This week I’m phone-interviewing intern candidates, which always presents unique interactions ranging from interesting to straight-up shenanigans. Yesterday, for example, I interviewed the most nervous candidate I have ever encountered. When I asked why he wants this internship, I could feel the poor guy shaking through the phone! I am by no means a harsh or tricky interviewer, so when he apologized profusely for his anxiety, I tried to calm him down, Don’t worry about it, it’s really totally fine. Just take a deep breath and start over, you don’t have to apologize, it’s no big deal.
The thing about phone interviews is that you can’t see the person on the other end. Little did he know that the scary and all-powerful Ms. EatRunRead of our e-mail exchanges was me, sitting at my desk wearing running shoes and leggings – a 24-year-old who just ate a cupcake for breakfast.
And what a cupcake it was! Last week I used my free cupcake coupon from Sprinkles to try their cherry blossom cupcake and it was absolutely divine – so good that I couldn’t wait to replicate it. I found Sprinkles’ strawberry cupcake recipe online, and adapted it to use frozen cherries instead. This cupcake has a wonderful almost spongy texture, thanks to its combined use of egg and egg whites. The cherry is very subtle, I think I would add more cherries and less milk in the future to get a stronger cherry flavor.
Cherry cupcakes (from Sprinkles)
Servings: Makes 1 dozen large cupcakes (I usually make little cupcakes, so I got 16)
2/3 cup fresh or frozen whole cherries (thawed if frozen)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg whites, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.
Place cherries in a small food processor; process until puréed. You should have about 1/3 cup of purée. Add a few more cherries if necessary, or save any extra purée for frosting; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and cherry purée; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.
With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.
Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.
Cherry frosting (from Sprinkles)
Makes enough for 1 dozen cupcakes (I guess it depends on how heavily you frost the cupcakes…I had a lot of frosting leftover.)
1/2 cup frozen whole cherries, thawed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place cherries in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until puréed. Use an electric mixer to beat together butter and salt until light and fluffy. Slowly add confectioners sugar and beat until well combined. Add vanilla and cherry puree, mix until just blended. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream.
Related post on Eat.Run.Read: Dark chocolate cupcakes with strawberry buttercream
The Lunar New Year celebration lasts 15 days so there’s still plenty of time to eat your fill of good-fortune and auspicious foods for a prosperous year ahead.
Egg rolls (also called fried spring rolls) are a favorite all year round but they’re considered an auspicious food during the new year because they resemble gold bars and thus symbolize wealth and prosperity.
If you’d like to see a demo of me rolling egg rolls as well as learn more about "lucky" new year foods, here’s a video of my segment on King5 TV’s New Day Northwest.
Here’s my recipe, enjoy!
Fried egg rolls
Makes: about 25 egg rolls
Time: 1-1/2 hours
I’ve adapted this lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) recipe from "The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook." I used carrots because in Mandarin, orange carrots are called hong luo bo, i.e. “red carrots,” and red symbolizes good fortune, while the yellow carrots are close enough to a golden hue and gold symbolizes wealth.
Chinese chives are known as jiu cai which sounds like “forever vegetable,” and who doesn’t want a long life? Feel free to add or subtract whatever ingredients you’d like. Ground pork, glass noodles, cabbage, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, etc., are all great ingredients to add to the mix. The filling can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
3 medium orange and yellow carrots, shredded (1-1/2 cups)
1 cup (4 ounces) finely chopped green beans
1 stalk Chinese chives, finely chopped
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
1 package egg roll wrappers (usually 25 wrappers)
1 egg white, beaten, or water for sealing
3 cups (or as needed) vegetable oil for deep-frying
Sweet and sour sauce (recipe follows)
To make the filling, place the chicken in a medium saucepan and fill with water until the chicken is submerged by about an inch. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water starts to boil, turn off the heat and cover. Let the chicken stand for 15 minutes. Test by cutting into a piece: it should not be pink. Let cool and shred the meat along the grain into tiny shards with your fingers, or chop into a confetti-sized dice. Reserve the stock for another use or discard.
In a small skillet, heat the 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft and light golden, four to five minutes. Add the chicken, carrots, and green beans, and stir to mix. Add the soy sauce, remaining salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste) and mix thoroughly. Add the Chinese chives and stir and cook until the mixture is heated through.
Allow the filling to cool completely.
