08 August


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.

Rosé Wine and Chocolate Cake

(a.k.a. Brangelina-Inspired

Naked Wedding Cake)

brangelinacake

August 23: Islander’s Birthday, Brangelina’s Wedding (2014), Feast Day of St. Rose of Lima

Happy anniversary to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who were married on Islander’s birthday! To celebrate, we were inspired to bake a naked-style natal cake like the one that their son, Pax, who was only 10 years old at the time, lovingly made for their wedding. It appears that the alternating cake layers were white or light and chocolate with some pink rosettes and green leaf frosting decorations attached around the sides.

Our top tier mini version is simple yet sweetly symbolic. The chocolate layer is a basic recipe that a child can make (with adult supervision), like Pax might have done for his parents. The vanilla layer is easily made with a boxed cake mix enhanced with rosé wine—specifically the award-winning wine from the Jolie-Pitts’ own home and Provence estate, Chateau Miraval, in France, where their intimate, private wedding ceremony took place amongst their children/family and a few close friends. We topped our naked cake with a statement pink silk rose, which is in homage to the saint of the day, St. Rose of Lima, as well as an indication of the rose pink flavoring in the cake. And the “Mr. & Mrs.” cake topper is in reference to the movie, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, where Brangelina’s infamous love story began.

Celebrate a birthday or wedding like a movie star with this special rosé wine and chocolate naked cake. And have a happy feast day in honor or St. Rose of Lima!

Recipe

(Adapted from Betty Crocker)

For the rosé wine cake

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • ½ cup rosé wine
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon strawberry or raspberry extract [optional]
  • ½ teaspoon orange extract [optional]
  • ½ teaspoon rose water (or ¼ teaspoon rose extract) [optional]
  • 5 drops red liquid food coloring [optional]

Directions

In a large bowl, pour the wine over the cake mix. Stir in the water and vegetable oil. Add the egg whites and pinch of salt.

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Mix in the extracts/flavoring and food coloring, if using. Blend well. Divide batter into two 8-inch round pans that have been lined with waxed paper and greased on the bottom and sides. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

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Bonus Recipe: Easy Chocolate Cake

(Adapted from Kidspot) 

  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup melted butter, cooled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and cocoa. Add the milk and vanilla.

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Stir in the melted butter and eggs and mix until smooth. Pour into two greased 8-inch round pans. Bake in a preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

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For the rosé wine frosting

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup rosé wine

Directions

In large bowl, beat the butter with the salt until light and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar, alternating with a little wine, until well blended.

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Directions to assemble the naked cake

Slice each cake into two layers, leveling the top. Make sure the layers are the same thickness. Brush away any crumbs before assembling the cake. Smear a little frosting on the cake board to act as an adhesive to the bottom layer of the cake.

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Position a chocolate cake layer on the bottom. Spread some frosting on top, being careful not to pick up crumbs. Position the rosé cake layer on top and press down on the filling. Spread more frosting on top.

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Position another chocolate cake layer on top and press down on the filling. Repeat with the frosting and top with the bottom end up of the rosé cake layer.

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Spread the remaining frosting on top (or use a star tip to cover and decorate all around the top of the cake). Chill to let the frosting set. Bring to room temperature for serving. Decorate with a silk rose and leaves and a cake topper as desired. When cut, the cake has a surprising visual beauty of Neapolitan colors.

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Notes

  • “Naked” cakes are simple sweets that have the “bare” minimum frosting between “exposed” layers of cake, which are a good option for movie stars who have to maintain their famous figures and cannot indulge in rich desserts too often.
  • Our German chocolate cake was the first attempt at a “naked cake” with the exposed layers of German chocolate cake sandwiched between sweet coconut-pecan frosting. We hope to make more naked cakes for our blog in the future.
  • We used a French brand of butter because Brangelina got married in France.
  • Any rosé wine may be used instead of the more pricey Miraval brand in this recipe.  The tasting notes in the latter are described as having a delicate berry and citrus aroma with a floral touch. So we added berry and citrus flavorings and rose water to the white cake batter.
  • The alcohol cooks off in the cake when it is baked, so it is safe to serve to children.
  • The pinch of salt in the rosé wine cake batter and frosting cuts a bit of sweetness in the dessert. “Salt” is the title of one of Angelina Jolie’s movies.
  • We used a wire cake leveler to cut the layers of our cake, which is safer than a knife blade when decorating with children.
  • The two cake layers have different densities. The rosé wine cake layer is lighter and fluffier than the chocolate cake layer. If stacking more layers for wedding cake tiers, use a pound cake recipe for a more stable structure.

