02 February


No-Churn Mint

Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

February 19: National Chocolate Mint Day

We admire our friends Pat and Phyllis S. who have “green” thumbs. Their garden is filled with flowers, fruits and vegetables and they can survive off the land. Our new townhome does not have much “green” space (just mostly a small paved walkway) and we don’t have to maintain any plants. But we are required to pay outrageous Home Owners Association (HOA) fees to take care of the common areas for curbside appeal!

Thankfully, our friends share some of the natural bounty from their backyard. In exchange, we share recipes for homemade no-churn ice cream (since we are wary of listeria from the local creamery). Ironically, when they brought us fresh mint from their garden to make mint chocolate chip ice cream, the recipe did not contain the herb as an ingredient (we used a store-bought mint extract instead). But the mint leaves made for a pretty garnish.

Eventually, in addition to making no-churn mint chocolate chip ice cream, we made mint extract with the extra leaves from the bunch that Pat and Phyllis gave us. The bonus recipe is below.

Try making a homemade no-churn mint chocolate ice cream with homemade mint extract for National Chocolate Mint Day!

Recipe

(Inspired by Nigella)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream (cold)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon mint extract (see Bonus Recipe below or use store-bought)
  • a few drops of green food coloring
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (recommend mini size)
  • fresh mint leaves to garnish (optional)

Directions

Beat the cream until stiff peaks form. In a large bowl, mix the condensed milk with the mint extract. Fold the whipped cream into this mixture until smooth, being careful not to whip more air into it. Add a few drops of green food coloring and stir well until the desired color of light mint green is achieved.

MInt Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Fold in the chocolate chips and mix until distributed well. Place the mixture into a loaf pan. Cover and freeze for at least six hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer. Let stand for a few minutes and scoop into cones or dessert dishes. Garnish with fresh mint leaves (optional).

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Bonus Recipe: Homemade Mint Extract

Ingredients

  • ½ cup individual mint leaves
  • 1 – 1 ½ cup vodka

Directions

Rinse and pat dry the mint leaves. Crush them with your fingers to help release its natural oils. Place in a jar and pour vodka to cover the leaves. Seal the jar and let steep in a dark, cool place for at least a month or until it reaches the desired minty flavor. Use the liquid as you normally would in recipes (like in the above no-churn mint chocolate ice cream) that call for mint extract.

Mint Chocolate Ice Cream

Notes

  • Mahalo nui loa (thank you very much in Hawaiian) to Pat and Phyllis S. for giving us a bunch of fresh mint leaves from their garden.
  • Try substituting the chocolate chips with Andes brand crème de menthe chocolate mint baking chips for an even more minty flavor in this no-churn ice cream recipe.
  • Try substituting the ½ teaspoon mint extract for 1-2 tablespoons crème de menthe liqueur.
  • Search our blog for other recipes containing chocolate and mint combination.

Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy with

Shiitake Mushrooms and Tofu

Bok Choy, Shiitake and Tofu

February 17: National Cabbage Day

During Lent, we prefer a good stir-fry over a fish fry. Stir-fried baby bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and tofu is one of our favorite meatless Friday dishes to eat with a simple bowl of steamed rice. This healthy and hearty dish features a popular variety of Chinese cabbage (bok choy)—a green vegetable option that is considered auspicious especially in the lunar new year—as well as “meaty” mushrooms and protein-packed tofu in a tasty sauce. Savor this simple stir-fried dish during Lent Fridays, lunar new year celebrations and National Cabbage Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Vegetarian Times)

For the mixture

  • 1 pound baby bok choy
  • 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 package (14 ounces) extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into small cubes (may substitute for fried bean curd puff squares, room temperature)

For the stir-fry sauce (slurry)

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon water (or liquid from the soaked shiitake mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided use

Directions

Wash and dry the baby bok choy. Chop off an inch from the bottom stem (reserve “rosettes” for optional garnish). Slice leaves into 2-inch pieces. In a shallow bowl, soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes or until softened. Squeeze out excess water. Slice into strips. In a wok or large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil in medium-high heat and gently stir-fry the tofu until lightly browned (do not fry the bean curd puffs if using). Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Bok Choy, Shiitake and Tofu

In the same skillet, add another tablespoon of oil and stir-fry the mushrooms for 2 minutes or until softened. Transfer to the tofu plate. Add the last tablespoon of oil to the skillet and stir-fry the baby bok choy for a minute. Return the tofu and mushrooms to the skillet and mix with the baby bok choy.