To assemble the egg rolls, carefully peel one wrapper from the stack (cover the remaining wrappers with a damp cloth to keep them moist). Lay the wrapper on a dry work surface with one corner pointing toward you.) Place 2 tablespoons of filling just below the center line of the wrapper parallel to your body. Shape it into a mound 1 by 3 inches, leaving about 2-1/2 inches on either side.
Fold the corner closest to you over the filling and tuck it under snugly. Roll once, then fold the left and right sides in to form an envelope. Continue to roll the filling tightly into a fat tube until you reach the end of the wrapper. Before you reach the end, dab some egg white or water along the top edge to seal the egg roll. The egg roll should measure 4 to 5 inches in length and 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter.
Place on a plate or tray and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a plate with paper towels. In a large wok, heavy skillet, or Dutch oven, heat the 3 cups oil over high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer.
Reduce the heat to medium-high. Using tongs, gently lower the egg rolls into the oil one by one; fry in a batch of five or six until both sides are evenly golden brown, one to two minutes. Remove the egg rolls with a slotted spoon, shaking off excess oil, and drain on paper towels. Keep warm in the oven.
Bring the oil temperature back to 350 degrees F before frying the next batch. Repeat with the remaining egg rolls. Serve immediately with sweet and sour sauce.
Sweet and Sour Sauce
3 tablespoons rice or distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water to form a slurry
In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, ketchup, and soy sauce to a boil over medium heat. Stir the cornstarch slurry and add to the pan, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Pour into a small bowl and serve with the egg rolls.
Some egg roll making tips (don’t heed at your own risk!):
1. Keep your egg roll wrappers frozen and defrost in the refrigerator for an hour or two, or on the counter for 30 minutes.
2. If your wrappers dry out, cover with a damp towel and microwave on medium for 10 seconds. They should soften up but work quickly before they dry out again and keep covered with a damp towel!
3. Allow your filling to cool completely before wrapping your egg rolls. A warm filling may cause your wrapper to soften and tear, and your egg roll to fall apart.
4. Don’t overfill your wrapper or No. 3 will happen.
5. Make sure your oil is at the optimum temp before you start frying. Otherwise your egg rolls will come out soggy instead of crisp.
6. When frying, don’t overcrowd your pan, otherwise No. 5 will happen.
7. You can freeze unfried or fried egg rolls. Lay them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them for about an hour. Then transfer them to a Ziploc bag and freeze for up to three months.
8. When ready to eat, deep-fry the frozen egg rolls (don’t defrost) for 2 to 3 minutes (pre-fried) or five to 7 minutes (unfried).
To warm up fried egg rolls (that have been refrigerated or kept at room temp), preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. and heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crisp.
Related post on The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Ellen Chou’s Pot Stickers
I got a new cookie jar. Watch out.
My old one hasn't had a lid for years, and it was always too small. I've solved that with a beautiful old jar I found at Fairhaven Antique Mall (my new favorite place). It's inspiring when it's sitting there on the counter, all empty and big. My kids are happy about this development.
I made three batches of these last week. I stumbled across them on Pinterest, and the photo was enough to change my mind about homemade snickerdoodles. Whenever I've made them, I'm disappointed. They turn out like ho-hum sugar cookies and seem to go stale almost immediately. If that's your experience, prepare to have your mind blown. Or your world rocked. Or your universe expanded. (Wyatt and I like to play with these exclamations. He would say these cookies rock his world off. Or blow his socks up.)
They're made with brown sugar and melted butter. Whenever a recipe calls for melted butter (instead of beating butter with a mixer), I know that's a good sign. It means less air will be beaten into the batter, there will be less manipulation, and the cookies are likely to be more tender than normal. And more brown sugar usually makes cookies softer. You need to refrigerate these, so plan ahead.
Happy cookie jar-filling.
Brown butter snickerdoodles
Adapted from here. If you don't refrigerate the dough, they will spread out too much. And they cook very quickly, so make sure you watch them and take them out a little before they look done.
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1-1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus one egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
For rolling mixture
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
To make browned butter, melt it over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Whisk it constantly. After a few minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom and separate into solids. Remove from heat as soon as this starts happening and pour butter into a bowl to prevent it from burning.
With a wooden spoon, mix browned butter with sugars. Add egg, egg yolk, and yogurt until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Refrigerate dough for three hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Form refrigerated dough into balls (about 2 tablespoons of dough for each one) and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake cookies about nine minutes, or until set on edges but slightly undercooked in the middle. Remove from oven, let cool a few minutes, then transfer them to a rack and cool completely.
