Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day

Well, I'm not big on celebrating Valentine's Day, but who am I to pass up an excuse to bake something? I'll be bringing these linzer cookies (made with almonds instead of hazelnuts) to work (without the orange heart). Hope my new coworkers like them!


Happy Valentine's Day, if you're celebrating it! And if you're not, here is something we can really celebrate--did you know that on Feb. 14th, 1946 ENIAC was unveiled? :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Weekend baking: Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

Mukmuk Eats Banana Muffins

I guess I'm kind of weird about bananas--I only like them when they're pretty green, and as soon as any brown spots show up, I'm not interested in eating them anymore. Which is how I ended up with 3 extremely overripe bananas on my kitchen counter. They were no good for eating (although one of my friends loves bananas so ripe that the entire skin is brown, can you imagine? Yech!) but were perfect for baking! And with whole wheat flour, almonds, and honey instead of sugar, I like to think that these will be a relatively healthy choice for breakfast when I don't have time to make something more complicated. They looked like they were going to be pretty plain, so I added a sprinkle of pearl sugar on top before baking them. Mukmuk seems to approve :) (The recipe's at the bottom of this post.)

It was surprisingly warm (well, relatively speaking) on Sunday so I enjoyed my walk to the Morningside Heights farmer's market. It's a lot smaller than the one at Union Square, but is also a lot less hectic (and, well, it's within walking distance. Sometimes you just don't want to take the subway.)

shiitake & enoki mushrooms

I picked up some fresh shiitake and enoki mushrooms from Madura Farms. I sliced up a bunch of the shiitakes and sauteed them in olive oil with half of a shallot and a sprinkle of sea salt, then tossed that with whole wheat fettuccine (from Knoll Krest Farm, also at the market) and more olive oil and some crumbled feta from Ardith Mae. Oh man. What a delicious lunch! Half of it is going into my bento box tomorrow and I can't wait.

Arlet & Winesap apple

And for dessert, a winesap (right) and an arlet (left) apple. Yes, I ate both of these in one day. Yeah, I was really hungry I guess! The winesap was extra delicious (so crispy!) so next week I will be sure to buy more. I picked up a few other things from the market (sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes) and I'm sure they will be put to good use soon.

Hoping for Spring

On the way home, I saw these gorgeous tulips at a flower stand and couldn't resist. This winter feels like it's gone on forever and spring seems so far away, but these flowers give me some hope! They're on my table now, brightening up my apartment. Gosh, I really hope spring comes soon.

Whole Wheat Banana Muffins, adapted from King Arthur Flour
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3!)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped almonds, toasted and cooled
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
pearl or coarse sparkling sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Combine butter, honey, and mashed bananas, and beat until smooth. Beat in egg, vanilla, and milk. Sift dry ingredients together and stir into the liquid ingredients. A few lumps are fine! Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips, if you're using them. Divide between the muffin cups, filling them almost full. I had enough batter to make 13 (the last one went in a stand-alone cupcake case). Sprinkle with pearl sugar, if desired. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool on a rack and eat!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

CNY Lunch at Home


Well, one of the downsides of living in the U.S. is that CNY isn't a holiday! (Although our HK and Singapore business locations are closed, lucky them!) So, we kind of have to celebrate on the days that are convenient--therefore, we had our main CNY meal over the weekend. I seriously think I gained about 3 pounds just from this one meal alone. Just take a look at our groaning board (another advantage to a lunch versus dinner--enough light for good photos! Hehe. You know you have a problem when you try to plan to have food ready when there's still natural light to shoot photos with.) All of this was made by my mom--she's very talented, right?

Cold Plate

The "cold plate"--I suppose you could call these appetizers? Anyway, clockwise from the top: a type of bitter green cooked with mushrooms, dry-rubbed chicken, cabbage and carrot pickle, waxed meat and Chinese sausages. Braised eggs in the center. Most of these foods are chosen because they are symbols of luck, prosperity, and happiness, although don't ask me which means what. I was too busy stuffing my face to remember :)

Xia Soong

Our other appetizer, stir-fried diced shrimp, water chestnuts, and mushrooms wrapped in lettuce. This is traditionally made with pigeon, but I vastly prefer shrimp (when I think of pigeon, I think of your standard dirty NYC pigeon. Which reminds me, does anyone know why there are so many freaking pigeons on 32nd St. by Penn station? What gives!)