Bok Choy, Shiitake and Tofu

In a small bowl or measuring cup, make a slurry with the cornstarch, water (or mushroom liquid), soy sauce, grated ginger, minced garlic and sesame oil. Pour it into the skillet and mix well until slightly thickened, coating the tofu, mushrooms and baby bok choy well. Transfer to a serving platter immediately and garnish with the baby bok choy “rosettes”. Serve hot.

Bok Choy, Shiitake and Tofu

Notes

  • We prefer rehydrated shiitake mushrooms over the fresh ones as the dried shiitake have a stronger flavor.

Stained Glass Heart Cookies

stained glass heart cookies

February 14: Feast Day of St. Valentine

Islander recently joined a culinary club at the local library where she could meet like-minded people who LOVE to cook and exchange recipes that they have tried from cookbooks, the Internet or family and friends.

In honor of the month of LOVE, members were asked to share foods that fit this month’s heart-shaped” theme. This gave Islander the opportunity to use her heart-shaped nested cookie cutters to make “stained glass” heart cookies. The middle is melted hard candy, which when cool becomes transparent and cracks like glass when bitten into the cookie. With the extra heart cutouts, she simply decorated them with fondant flowers so there is no waste in the cookie dough.

This is a pretty project for the Feast Day of St. Valentine. So show some LOVE to culinary club members, co-workers, family, friends and your sweetheart by baking stained glass heart cookies. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Recipe

For the stained-glass heart cookies

  • 3 cups flour (all purpose white)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons strawberry or cherry extract
  • red hard candy (Jolly Rogers or Life Savers brands), crushed (we used red lollipops)
  • red and pink fondant
  • gold and silver non-pareil beads
  • tube frosting (to attach the beads)
  • powdered sugar (to dust the surface)
  • clear piping gel or water

For the fondant heart cookies

  • Fondant flowers (see tutorial here or here)
  • Fondant
  • Round non-pareils (we used white and gold)

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg, milk, vanilla and strawberry or cherry extracts. Gradually the flour mixture into the other ingredients and blend well to form a dough.

stained glass heart cookies

Divide dough in thirds and roll into a ball. Then flatten each ball into a disc and place between sheets of waxed or parchment paper. Roll out to about ¼-inch thick (we used ¼-inch thick acrylic sticks as guides). Stack them on a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm (about 30-45 minutes). They may also be frozen for 15-20 minutes. Take one stack of flattened dough out of the refrigerator or freezer. Peel away both front and back to loosen, leaving the dough on one sheet of the waxed or parchment paper.

stained glass heart cookies

Cut out the larger heart shapes. Place on foil-lined greased cookie pan about 1 ½ – 2 inches apart. Cut out the smaller heart shape in the middle and remove the dough. Refrigerate the cookie pan. Re-roll scraps of dough and cut more shapes, refrigerating if the dough gets too soft. The dough needs to be cold and firm in order to retain its shape. Crush the red hard candies by placing them a zipper top plastic bag and pressing a rolling pin over them (or hammer the heck out of them). Sprinkle onto the cutout center of the cookies, being careful not to overfill or they will overflow (see our Food Flops).

stained glass heart cookies

Bake the cookies in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until the sides are very lightly browned and the hard candy centers are melted. Remove from the oven when done and let sit on the pan until the candy centers harden (at least 15 minutes). Transfer each cookie on a wire rack to cool completely. Bake the center heart cutout cookies. Cool then decorate with fondant hearts using the same size cookie cutter.

stained glass heart cookies

Brush water or piping gel on the cookie. Position the fondant on top of the small heart cookie and smooth out the edges with warm fingers. Repeat for all cookies. Set aside to dry. Make fondant flowers. Attach to the top middle of the heart cookies with tube frosting. Position a gold or white non-pareil bead in the center of the fondant flower by “gluing” it with tube frosting. Let all cookies dry. Store in an airtight container. Arrange on a platter and serve.

stained glass heart cookies

Notes

  • Cut different cookie shapes and use different colored hard candies for unique occasions.
  • See previous posts on how to cover cookies with fondant and how to make fondant flowers here or here.