Related post on In Praise of Leftovers: Oatmeal coconut chews
We went to an underground dinner recently hosted by Tuesday Night Dinner. The TND crew creates pop-up dining events throughout the year, each in a different location and each with a different theme. This one was held at No Sandbox Studios, just west of Chicago’s Loop, and the theme was ”Off the Boat, Into the Kitchen,” an interpretation of immigrant fare reimagined by the TND chefs.
The four courses were delicious and inventive, but the thing that caught my eye – or more accurately, my taste buds – was an accompaniment for one of the courses, a giardiniera aioli. Usually, aioli is a sauce made of fresh mayonnaise and garlic, but chef Jeremy Leven substituted spicy giardiniera for the garlic. The result was amazing.
Giardiniera is an Italian condiment, a mix of pickled vegetables and peppers usually packed in vinegar and oil. It can be hot or mild. Jeremy chose hot, an excellent decision. The giardiniera aioli made its first appearance at the dinner with grilled hen of the woods mushrooms. The briny, tangy, spicy sauce played beautifully with the smoky earthiness of the mushrooms. Later, it reappeared as a probably impromptu topping for Indian tacos. Again, it worked well. (To read more about this lovely dinner, check out the post on Marion’s blog, 9591 Iris.)
At its most basic, aioli is made with garlic (or in this case, giardiniera), egg yolk, and oil. It is ridiculously easy to make. The most difficult (make that tedious) part is repeatedly scraping down the sides of the blender jar; it spatters spectacularly as you blend it. For me, the funnest old-school-cooking part is separating out the egg yolk. Yes, there are gadgets for doing this now, but cracking the shell in half and pouring the yolk back and forth between the halves, letting the whites separate off and fall away is wonderfully gratifying.
Jeremy made his aioli thick, almost chunky. It was closer to a spread or a dip than sauce, not unlike hummus. I opted for a thinner version, slightly more free flowing, but still not a drizzly sauce.
In looking for something to pair with the aioli, I quickly settled on pork chops. No reason other than I like pork chops. The Indian tacos made me think of cumin and coriander. You could go with simple salt and pepper, but this spice combo lets the chops bring something to the flavor party too.
Winter having finally gotten serious in Chicago, I pan seared them rather than firing up the snow-covered grill. These chops would be delicious grilled. And the aioli would be delicious on fish, grilled chicken breasts or sautéed tofu (especially seasoned with cumin and coriander, I think). For the chops, I used a technique I often use with lamb shoulder chops to tenderize them, coating them with a layer of kosher salt and letting them rest for 20 minutes, then rinsing the salt off.
Makes about 3/4 cup
5 tablespoons oil-packed giardiniera, drained (see Kitchen Notes)
1 large egg yolk
2-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-1/2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
Combine drained giardiniera and egg yolk in blender and purée until smooth, scraping down the sides of the jar with a spatula as necessary. Combine oils in a measuring cup. Drizzle oil slowly into running blender, a little at a time, again scraping down the sides as needed. Blend until oil is emulsified in giardiniera mixture and creamy. If you want it slightly thinner, add a little more oil.
Can be made ahead and refrigerated. If you do so, be sure to bring it out of the fridge before you need it, so it can come to room temperature and reach the right consistency.
Cumin coriander pork chops
1 tablespoon cumin seeds (or 1 tablespoon cumin powder)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds (or 1 tablespoon coriander powder)
4 bone-in pork chops, 3/4-inch thick, about 8 ounces each
coarse kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
giardiniera aioli (see above)
If you’re working with whole cumin and coriander seeds, place them in a dry, cold nonstick skillet and toast them over a medium-low flame. Shaking the skillet frequently, toast seeds until they’re fragrant and beginning to pop, three to five minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. When completely cool, grind in a spice grinder. Set aside. (If you’re working with ground spices, simply combine them in a bowl.)
Arrange chops on a plate. Season on both sides with half the cumin/coriander spice mix and a generous coating of kosher salt (use a heavy hand – you’ll wash it off later). Let the chops rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. Rinse under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
Season chops with the remaining cumin/coriander mix and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a skillet large enough to hold chops in a single layer over medium-high flame. Add enough oil to coat bottom of the pan. When oil is shimmering, add chops. Cook about four minutes per side, or until an instant read thermometer registers at least 145 degrees F. Plate chops and top with a dollop of aioli. Serve. Pass additional aioli at the table.
