02 February


Bush Family Mushroom Quiche

February: Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)

Behind every good man is an equally good woman! Barbara Pierce Bush (June 8, 1925-April 17, 2018) was the wife of the 41st U.S. president, George H.W. Bush (June 12, 1924-November 30, 2018), and mother of the 43rd U.S. president, George W. Bush. A woman of her time, she devoted her life to care for her family and household as best as she can. That included cooking and making sure they were well fed and nourished. Mushroom quiche was a Bush family favorite so we have made it for our blog post in observance of Presidents’ Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from the Houston Chronicle)

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ pounds mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons oregano
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons basil
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • ¾ teaspoon marjoram
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3 stalks green onions, chopped (green part only)
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup whole milk or half and half
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

Directions

Wash, dry and slice the mushrooms. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the oregano, basil, salt, marjoram, black pepper, thyme and dry mustard.

Chop the green onions and mince the shallots. In a large skillet, melt the butter on medium low heat.

Sauté the mushrooms until they are soft. Stir in the minced garlic, green onions and shallots.

Add the spice mixture and stir until liquid has evaporated. Remove from the stove top and let cool. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk.

Mix in the mushrooms. Pour into the pie crust. Place the pie on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 35-45 minutes or until the filling has puffed up and is starting to set and turn brown. Remove from the oven. Slice and serve.

Notes

  • The sautéed mushroom mixture must be cool enough before adding to the eggs or the heat will cook the eggs prematurely.
  • Complete the Presidents’ Day theme meal with dessert. See the recipe for Barbara Bush cookies here.
  • The final food photo above was styled with a red carnation, white pearls (the late First Lady’s signature accessory) and blue checkered cloth.
  • Search our blog for other presidential and patriotic recipes.

Chicken Fricassee

February: Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)

The third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743-July 4, 1826), is credited as being America’s first epicurean. Through his travels and work in international relations, he developed a penchant for fine and foreign foods. From Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean and South America, he imported vegetables like okra, lima beans, eggplants, garlic, peanuts, peppers, tomatoes and olive oil. From Europe, France in particular, he made popular French cuisine and asked his chefs to prepare it often.

Chicken fricassee is an adaptation of a classic French stew, which includes making a roux. This dish was one of the favorites of the “Founding Foodie” (some sources also note that chicken fricassee was loved by the 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln). So make this comfort food, which is perfect for Presidents’ Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from CD Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds chicken pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • oil for frying
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup white cooking wine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup half and half cream

Directions

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper, nutmeg and paprika. In a large pot, heat the oil and fry the chicken until browned. Transfer to a plate.

In the same pot, add the flour and cook in the chicken fat-oil until light brown, adding the water a little at a time to make a smooth sauce. Stir in the wine. Put the chicken back in the pot, cover, and simmer on low heat for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, chop the onions, slice the mushrooms, chop the sage and parsley. When the chicken is cooked, transfer to a plate. Strain the gravy in a bowl and set aside. In the same pot, melt the butter over low heat.

Sauté the onions with the mushrooms. Stir in the chopped sage and parsley.

Return the chicken and gravy to the pot. Stir in the cream to thicken. Serve hot over pasta or rice.

Notes

  • Chicken fricassee is popular in the South. Jefferson was a Southerner from Virginia. Islander has met some Cajuns from Louisiana at the local culinary book club in Texas and they introduced her to this recipe.
  • Search our blog for other presidential and patriotic recipes.

Siu Mai

(Pork and Shrimp Dumplings)

February: Asian Lunar New Year

While out running errands in Hawaii, Islander would sometimes stop in at the nearest 7-Eleven convenience store/gas station to grab a quick snack and fuel up for the road. She would forgo the hot dogs and choose either a manapua/char siu bao or Hawaiian pork hash/siu mai to go with a strawberry Slurpee. One would not normally think that these popular dumplings, which are traditionally rolled out in carts at Chinese/Vietnamese dim sum restaurants, could be found at a grab-and-go shop. But hey, dis is Hawaii nei—and da locals love ’em.