Kiwi Pavlova

Kiwi Pavlova

February 6: Waitangi Day (New Zealand)

We met our wedding godparents, Drs. Mark and Natalie R., in a Midwest college town where he was a chemistry professor and we were graduate students at the same university. God brought all of us together somehow from different parts of the globe—Highlander from Canada, Islander from Hawaii, Godfather Mark from New Zealand/Aotearoa and Godmother Natalie from France—when we attended services at a small, new church (Highlander and Islander were the music ministers). Mark and Natalie frequently invited us to their home to enjoy home-cooked Sunday meals with their teen daughters when the cafeterias on campus were closed. We enjoyed the company as well as the delicious dinners—and, of course, the desserts, often something sweet and simple, like pavlova, a popular treat from Mark’s country.

Pavlova is a light and airy meringue smothered in whipped cream and topped with fresh fruit. We decorated ours with slices of native New Zealand kiwi only since passion fruit was not available at the time. Pavlova is a wonderful treat on Waitangi Day or any time one wants a delightful dessert.

Recipe

From Drs. Mark and Natalie R.

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons water, cold
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1-2 cups sweetened whipped cream, cold
  • 3-5 fresh kiwis, sliced

Directions

In a grease-free cold bowl, beat the egg whites until fluffy. Add the water and beat again. Gradually add the sugar while beating. Add the vinegar, vanilla and cornstarch.

Kiwi Pavlova

Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spread the meringue into a circle shape (8-10 inches in diameter) on the parchment paper. Bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven, crack the door slightly open and leave the meringue inside until cool. Remove from the oven.

Kiwi Pavlova

When ready to serve, spread sweetened whipped cream over the top of the meringue. Add slices of fresh kiwis to cover the meringue. Slice and serve immediately.

Kiwi Pavlova

Notes

  • The kiwi pavlova in the food photo above is resting on Islander’s traditional Maori skirt. She learned how to twirl poi balls while taking hula and Tahitian dance classes when she was younger.
  • Room temperature instead of cold egg whites beat fluffier and fuller.
  • The meringue can stay crisp on the outside and chewy in the inside if covered in an airtight container until ready to serve. Spread the cream and fruit just before ready to serve to avoid a soggy meringue.
  • Feel free to add other fresh fruits, such as passion fruit (lilikoi in Hawaiian), berries, citrus, mango slices, etc.

Elmo Candy

Elmo Candy

February 3: Elmo’s Birthday

Happy birthday to Islander’s favorite furry friend—Elmo! She adores the Sesame Street character so much that she was inspired to try a candy decoration project to mark her muse’s special day. It is a simple sugar arts technique that involves tracing and flooding over a pattern. The finished candy piece may be eaten as is or used as a cake decoration.

Elmo was a simple pattern with a few candy melt colors that Islander had on hand for her first candy project. Other clipart or coloring page patterns and chocolate or candy melt colors may be used—the possibilities are endless for a fun and personalized project. But for today, enjoy an edible Elmo on his birthday.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Black (or dark chocolate) candy melts
  • Red candy melts
  • Orange candy melts
  • White (or white chocolate) candy melts

Directions

Print out a clipart or coloring page of Elmo. Put the image on a cake board, cardboard or cutting board. Tape waxed paper over it. Melt the black or dark chocolate candy melts. Let cool slightly. Fill a piping bag outfitted with Wilton tip #3. Trace the outline of Elmo, flooding the mouth area. Refrigerate for a few minutes until the candy is set.

Elmo Candy

Melt the red candy melts. Let cool slightly. Fill a piping bag outfitted with Wilton tip #3. Flood the body area. Do the same for the nose using the orange candy melts.