Spicy? Not spicy? We’re big fans of a little heat. As such, we heartily recommend using hot giardiniera. But if heat is a deal breaker, use mild giardiniera – you’ll get the wonderful flavor without the pain.
Oily? Not oily? Traditional giardiniera is packed in oil and vinegar. Often, though, we’ll seek out the variety packed in water and vinegar instead, to save some calories. This version needs the oil-packed version. Even when you drain it, there will be some residual oil; it adds to the smooth creaminess of the aioli. Residual water would fight the creamy texture.
Related post on Blue Kitchen: Miso braised pork shoulder
I love smoothies for breakfast, lunch (sometimes), and even dinner – especially after Bikram Yoga.
There’s a problem though. I usually don’t find that they “last” very long.
Until now. I have been drinking this new smoothie for weeks, more often maybe than I should. But when things are busy, smoothies are magic. I blend this up and I can even drink it on my way to work. Actually, my work has a blender so sometimes I just pack it all in a plastic container and dump it into the blender for a midday boost. I never get to stop for lunch, so this smoothie has been a lifesaver.
RECOMMENDED: Five breakfast meals to go
Want to know what the secret ingredient is?
I have tried it with soaked nuts, nut butters, super food filler, chia seeds, ground flax seed and, to be fair, they are all delicious. It’s just that I get hungry so fast. I’ve tried making this same smoothie without the avocado and substituting, ground flax or ground chia seeds, but it’s really not as good. It’s OK, but the smoothie is definitely better with than without.
This smoothie is just sweet enough, a little tart and creamy and the best part – green. The flavor is like that Happy Planets Green Smoothie, but a little less sweet. I’ve added some suggestions at the end in case you like it sweeter, or if you’re new to whole foods and need to build up to putting so many greens in one glass.
Green Power Smoothie
3 cups of greens (kale, chard, spinach or spring greens.)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup red frozen fruit (I use sour cherries or frozen cranberries mixed)
1/2 avocado, flesh only
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or vegans: use coconut milk (I use Tree Island Vanilla Yogurt which is not sweet)
1/4 wedge of lemon, juice only
1/2 cup water (up to 1 cup)
Optional additions (1 tablespoon of ground flax or ground chia seeds)
In a blender, add the greens. If using kale, remove the tough spine and use only the tender parts. With chard I use the whole thing. Add the blueberries, red berries, banana (this lends the sweetness), the avocado, yogurt, squeeze of lemon juice (this masks the taste of the greens) and the water. Blend until smooth. You may need to use the pulse setting to get everything blended properly. Add a little more water if it’s too thick. Drink immediately.
Key ingredients are banana, avocado, greens and lemon juice.
Banana: Bananas makes it sweet without adding sweeteners like honey or maple syrup or soaked dates. If you like it sweeter, add a little sweetener of choice until you’ve reached the level you’re looking for.
Avocado: It makes this liquid meal last, so you won’t feel hungry again in an hour.
Lemon Juice: It masks the taste of the dark leafy greens. I’ve even made this smoothie with broccoli. The texture isn’t as smooth, but it works in a pinch.
Dark Leafy Greens: If 3 cups of greens sounds like too much, start with one and build up. The healthiest way to consume kale and chard is to have it lightly steamed. If you would like to add a step, steam the chard or kale ahead of time and add it to the smoothie cooked.
RECOMMENDED: Five breakfast meals to go
Related post on Beyond The Peel: The Millet Energy Salad
One of my New Year's resolutions is to eat more salad. Clearly, a salad resolution is easier than some others. If you know some tricks, that is. One thing I'm proud of is that my friends and family report their salads have gotten progressively tastier and more interesting as a result of being around me. A girl has to leave some sort of legacy, right? That's mine.
Now that I'm sitting here thinking about it, I guess I have a lot of opinions and tips when it comes to salad. Are you ready for this?
You don't need lettuce to make a salad. The one pictured here is curly kale and a couple huge handfuls of sprouts (which I'm really into right now and am growing on my kitchen counter). No lettuce. In the winter, cabbage is often the base of my salads. It's cheap, lasts forever in the fridge, and delivers a lot of nutritional bang for your buck.