Olympic Mini Donut Rings

Olympic Donut Rings

Aug. 5-21, 2016: Summer Olympic Games

Highlander used to be a member of the swim and water polo teams in high school and college. So his favorite Summer Olympic events to watch are any aquatics competitions (although he likes watching the other sports, too). Islander isn’t so keen on athletics but she enjoys the excuse to make theme food for event watch parties, especially the Olympic opening ceremonies!

For the last Winter Olympics, she made medal cookies. The Olympic mini donut rings are also appropriate for this season’s games. It is sweetly symbolic, representing the colors used in many nations’ flags.

Add some colorful confections to the table for an Olympic watch party and make these delicious donut rings. They are fun and festive to gobble up during the games!

Recipe

(Adapted from Wilton)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • Wilton candy melts—blue, black, red, yellow and green
  • vegetable shortening (optional)

Directions

Mist the mini donut pan with cooking spray. In a bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and nutmeg.

Olympic Donut Rings

Stir in the buttermilk and beat in the egg. Mix in the melted butter and blend until the batter is smooth. Put a tablespoon of the batter into each ring in the mini donut pan (do not fill more than halfway). Tap the bottom of the pan to level the batter.

Olympic Donut Rings

Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for only 6-7 minutes (the donuts will puff up). Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Melt the Candy Melts over a double boiler or microwave, adding a little bit of vegetable shortening to thin it out, if necessary. Use one color at a time (we started with blue, then black, red, yellow then green).

Olympic Donut Rings

Dip one side of the donut in each color of the Candy Melts. Twist and turn the donut while dipping it, letting the excess color drip back into the bowl. Place the donut on a plate or tray. Let the coating cool and harden. Display the donut rings in rows of the same colors or arrange a complete set of Olympic colors together on one plate.

Olympic Donut Rings

Notes

A+ Apple Cookies

Apple Cookies

August: Back-to-School Season

Get an A+ for your efforts in making adorable apple cookies for a back-to-school snack. We baked and decorated apple cookies for a college crowd and they were a hit (of course, most students will eat anything that’s free)! The sugar cookie dough we use yields around four-dozen two-inch shaped apple cutouts so there are a lot to share for a class en masse. These apple cookies are crisp, cute and colorful and are a festive food to serve at back-to-school events and even during National Apple Week (second week of August).

Recipe

(Adapted from Kitchen Lane)

Ingredients

  • 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
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • red and green fondant
  • powdered sugar for dusting the surface
  • clear piping gel or water
  • chocolate brown frosting (for the apple stems)
  • white frosting (for “A+” lettering)

Directions

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

Apple 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.

Apple Cookies

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. Cut out the apple shapes. Place on a foil-lined greased cookie pan about 1 ½ – 2 inches apart. 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 while baking. Bake the cookies in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until the sides are very lightly browned. Remove from the oven when done and let sit on the pan for about five minutes. Transfer each cookie on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to decorate.

Apple Cookies

Using the same apple-shaped cookie cutter, cut out shapes on red fondant (roll out to 1/8-inch thickness on a clean surface that has been dusted with a bit of powdered sugar to prevent from sticking). Slice off the stem piece. Brush piping gel or water on the red fondant.

Apple Cookies

Position the red fondant on top of the apple cookie and smooth out the edges with warm fingers. Repeat for all cookies. Pipe chocolate brown frosting for the stem. Pipe “A+” on top of the apple cookies. Set aside to dry.

Apple Cookies

Make small leaves from the green fondant (we used a leaf-shaped plunger-cutter). Attach to the apple cookie with piping gel or water. Set aside to make sure all icing is dry before stacking. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve to starving students.

Apple Cookies

Notes

  • Personalize the apple cookies by piping students’ and teachers’ names or writing the name of the school on them.
  • We used fondant more than royal icing on these apple cookies because it was quicker to cut out shapes for mass production (besides, we have not mastered the “flooding” technique—yet).
  • Search our blog for other back-to-school snack recipes.

Apple Nut and Spice Cupcakes with

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Apple Nut and Spice Cupcakes

August (Second Week): National Apple Week

It’s back to school time for students and teachers! We remember when the new academic year began after Labor Day in September, and now it’s earlier in August! Bake a back-to-school treat—apple nut and spice cupcakes–during National Apple Week, which coincides with preparations for going back to the classroom.