There are not too many 7-Eleven stores in the Texas town where we live. And they understandably sell taquitos instead of Asian dumplings. So Islander makes and freezes her own siu mai. They are ready to steam anytime as snacks/appetizers for when she craves them, when we have company or when we want to celebrate the lunar new year. It’s worth a try to make some siu mai!

Recipe

(Adapted from AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound shrimp, shelled/deveined/minced
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ cup water chestnuts, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons green onion, chopped (green parts only)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • round dumpling wrappers, defrosted and separated
  • frozen peas and carrots (optional garnish)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the ground pork and minced shrimp with the egg whites.

Add the water chestnuts, green onion and garlic. Add the cornstarch and mix well. Add the soy and oyster sauces.

Sprinkle in the sugar, salt and ground pepper. Stir in the sesame oil and mix until the filling is well combined. In the middle of a dumpling wrapper, generously scoop a rounded tablespoonful of filling. Make a circle with thumb and forefinger and cradle the siu mai between the fingers to form its round shape and flatten the bottom.

Let it sit back on a flat surface and pleat the sides. Place in a mini muffin tin to hold its shape. Continue making the rest of the siu mai. Top the middle of the dumplings with pea or carrot.  Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes to let the filling set and keep its shape.

Line the bottom of a bamboo steamer basket with waxed or parchment paper. Brush a little oil on it. Arrange some siu mai in the basket, leaving some space between them so they do not touch each other (they expand slightly while cooking so the spacing helps to prevent from sticking). Cover and place in a wok that has been filled with a water bath (do not let the water touch the bottom of the steamer basket). Steam for 30 minutes. Remove the covers and carefully remove from the waxed or parchment paper. Serve hot with soy sauce.

Notes

  • Chinese dumplings, such as siu mai, are auspicious foods for the lunar new year. The pastry wrapper represents a container or bag. The pork filling represents abundance (as pigs are big) and luck ahead (as pigs hoof forward and not backward). Hence, may your purse always be filled with a lot of wealth for the coming year.
  • Look for more lunar new year food recipes on our blog by searching under Theme Menus.
  • Kung hee fat choy!

Kung Pao Lotus Root

February:Asian/Chinese Lunar New Year

When we were visiting China, our tour group was served different lotus root dishes. Even though Islander grew up around Asians and a large Chinese community in Hawaii, she had never tried lotus root until we travelled to China. When we returned to the states, she went to find lotus root at the Asian grocery store so she could try cooking it at home and expand our Chinese recipe list on our blog.

Lotus root is considered a vegetable with a long, tubular stalk-stem (like large potato-like sausage links) growing below the water into the ground and shooting at the surface into a beautiful flower. It has a neutral taste that takes on the flavors of other ingredients. We also like its unique “crisp” bite and smooth texture. Chinese and Eastern medics believe lotus root is a cooling food that helps the body restore balance.

As Highlander loves kung pao chicken, we made a meatless version with lotus root and it was delicious for our Chinese new year dinner (one year, it fell on Ash Wednesday so we abstained from kung pao meat). Kung pao lotus root is a differently delicious dish to start off the lunar new year! Kung hee fat choy!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1-2 pounds lotus root
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 3 stalks green onions, chopped (green part only)
  • 6 pieces dried chili pepper
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts, skinless
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • oil for frying

Directions

Separate, wash and peel the lotus root like a potato. Slice half the lotus root into 1/3 inch thick rounds and dice the rest. Set aside to make the sauce.

In a small cup or bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.

Crush the garlic, peel and slice the ginger and chop the green onions. In a small cup, make a slurry with the cornstarch and water.

Heat a little oil in a skillet or wok. Fry the lotus root slices and cubes until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and dry on paper towels. In the same pan, sauté the garlic, ginger, green onions and peppers. Remove from the pan onto a small plate.