Elmo Candy

Melt the white chocolate candy melts. Let cool slightly. Fill a piping bag outfitted with Wilton tip #3. Flood the eye area. Refrigerate for a few minutes until the candy is set.

Elmo Candy

Use the remaining melted white chocolate candy melts to trace all over Elmo’s body and flood the area completely. This makes the overall candy sturdier. Go ¼-inch past the edges with an outer outline (optional). Refrigerate for a few minutes until the candy is set. Remove the tape from the wax paper. Turn the hardened candy Elmo over on the flat surface. Carefully peel away the waxed paper. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve or decorate a cake.

Avocado-Mushroom-Onion Omelet

Avocado Omelet

February: National Avocado Month

Islander was so shy in kindergarten when students were asked to name a fruit during a food lesson. All the other classmates stated the obvious—apples, bananas, oranges—and local Hawaiian favorites—coconuts, pineapples, papayas, mangos, lychees, lilikoi, etc. She regrets not having spoken up and saying “avocado” especially since her family had an avocado tree in the back yard of her childhood home in Pearl Harbor that was located across the street from the school!

Now, 40+ years later, Islander is using this blog as a medium to say that avocado is botanically a fruit. But because it is green and used in many savory recipes, many might confuse it as a vegetable.

In observing National Avocado Month, we put avocado slices in an omelet filled with mushrooms and caramelized onions for a hearty and healthy brunch. Celebrate February with a fruit and add an avocado to an omelet!

Recipe

(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

Ingredients

  • Olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • ¼ cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup mushrooms (we used oyster), sliced
  • 4 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, sliced
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced into wedges

Directions

Slice the mushrooms, chives, onion and avocado. In a skillet, sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until caramelized (around 10 minutes). Add the water to deglaze. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Avocado Omelet

In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon of oil and add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe down the skillet and heat with 1 teaspoon of oil. Pour in half the beaten egg-water mixture and swirl around to cover the bottom of the skillet. Sprinkle in the chives. Cook for about a minute or two. On one side of the omelet, sprinkle half the onions and mushrooms.

Avocado Omelet

Fan out the avocado slices on top. When the eggs are slightly set, fold the other side of the omelet over the filling. Slide the omelet onto a plate and keep warm. Repeat the process for the second omelet. Yield: 2 servings.

Avocado Omelet

Notes

  • Sprinkle a little lemon juice on the avocado slices to prevent browning after cutting.
  • Search our blog for additional avocado recipes.

Sesame Choy Sum

Sesame Choy Sum

February 17: National Cabbage Day

We always made plans to celebrate the Asian lunar new year with our friend Phyllis S., a Chinese-American and fellow expatriate local from Hawaii, and her family when we lived in South Texas. Since we have moved, we still try to observe the cultural holiday, as Islander has Chinese relatives as well. Phyllis introduced us to Sesame Choy Sum, a simple yet symbolic side dish with a salty-sweet sauce that is poured over quickly cooked “Chinese flowering cabbage”. Traditionally, the vegetable represents health and its green color symbolizes money/wealth. So cook up some Sesame Choy Sum on National Cabbage Day or during the Asian lunar new year for health and wealth!

Recipe

From Phyllis S.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh choy sum
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (we used Aloha Shoyu brand)
  • ½ tablespoon sesame seeds

 Directions

Wash the choy sum and trim the bottom. In a large pot, boil some water. Add the choy sum and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the stovetop and drain well. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Run cool water over the choy sum and squeeze out excess water. Place the choy sum on a platter.

Sesame Choy Sum

In a measuring cup, combine the oyster sauce, sesame oil and soy sauce. Mix well and let stand for 10 minutes. Drizzle over the choy sum. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. May be served hot or cold.

Sesame Choy Sum

Notes

  • Phyllis likes to cut the choy sum in half and boil the stems for a minute or two before adding the leaves to the pot, as the stems are thicker and take longer to cook.
  • Search our blog for other recipes containing cabbage as an ingredient.
  • Kung Hei Fat Happy (Lunar) New Year!

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