Kao Fu

Another cold plate, with kao fu (fried wheat gluten cooked with woodear fungus and bamboo shoots) and a vegetable salad. The kao fu is one of my favorites! I know the description doesn't *sound* that appetizing, but seriously, the chewy wheat gluten and crunchy fungus and bamboo shoots are so good together.

"Egg rolls"

My absolute favorite! These are supposed to look like gold ingots and are egg sheets rolled around a pork filling. Some of them are wrapped in tofu sheets instead, and the whole thing is braised with napa cabbage. I took a huge container of this home with me. So yummy.

Sa Guo Yu Tou

Claypot fish head soup! The fish head is underneath the other goodies (tofu, glass noodles, veggies, and chilis) and was really, really good. Fish cheeks, yum. This would not have made good leftovers, so I did not get to bring any of this home :(. The noodles soaked up all the flavor of the soup and were soooooo yummy.

Hong Shao Ti Pong

Nice plating, huh? These are "red-cooked" (braised in soy sauce) pig trotters. Like any long-cooked, braised dish, the meat was super tender. Great to eat with rice, although we totally forgot that there was rice because there was so much other food. And the bok choy was good for fiber :) This is also the sauce that the eggs from the cold plate were cooked in.

Braised pork ribs

And last, but not least, braised pork ribs, thick fried tofu, and bamboo shoots. Another good-with-rice dish. I should have brought more of this home, I loooooooove fried tofu.

Can you imagine that after all this, we still had room for dessert? Well, a few hours later anyway ;) We had bunny cookies, pineapple tarts, and jiu niang yuanzi dan. I don't know how to translate that, exactly, but it's a sweet dessert soup made with fermented (and slightly alcoholic) sweet rice, with dumplings, fruit, and egg in it. It probably sounds crazy to you if you haven't tried it, but it's delicious and winy and totally warming. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of it, but next time I'm home, I will demand some and take a picture then. Oh, and of course, lots of nian gao (sticky rice cake) to snack on. You can check out this post from last year for photos of nian gao and a recipe to make the coconut type.

Well, I think that's the end of my CNY posts! The food is gone, but at least the memories (and photos!) are still there :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Baking for Chinese New Year


Woohoo, only one more day until Chinese New Year! I had dinner with some of my girl friends last night to celebrate and gave them each a box of bunny cookies. Haha, I wish I had taken a picture, but one of them started petting the bunny. I think she might just keep it on her desk and not eat it :D I also included some pineapple tarts, and that's what I'm going to talk about today!


The first step to making pineapple tarts is to get a pineapple. I admit, I didn't look very hard, but I don't know if you can find ready-made pineapple jam in the supermarket. Anyway, I actually like making jam; even if it does take a fair amount of time, it's very simple. Peel your pineapple, remove the eyes, chop roughly, and then puree in a food processor (or a blender, or grate by hand). Pour the puree into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add one clove, one star anise, and 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar, depending on how tart your pineapple is. Boil over medium low heat until it turns a dark amber color and is thick and sticky; oh, hey, you can go and look at the post I made about pineapple tarts two years ago to see what the jam should look like. Scrape into a bowl and refrigerate. You can do this a few days in advance.


The next thing is, decide whether you want to make closed (see post linked above) or open tarts. I had shamelessly asked my friend Kaimono if she would send me some pineapple tart molds so I went with open face! I like this style because you can see the yummy jam, and because I like the design of the cookie molds.


Look how many she sent! There are different sizes and patterns. Thank you, thank you!! :D I can tell I'm going to be using these for lots of cookie baking in the future, and not just pineapple tarts! Oh, and in case you're curious how they work, the cutters are in two pieces, one to cut the actual cookie, and then an inner piece that stamps the pattern and makes a well for the jam. Just make sure you roll your dough thick enough to accommodate a well (for these molds, I rolled dough to 1/4").


Roll your pineapple jam into balls and place one in each well. I guess you don't actually have to roll them into balls and could just scoop it with a small spoon or pipe it, but I like them to be neat! Plus then you get to lick your jammy fingers.


Before baking, you can glaze the cookies with an egg yolk-water glaze, or leave them plain. The ones above are glazed. (Aren't the tiny ones cute?)


And these are unglazed. I think I prefer them unglazed, actually, seems to make the pattern easier to see!

Okay, well we are in the midst of an ice storm, so I'm going to sign off and attempt to make it to work. One more post on CNY tomorrow :D Gong xi fa cai and xing nian kuai le to those of you who are ahead of U.S. time :D