Purchased salad dressing is a racket. A big one. Loaded with calories, expensive, and usually not very tasty. Often, I don't mix up a salad dressing. I just toss my whole salad with a big squeeze of lemon (or lime or vinegar), coarse salt and pepper, and a glug of olive oil. Just pour them right in the bowl and mix gently and well with your hands. If you're going to make dressing, the general rule is 1 part acid to 3 parts oil, plus salt (and pepper, if you're a pepper person). Of course you can endlessly variate this – honey, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and garlic. Cilantro, sesame and vegetable oil, miso paste, and soy sauce. Find a favorite combo, make a big batch, and use it all week.
A little bit of fat or protein goes a long way, especially if you make a "chopped salad" (as opposed to layered or composed). Some finely chopped almonds, a little bit of salami, ham turkey, bacon, or tuna, 1/2 a hard-boiled egg, a bit of crumbled feta or blue cheese, a handful of canned chickpeas, or a couple minced olives or anchovies are all you need to make your salad feel like a substantial meal. You can, of course, leave these things out, but I like finding those little nuggets in the tangle of veggies.
Make your salad components uniform in size. There's nothing worse than negotiating a giant chuck of carrot right next to some delicate greens. If you want chunky, make everything chunky (think Greek salad or Salad Nicoise.) A chopped salad (my favorite lately) means you can get a bite of almost everything in one forkful. It also means you're likely to eat more vegetables since they are hospitably cut.
Veggie prep on the weekends makes salad-eating a lot more likely. Otherwise, you'll end up eating cheese and crackers all week. When I'm being good, I wash a few different kinds of greens and wrap them up in paper towels. Then whatever else is cheap and relatively in-season, washed and ready to go. In the winter, it's broccoli, cauliflower, red onions, green onions, radishes, hothouse cucumbers, cilantro, parsley, avocados.
Nuts. And other pantry luxuries. Almost everything is a salad possibility. I'm currently into smoked almonds. When you finely chop them (you just need a few) they taste like bacon in your salad. Some other favorites: olives, pepperocini, capers, raw sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, any kind of canned beans. Be careful with fruit – canned, dried, fresh. Often it's delicious in salads, but you have to be a little more judicious with your combos. I wouldn't advise grapefruit with kidney beans, for instance. Oranges, walnuts, and red onions are a favorite combo. Or blue cheese with apples or pears and dried cherries or cranberries.
Cooked grains will make you feel so proud of yourself. At the beginning of the week, cook something up – brown rice, quinoa, farro, bulgur. Drain, toss with a bit of olive oil, and refrigerate. The possibilities are endless, including tossing cold grains with whatever salad you're making.
Don't limit salads to a side dish. Eat them as main dishes, and make them just for yourself. I don't mind a plate of celery or carrot sticks, but you're likely to eat a lot more vegetables if you make them interesting.
What are your favorite combos? What are you planning to do in 2013 that will make you stronger and healthier?
Related post on In Praise of Leftovers: Everyday salads
The snake may not be my favorite animal but I just learned a very interesting factoid about the Year of the Snake which began Sunday, Feb. 10. Just as a snake sheds its skin, this is a good year for making dramatic transformations, whether it’s changing jobs, pursuing a lifelong dream, or discarding destructive relationships and negative influences in our lives.
Now, I actually have a new appreciation for this slithery reptile.
I don’t have any earth shattering changes in my life to share (although I did promise myself that this is the year I find direction for my writing), however, I will tell you about my favorite new year treat – pineapple tarts!
Pineapple tarts and cookies are popular in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. And even Taiwan lays claim to a similar pineapple cake. They come in different shapes and sizes, flower shapes being favored in Singapore and Malaysia, whereas simple golf ball-shaped cookies are preferred in Indonesia.Taiwanese cakes, on the other hand, are square or rectangular. Unfortunately, these Asian-style pineapple tarts are not quite de rigueur in the United States but that might change!
Like all other popular new year foods, there’s a reason why pineapple tarts are served in most Chinese households (in the above regions) during the “visiting” season, the first 15 days of the new year when it’s customary to visit family and friends.
The Mandarin word for pineapple is feng li (鳳梨) which means “phoenix pear,” or more commonly, huang li (黃梨), wong lai in Cantonese and ong lai in Hokkien (also Fukien). This means “yellow pear” and phonetically sounds like “good luck comes.” So eating this sweet cookie will bring good luck as well as sweetness in the upcoming year.