Apples are symbolic of education, perhaps because they were the fabled forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden.

Students stereotypically give an apple to their teachers as an appreciation gift. But (if allowed) why not give the whole class apple nut and spice cupcakes as a sweet start to a successful school year?

Recipe

(Adapted from Duncan Hines)

For the apple nut and spice cupcakes

  • 1 box spice cake mix (we used Duncan Hines brand)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 can (20 ounces) apple pie filling (we used Lucky Leaf brand “lite”)
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the spice cake mix, eggs and vegetable oil. Blend until thick and moistened. Drain and chop the apples in the canned pie filling.

Apple Nut and Spice Cupcakes

Add the chopped apple pie filling and walnuts to the batter. Mix well. Scoop into muffin tins lined with red cupcake papers. Bake in a preheated oven a 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from the oven and cool completely on wire racks before frosting and decorating. Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes.

Apple Nut and Spice Cupcakes

For the cinnamon cream cheese frosting

(Adapted from Betty Crocker)

  • 1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1+ tablespoons water, milk or cinnamon schnapps
  • red food coloring
  • red sanding sugar
  • thin pretzel sticks (for the apple stem)
  • green tube frosting (for the apple leaf)

Directions

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the ground cinnamon and vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and mix until smooth. Thin with liquid, one tablespoon at a time, to achieve the desired spreadable consistency.

Apple Nut and Spice Cupcakes

Tint with red food coloring and blend well. Frost the tops of the cooled apple nut and spice cupcakes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set the frosting. Dip the tops of the cupcakes in red sanding sugar.

Apple Nut and Spice Cupcakes

Break pieces of the pretzel sticks and insert in the center of the cupcakes to make the apple stem. Use a small leaf tip and squeeze out green frosting from the tube to make the apple leaf. Return to the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Apple Nut and Spice Cupcakes

Notes

  • The U.S. Apple Association founded National Apple Week in 1904 but expanded the celebration into National Apple Months—September, October and November!
  • Search our blog for more apple recipes.

Hawaii 5-0 Trail Mix

Hawaii 5-0 Trail Mix

August 31: National Trail Mix Day

“Book’em, Danno!”

Islander and her family used to watch the original “Hawaii 5-0” on TV back in the 1970s. The series lasted from 1968-1980 and starred Jack Lord as Detective Steve McGarrett. Thirty years later, in 2010, “Hawaii 5-0” was rebooted, with Alex O’Loughlin as the lead actor. Islander saw his co-stars, Scott Caan (Detective Danny “Danno” Williams) and Teilor Grubbs (who plays his daughter Grace) while they were filming a scene at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. She and a curious crowd waited around three hours to watch them but the final scene in the aired episode lasted three minutes!

Hawaii 5-0 - HI Cookery

We are gearing up to watch another season of “Hawaii 5-0” premiering this fall. The Hilton Hawaiian Village hosts viewing parties as well. Why not eat an aptly named trail mix while watching the episodes (or reruns)? There are only five ingredients in the “Hawaii 5-0” trail mix recipe so it is easy to make for a snack.

Also try this tasty tropical treat on National Trail Mix Day!

Recipe

(Adapted from “Cookgirl” via Food.com)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup dried pineapple, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 6 mini Mounds chocolate-covered coconut candy bars
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts, roasted (wholes and halves)
  • 1 small bag taro chips (4-6 ounces)

Directions

Chop the dried pineapple and crystallized ginger into small pieces. Dice the Mounds candy bar into little bits. Place the pineapple, ginger and candy, along with the macadamia nuts, in a large bowl.

Hawaii 5-0 Trail Mix

Add the taro chips to the mix, breaking the larger chips into smaller pieces. Combine well and serve immediately. Or package them an airtight container until ready to eat.

Hawaii 5-0 Trail Mix

Notes

  • Find bags of taro chips by Terra Chips at mainland grocers.  Some specialty health/natural food stores and Asian markets might sell taro chips as well.
  • The final food photo of the tropical trail mix was taken against the backdrop of Islander’s “Hawaii 5-0” tee shirt.
  • Islander took the photos of the cast and crew while they were filming on the grounds of the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Aug. 29, 2012. The segment they were shooting was part of “Hawaii 5-0” season 3, episode 6, number 53. “I Ka Wa Mamua” (“In a Time Past”) aired on Nov. 12, 2012.

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