02 February


Pizza Bagels

pizzabagels

February 9: National Bagel Day and National Pizza Day

Highlander’s all-time favorite food is pizza! Our first-ever blog post was for a pizza recipe and we have made mini pizzas (pepperoni and sausage) as well. We have used different crusts for those recipes. But for National Pizza Day today we used thin bagels for the crust because it is also National Bagel Day! Pizza bagels are simple to make and doubly delicious for celebrating both food holidays.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Bagels (we used thin bagels)
  • 1 small jar pizza sauce (we used Ragu brand)
  • 1 bag shredded pizza cheese
  • 1 package of mini pepperoni slices (we used Hormel brand)

Directions

Cut the bagel in half. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spread pizza sauce on the bagel halves. Sprinkle the cheese shreds over them.

pizzabagelsteps1

Top with mini pepperoni slices. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before eating.

pizzabagelsteps2

Notes

  • The second week in January is National Pizza Week. September 5 is National Cheese Pizza Day. October is National Pizza Month. October 11 is National Sausage Pizza Day. And November 12 is National Pizza With Everything (Except Anchovies) Day.

No-Churn Cherry Ice Cream

Cherry Ice Cream

 February: National Cherry Month

There was a little ice cream shop behind the tall fence of our Illinois townhome. We would have to walk down the pathway and around the back of the businesses to get to the ice cream shop. Then we discovered a shortcut when the fence had a few broken planks. It seemed the fence was vandalized or worn from the extreme weather—or a combination of both. On our summer strolls, we would take the shortcut to the ice cream shop before the fence got fixed and were able to get to our destination quicker and enjoy our ice cream. We would order our favorite flavors (chocolate and butter pecan) often but cherry ice cream was a close second! On our way back home, we walked off the weight from our indulgences.

Now we do not have the convenience of walking to an ice cream shop nearby. So we make our own ice cream at home. When cherries are in season, we take advantage of the fresh fruit and prepare it in a no-churn recipe. This cool treat warms our hearts during the month of Valentines and is perfect during National Cherry Month.

Recipe

(Adapted from Bon Appetit) 

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ – 2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, granulated white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream (cold)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

Wash and dry the cherries. Pit and cut each cherry in half. Place them in a saucepan with the sugar and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until thick and syrupy (around 8-10 minutes). Remove from the heat and cool completely.

cherryicecreamsteps1

In a mixing bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the condensed milk with the almond extract.

cherryicecreamsteps2

Gently stir in the cooled cherry mixture. Do not over mix; just fold until there is a ripple color effect and the cherries are distributed evenly in the cream. Place the mixture into a loaf pan or freezer safe container. 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. Add a cherry on top (optional).

cherryicecreamsteps3

Notes

  • Eat cherry ice cream during the summer when July is also National Ice Cream Month.
  • Search our blog for other ice cream recipes.

 

Bairín Breac (Barm Brack)

barmbrack

February 1: Feast Day of St. Brigid

When we first moved into our new home in San Antonio, Texas, back in 2008, one of the first Catholic churches we attended was the nearby parish of St. Brigid. We were still adjusting to our new neighborhood, finding where the grocery stores, post office, clinics, churches, etc. were located. Although we attended St. Brigid’s temporarily before becoming members at another church, we always remembered the Irish saint’s unique cross design, which has been incorporated into the parish’s logo.

St. Brigid of Kildare, Ireland, (451-525 A.D.) is considered the female counterpart of St. Patrick (in fact, he witnessed her vows as a nun). St. Brigid founded monasteries, schools and convents around her country and is known for her many charitable works.

In observance of the Feast Day of St. Brigid, we made a traditional Irish barm brack, a rustic yeast bread/loaf speckled with raisins. As she is associated with dairy cows, it is customary to eat barm brack with lots of creamy Irish butter! Bain taitneamh as do bhéile (enjoy your meal).

Recipe

(Adapted from “Cooking with the Saints” by Ernst Schuegraf)

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cup old tea (we used Irish breakfast tea)
  • 2 cups raisins (1 cup each of regular AND golden)
  • 1 cup currants
  • ¼ cup mixed candied peel
  • ¼ cup candied cherries (we used the green colored ones in honor of the Emerald Isle)
  • 1 ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 egg

Directions

In a large bowl, pour the tea over the raisins and currants, cover and soak overnight to plump them up and add flavor. In the same bowl, stir in the candied peel.

barmbracksteps1

Add the cherries. Mix in the brown sugar, flour, baking powder, allspice and egg.

barmbracksteps2

Line a 1-pound loaf pan with parchment paper, letting some extra hang over the edge to act as handles later. Grease it well before patting the barm brack mixture down in the pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 1½ hours. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Slice and serve generously with Irish butter.

barmbracksteps3

Notes

  • Irish barm brack does not taste like an English Christmas fruit cake. It is less sweet. We like our slices of barm brack lightly toasted but smothered in lots of creamy Irish butter!
  • Below is a photo of a pin of St. Brigid’s cross, which was taken at the souvenir shop across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. We were visiting our friends during spring break one year and went with Gaurab B. to Midtown Manhattan for the day (while he attended meetings for work, we enjoyed touring the town!). Coincidentally, we stayed with him and his family at their New Jersey home and baked a special cake for his wife, Maria, who was blessed with celebrating her birthday on St. Patrick’s Day!

stbrigidcrosspin

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.

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