Since moving to the US, I haven’t indulged in pineapple tarts too often. But a few weeks ago, my mum offered me some kue nastar (the Indonesian name for them) her friend Linda had made. Oh … my! Tante (Indonesian for auntie) Linda’s kue nastar are seriously the best I’ve tasted in a really long time – each cookie is a ball of soft, crumbly pastry encasing a golden orb of pineapple jam that achieves its mellow sweetness from good quality pineapples slow-cooked with just enough sugar.
I asked my mum if Tante Linda would teach me how to make them. Mum made a quick phone call to her and I had an appointment in her kitchen the next week!
Tante Linda is from Jambi (it’s both the name of the province and town) on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. She’s proud to say that Jambi pineapples are the sweetest and most flavorful she’s ever tasted. Tante Linda loves her hometown pineapples so much that every time she goes home, she asks her sister to make and pack containers-full of pineapple filling for her to bring back to the US. Making these pineapple cookies with the Jambi pineapple filling gives her a nostalgic taste of family and home.
I must warn you that Tante Linda didn’t do much measuring when I baked with her, instead relying on her many years of experience and her sense of touch and feel. The recipe below comes from her sister, who Tante Linda claims is the better baker.
I’ll be darned if her sister can bake pineapple cookies any lovelier than these!
Indonesian pineapple cookies (Kue Nastar)
Tante Linda takes quite a few liberties with this recipe but it’s the recipe she learned from, adding her own flourishes along the way. If you’d like to dress up these little beauties, you can push in a whole clove for a hat (they’ll look like tangerines!), or shower them with shredded cheese.
Makes: about 100 cookies
Time: 1-1/2 hours
500 grams margarine (2 cups, Tante Linda uses Imperial brand)
150 grams salted butter (2/3 cup, Tante Linda swears by H. J. Wijsman & Zonen Preserved Dutch Butter which she says makes the cookies fragrant and tasty, “wangi dan enak” )
4 egg yolks, plus 1 for glazing
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
600 to 700 grams (5 to 6 cups) all-purpose flour (Tante Linda uses Gold Medal brand)
4 to 5 tablespoons powdered milk (Tante Linda uses Dancow, a brand from Indonesia. I’ve also seen recipes with custard powder, too)
Pineapple filling (recipe below)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and egg yolks. Using a hand mixer, mix on low speed for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mixture turns fluffy and pale yellow.
Add the powdered milk and mix by hand for another minute or two until well incorporated.
Add the flour gradually into the mixture and mix with your hands until it forms a sticky pastry dough that’s a little drier than cookie dough but not as dry as bread dough. Tante Linda didn’t weigh the flour but kept adding more until the dough felt “right.” She likes hers soft, “empuk” so she used closer to 600 grams (5 cups), but if you’d like a crispier pastry, feel free to use more flour (closer to 700 grams/6 cups).
Pinch a piece of dough and roll it into a ball between your palms about the size of a marble (about 1/2-inch in diameter). Hold the ball in the palm of one hand and use your finger to flatten it into a circular disc 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.
Scoop about 1/2 teaspoon of pineapple filling (or more!) into the middle of the disc and fold the dough up and around so that the ends meet. Pinch the dough to seal, trying to encase all the filling within. Don’t worry if some filling peeps out. Roll between your palms into an even ball slightly smaller than a golf ball and lay on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat until all the dough and filling are finished. You will need two cookie sheets.
Beat the remaining egg yolk in a small bowl and brush the tops of the cookies with a thick layer of yolk. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until shiny and golden, rotating the cookie sheets halfway for even browning.
Scrape the cookies loose from the cookie sheet while they’re still warm. Cool on a cooling rack or on the sheets.
Tante Linda says that Jambi pineapples are very sweet and don’t require much sugar hence this recipe only calls for 3/4 cup sugar. Taste the mixture halfway and add more sugar if you’d like. Making the filling is quite a tedious process but you can make it up to a week ahead and refrigerate it. Or try using a slow cooker. A friend tried this method out with great success. You can confidently leave it alone to simmer (she said it took about four hours), checking on it only occasionally. You can also add cinnamon sticks or cloves to spice up the filling.
Time: 4 hours
3 ripe pineapples
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
Peel the pineapples and dig out the eyes. Cut into chunks or slices, discarding the core, and grate by hand (better) or use a food processor (you won’t get as much texture but it’s a whole lot easier!).
Combine the pineapple and sugar in a large, wide-mouthed pot and cook over a very low flame, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, for about 2 to 3 hours. Halfway through cooking, taste the pineapple filling and add more sugar if desired.