Toast the peanuts by sautéing them in the same pan for a minute or two. Return the lotus root and spiced vegetable mixture into the pan. Pour the soy sauce mixture and slurry and mix well until sauce is thickened. Dish out on platter, garnish with extra green onion slices (optional) and serve hot with rice.

Notes

  • Learn more about the nutritional value of lotus root here.
  • Search our blog for other Chinese and Asian recipes to make for the lunar new year.

Rose Tea Cupcakes

February 14: Valentine’s Day

“Everything’s coming up roses” on Valentine’s Day! Make something sweet for someone sweet by baking some rose-flavored cupcakes. The ingredients include rose tea and rosewater and the cupcakes are topped with rose-shaped candies.

Roses have long been a symbol of love. Among roses lining the aisle, we were married at the Mystical Rose Oratory at Islander’s alma mater in Hawaii. The name of this chapel with a glorious view of iconic Diamond Head is named after the Blessed Mother Mary. Devotionals to her, the Mystical Rose, are done with a rosary.

Although there are different colors and varieties of roses, red is associated with romantic love. So on this day when love is celebrated, we chose vibrant red candy roses to decorate our lovely cupcakes.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May all our blog readers be blessed with lots of love!

Recipe

For the rose tea cupcakes

  • 2-3 teabags of rose-flavored tea (we used a jasmine-rose tea blend)
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 teaspoons rosewater
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt

Directions

Steep the tea bags in the boiling water and allow to cool at room temperature. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg. Stir in the rose water.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and pinch of salt. Gradually add this flour mixture to the above wet ingredients. Pour in the rose tea. Fold in the yogurt and mix until the batter is smooth. Scoop into 12 cupcake papers in a regular size muffin tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool completely before frosting the cupcakes.

For the rosewater buttercream

  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon rosewater
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • green food coloring

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and rosewater.

Add a pinch of salt. Thin to a desired frosting consistency with the heavy whipping cream. Frost the tops of the cupcake or pipe swirls (Wilton star tip 1M). Reserve a little frosting for the leaves. Tint with green food coloring. Set aside.

For the candy rose decorations

  • Red candy melts (Wilton brand)
  • Vegetable shortening (to thin, optional)

Directions

Melt the candy melts according to the package. Thin with a tiny bit of vegetable shortening, if necessary. Stir well and fill the rose mold. Refrigerate until firm. Unmold the candy roses.

Place in the center of the cupcakes. Use the remaining green frosting to pipe leaves (Wilton leaf tip #352) on the sides of each candy rose. Chill in the refrigerator to set. Bring to room temperature before serving the rose cupcakes.

Notes

  • Instead of rose-flavored tea in a cupcake, try rosé wine in a cake.
  • Rose water is a milder flavoring than rose extract. Be careful not to add too much to the recipe or it will be too fragrant and bitter.
  • Pretty in pink: Feel free to add a few drops of red food coloring to the cupcake batter and frosting to make a rose pink hue. Substitute red candy melts for pink ones as the rose topper. Use pink cupcake paper liners.
  • Try the apple roses recipe for another pretty presentation of puff pastry.
  • Search our blog for other Valentine’s Day recipes.

Big Easy King’s Cake

February: Mardi Gras Season

In our neighborhood grocery stores, king’s cakes—rosca de reyes and NOLA*-style knock-offs—have been on sale since Epiphany. Too bad they taste stale, look messy and are overpriced so we do not buy them for our celebrations.

We still like to serve something festive to our friends during Mardi Gras season. So we take the quick and “Big Easy” route by making a mock king’s cake using only a few ingredients: canned cinnamon roll dough (with the enclosed icing) and tri-colored sugars (gold represents “power”, green represents “faith” and purple represents “justice”). Everyone has fun wondering who will find the plastic baby in his or her slice of cinnamon roll cake!

