry #10 in its list of the “World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods”.

Following the Thai way, cook massaman chicken curry for National Curried Chicken Day!

Recipe

(Adapted from Maesri)

Ingredients

  • 1 – ½ cups of chicken breast
  • 1 can (4 ounces) massaman curry paste
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) of coconut milk, divided use
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ½ cup baby carrots (optional)
  • cilantro, fresh chopped (optional garnish)

Directions

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. In a large pot, stir one can of coconut milk with the curry paste. Simmer over medium heat for about five minutes.

Add the chicken and the other can of coconut milk. Bring to a boil. Add the potatoes.

Stir in the onions and baby carrots. Cover and heat until the chicken is cooked through (around 30 minutes). Garnish with cilantro. Serve hot with steamed white rice.

Notes

  • Substitute the chicken for lamb, beef or other favorite meat/protein. Muslims do not cook pork in massaman curry.
  • Search our blog for other curried chicken recipes for National Curried Chicken Day.

Kona Coffee Shortbread

January 6: National Shortbread Day

Shortbread is of Scottish origin but the cookie is very popular in Hawaii as fundraising items, souvenirs and local snacks. Some Scots settled in the islands in the 18th century and have left their culinary and cultural impact. In fact, Hawaii’s last princess, Ka’iulani, was half Scottish on her father’s side (her Anglo name is Princess Victoria Cleghorn).

Several companies in Hawaii produce shortbread in a variety of traditional and tropical flavors and shapes. Kauai Kookie (the factory is a mandatory stop when we visit the island) and Maui CookKwees make round, stacked discs. Honolulu Cookie Company has its signature miniature pineapple shapes. There are other companies that do drop/scoop/mound shapes as well. We tried to copy Big Island Candies and the Cookie Corner with their simple rectangular-shaped flavored cookies dipped diagonally in chocolate.

This Kona coffee shortbread recipe fits in with our Highlander and Islander (HI) Cookery blog (a Scot married a local girl) and is appropriate for observing National Shortbread Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Panera Bread)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar, granulated white
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant Kona coffee (or regular coffee), ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 ounces chocolate, melted

Directions

Cream the butter with the sugars. Finely grind the coffee granules to a powder then add to the butter mixture. Mix in the salt.

Gradually add the flour. Mix until a sticky but smooth dough comes together. Refrigerate for half and hour. Roll out to ¼ inch thickness between sheets of waxed paper. Refrigerate again to firm up the dough. Slice into rectangles (around 2 ½ by 1 1 ½ inches).

Place onto a lightly greased cookie sheet about two inches apart to allow for a little spreading. Refrigerate or freeze the baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Melt the chocolate in a bowl according to the package directions. Use a spatula to spread chocolate diagonally across the cookie, dipping the bottom and sides as necessary. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Continue dipping the rest of the cookies in chocolate. Refrigerate to firm up the chocolate. Serve at room temperature. When storing the cookies, place between sheets of small waxed paper to prevent the chocolate from sticking to other cookies.

Notes

  • We halved the recipe to share with another couple friend (also expatriates from Hawaii) when they visited us in Texas. The cookie dough is soft and needs to be kept cold when handling and rolling out. To minimize spreading, we freeze the cut cookies before placing them in the oven. Feel free to add finely chopped macadamia nuts in the recipe.
  • Learn more about Princess Ka’iulani from the Kaiulani Project website. 
  • Read highlights about the Scots in Hawaii from Coffee Times
  • Islander has attended the Hawaiian Scottish Festival and Highland Games to support Highlander’s clan. 
  • See a similar recipe for coffee and nut cookies on National Coffee Day on September 29. 
  • Search our blog for more shortbread recipes.

 

Brussels Sprouts Soup

January 31: Eat Brussels Sprouts Day

Highlander grew up eating Brussels sprouts and likes them. His mom cooked the baby-looking cabbage as a side dish for some of their Sunday suppers of roast beef, gravy, potatoes and Yorkshire pudding (traditional English meal). But like a lot of people, Islander did not like the taste of Brussels sprouts and passed on them during their family get-togethers. Highlander encouraged her to try making healthy Brussels sprouts in different recipes but she still did not like them…until her college roommate, Champa S., shared one for Brussels sprouts soup (Champa never liked the vegetable before either). Islander was skeptical about the recipe but she gave it a try. She actually liked it! Not only was it easy to make, it did not taste as bitter as the other recipes. Now Brussels sprouts soup is one of the ways she will eat those little leafy greens. Can we convince the skeptics, too, to try this simple soup on “Eat Brussels Sprouts Day”? It is also an appropriate dish to eat as an end to National Soup Month in January.

Recipe

(Adapted from Food.com)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Brussels sprouts (or 1 ½ pounds)
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup cream
  • fried onions (optional garnish)

Directions

Rinse the Brussels sprouts to remove any debri. Chop the onions. In a large pot, melt the butter or heat the olive oil. Saute the onions until soft.

Mix in the Brussels sprouts. Pour in the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the sprouts are tender. Puree in batches in a blender.

Transfer the puree back to the pot. Stir in the cream and heat through. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with fried onions. Serve hot.

Notes

  • Find fried onions in the salad section of the grocery store.
  • Search our blog for other soup recipes.

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