The filling is ready when all the liquid has evaporated, the color has transformed from bright yellow to dark ochre-almost brown, and has achieved the consistency of a very dense jam.
Let the filling cool completely before making the pineapple cookies or storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for later.
Related post on The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Almond Tofu and Syrupy Smashed Cherries
Red velvet is today’s culinary “it” girl. There are dozens of dedicated Pinterest boards, devoted red velvet enthusiasts, and concoctions of all forms. I think red velvet, the old Southern favorite, is at top of its bell curve. If you aren’t a fan, you may be rolling your eyes at every pancake recipe or cake pop. But, if you are like me, you are relishing in the light of its fame. I’m no fair-weather fan – I pledged my love years ago and I will be faithful when red velvet tips over the top of this roller coaster and lands on the “out” lists.
I used to recognize Valentine’s Day as the commercial holiday it is. As a kid, I enjoyed candy hearts as much as the next sugar fiend but as I matured, I never required my love interests to make a big deal of the holiday. However, 16 years ago, I met my husband on Valentine’s Day and the day took on a more real meaning.
Fourteen years later, our second daughter (lovingly known as Baby Whipped) was born on Valentine’s Day. This year, as she approaches her second birthday, I’ve got the Valentine’s fever. Hearts, candies, gifts, special dinners, sappy sentiments… BRING it on. My heart is bursting.
This year, we decided to try a new red velvet recipe. These sandwich cookies were chosen in part so I could employ my favorite Linzer cookie cutter. The method of spreading out the batter is a little fussy. But, we loved the flavor of the cookies and the consistency. For almost a week, they lived on our counter in an air tight container and stayed soft.
Red velvet sandwich cookies
From Krissy’s Creations recipe
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon red food coloring
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2-inch round cookie cutter
For the cream filling:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and milk and beat until incorporated. Mix in the red food coloring. Combine the vinegar and baking soda in a small bowl, and then mix into the batter.
Transfer the batter to a sheet pan lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Using an offset spatula spread the batter until it reaches the edges of the pan and has evened out. Bake the large cookie until it has set, about 12-14 minutes. The edges make be crunchy but the center will spring back to your touch. Remove from the oven and let cool until its warm.
While the cookie is cooling, make the cream filling. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the shortening and butter. Add the confectioners sugar and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla.
Transfer the filling to a piping bag filled with a large round tip.
When the cookie is just slightly warm, carefully transfer the large cookie to a clean surface. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter cut out the cookies leaving as little scraps as possible. Place the cookies in pairs, side-by-side. Pipe small rounds of cream filling on one cookie of each pair, top with the other cookie. Serve and enjoy!
These cookies last up to six days in a sealed container.
Related post on Kitchen Report: Red Velvet Cake + Whipped = True Love Forever
When the word came that Nemo was heading our direction blowing 65 m.p.h. winds and bringing at least 2 feet of snow, my friends Nathan and Emily, who live a few blocks away, extended the invitation for homemade chicken pot pie. I was in charge of bringing brownies.
I knew immediately that I wanted to bring The Pastry Chef’s Baking Frosted Brownies. These are so decadent and delicious I definitely did not want to be left in the house alone with a pan. Bringing them to a blizzard dinner party was the perfect solution!
My friend Rebecca, who lives next door, and I trudged through the snow together, wearing ski pants and ski goggles, with mufflers wrapped tightly around our necks. The snow had only begun to fall and the trees were already frosted sugar-white.
After we had our fill of chicken pot pie and brownies, Nathan read to us from “The Long Winter,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Emily read the Christmas chapter from “Little House in the Big Woods” as Nemo howled outside. Having read this series over and over growing up, (I used to read “The Long Winter” every winter we lived in New Hampshire, just for solidarity), hearing the familiar stories was like a visit with old friends.
The walk home was eerie and quiet beneath the wind. A ban on all vehicles except plows and emergency vehicles emptied the streets. We wished for a horse drawn sleigh and hot baked potatoes in our pockets to keep warm!
The leftover brownies were the perfect fuel for the two days of digging out that followed. And now that the snow has finally begun to melt, here's another good reason to bake up a batch of these dense chocolate brownies topped with a thick sugary chocolate-y frosting that you must follow with a tall glass of milk: Valentine’s Day.
A homemade dessert baked with love (chocolate never faileth) is the best way to say, A Sweet For My Sweet.