Laissez les bons temps rouler! “Let the good times roll” and indulge in a simple, sugary “Big Easy” king’s cake on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) before observing the solemnity and fasts on Ash Wednesday and Lent Fridays.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2-3 cans of cinnamon roll dough (we used Pillsbury brand flaky layers with buttercream icing)
  • sugar sprinkles (yellow/gold, green and purple)

Directions

Line a baking pan with foil and mist with cooking spray. Open the cans of cinnamon roll dough and separate the pieces. Flatten slightly. Arrange the pieces in a ring. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, according to the package instructions. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Transfer the cake to a round platter. Insert a plastic baby among the slices. Stir the icing that came in the cans. Spread it evenly over the cake.

Generously sprinkle with the colored sugars, alternating among yellow/gold, green and purple. Decorate with plastic beads (optional). Serve immediately.

Notes

  • *NOLA = New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Some people bake the plastic baby in the cake but we think it might melt and be hazardous. So we place the plastic baby in the cooled cake before frosting and decorating it and let our guests know the tradition before slicing it. The plastic baby represents Baby Jesus hiding from King Herod. Whoever finds it in their slice of cake becomes the king or queen of the day, is blessed with good luck in the coming year and must host the next Mardi Gras party or provide the king’s cake next time.
  • Rosca de reyes is the Latino version of a king’s cake. It is a round, sweet bread decorated with colorful candied fruits. Galette de rois is the French version of a king’s cake. It is also round but varies within the country’s regions and can be filled with almond cream (frangipane) or apples. Try our easy recipe for the latter here.
  • For more recipes to observe the Epiphany-Mardi Gras season, see our list under Theme Menus.

 

Chocolate Soufflé

chocolatesouffle

February 28: National Chocolate Soufflé Day

While going out on “date nights”, we are always impressed when we see the waitstaff present a chocolate soufflé to couples sitting at other tables at a romantic restaurant. Then we want to order one, too, because 1) it is chocolate (duh!) and 2) it looks so light, fluffy and fancy! But we can enjoy that delicious dessert at home without paying the “fancy” price. Serve soufflés with fresh berries or à la mode (with vanilla ice cream) and that makes them extra special for someone special! Extend your Valentine’s Day celebration and make a chocolate soufflé on National Chocolate Soufflé Day and the end of National Chocolate Month.

Recipe

(Adapted from Good Housekeeping)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or 4 ounces baking squares), melted
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 eggs, separated, plus 1 egg white (total: 3 eggs, minus 1 yolk)
  • powdered sugar

Directions

Spray small ceramic ramekins with nonstick baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy brand) OR generously butter the bottom and sides of the ramekins and sprinkle a little sugar in them. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips according to the package instructions. Remove from the microwave and stir the chocolate with the condensed milk until smooth. Beat in two egg yolks (saving the remaining one for another recipe).

chocolatesoufflesteps1

In a separate bowl, whisk 3 egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form. Gradually add the egg whites in thirds into the chocolate mixture and fold until just incorporated. Place ramekins on a baking sheet.

chocolatesoufflesteps2

Sift about 1 scant teaspoon of powdered sugar over each of the tops. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 11-13 minutes or until the tops rise about half-to-an-inch above the rims of the ramekins. When done, remove from the oven and serve immediately while the tops are still risen.

chocolatesoufflesteps3

Notes

  • Avoid over baking or the soufflés will have a cake-like instead of light and airy texture with moist centers. Also do not open the oven until the end of the baking time or the soufflés will fall (scroll down to see our deflated ego soufflés on our Food Flops page).
  • Check out our cheese soufflé recipe for a savory snack. 
  • Our date nights and “month-aversaries” are not always held at fancy restaurants. Sometimes we just go out to get a pepperoni pizza or try a new ethnic restaurant. The main point is to focus on us and on our marriage, especially when life gets too busy or complacent. As marriage sponsors, we always advise our church couples to have date nights—whether fancy or frugal!
  • Search our blog for other chocolate recipes.

 

 

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