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsweetened, alkalized cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (16 tablespoons or 2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 large eggs
2 cups vanilla-scented granulated sugar (this is made by leaving a vanilla bean in a canister of sugar, otherwise just use regular sugar)
1-1/2 teaspoons intensified vanilla extract
9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Film the inside of the baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
Sift the all-purpose flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl, set aside.
In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter together. Remove from heat and whisk together. Allow to cool until tepid.
Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl to blend well, about 1 minute, then add the vanilla-scented granulated sugar and whisk slowly for 1 minute, or until just combined. Whisk in the tepid melted chocolate-butter mixture. Blend in the vanilla extract.
Add the dry ingredients and mix until all particles of flour are absorbed into the batter, using a whisk, wooden spoon or flat wooden paddle.
Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan. Smooth over the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake the cake layer for 35 to 37 minutes or until just set. Don’t worry if a tester doesn’t come out clean, do not overbake or the cake layer will dry out.
Cool the cake layer in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes while you make the frosting.
3-3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsifted confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoon (light) table cream
1 teaspoon intensified vanilla extract
Place the confectioners’ sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
In the double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate. Whisk until combined, allow to cool until tepid.
Add the combined butter and chocolate to the sugar and salt. Add the milk, light cream, and vanilla extract. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the frosting on moderately low speed until creamy and completely combined. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl two to three times to keep the frosting even-textured. Do not beat the frosting on high speed or it will become airy and fluffy instead of creamy and dense.
Immediately and carefully, place large dollops of the frosting evenly over the surface of the hot bar cookie base and spread it, using a flexible offset spatula. Spread it smoothly and lightly, to keep the bar cookie layer intact.
Let the sweet cool in the pan on a rack for 3 to 4 hours, or until cooled and completely set. The cooling time is especially important in hot, humid or damp weather.
Cut the cake into four quarters, then cut each quarter into four squares, using a small, sharp knife. Remove the chocolate squares from the baking pan, using a small, metal offset spatula.
Freshly baked, the squares keep for 4 to 5 days.
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Without question, the worst part of baking is the mess. I love to bake, but I can’t stand the mound of dirty mixing bowls, measuring cups, spatulas, pans, and measuring spoons that it results in. For me, simple recipes which utilize minimal ingredients and one-bowl preparation are always attractive. Don’t get me wrong. Quality and taste will always be my top priorities, but there’s nothing wrong with trying to achieve those ideals in the simplest way possible.
One way to do this is to bake a pan of brownies. When it comes to brownies, I like them dense, chewy and super fudgey. After reviewing the ingredients in several fudgey brownie recipes, it occurred to me that I could probably make the world’s simplest fudgey brownie recipe; so simple that you’ll probably never need to read this recipe again; so simple that using a boxed brownie mix will start to seem like hard work. So, last week, I tested my idea. And, it worked. It worked perfectly. Gooey, fudgey brownies that were easier than a piece of cake to make.
Here’s the deal… 1 stick butter + 1 cup chocolate chips + 1 cup sugar + 1 cup flour + 2 eggs, mixed in 1 saucepan and baked in 1 baking dish = 1 delicious batch of brownies. Five ingredients total; one of each, except the eggs. You’ve got to use two eggs. It’s simple. It’s memorizable. It’s totally chocolicious.
Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ve got a few options. You can add a little salt (up to 1 teaspoon), if you’re like me and like that touch of salty flavor to your baked goods. A tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder will deepen the chocolate flavor; another plus in my book. Then, throw in whatever little add-ins you like; chocolate chips, nuts, shredded coconut, candied citrus peel, etc. Go wild.
For Valentine's Day use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to slice the brownie, and top with a quick raspberry coulis (see recipe below). If you're feeling extra fancy, you can even sprinkle it with powdered sugar.
Simplest Homemade Fudgey brownies
1 stick of butter
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (optional, for a darker chocolate flavor)
Up to 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
Optional add-ins (nuts, coconuts, candy, candied citrus peel)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8×8-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the chocolate chips and butter until smooth, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat. Add in the salt and cocoa powder, if desired. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Stir in the flour. Add the eggs and stir until well blended. If desired, stir in extra add-ins. Bake for about 35 minutes. Cool before cutting.
For the Raspberry Coulis
3/4 cup raspberries
1 tablespoon sugar
For the raspberry coulis, puree the raspberries with the sugar. If desired, pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.
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