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November 30, 2008

Go 'Skins

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There are only 5 more games left in the regular football season and I know I'm late to start watching which is well and good because I think American football is one of the most boring sports, second only to baseball. The only way to enjoy football is going to the actual game and have a tailgate party before it starts or have friends over for a 3-hour beer and munchies orgy. Without beer and food, watching football will make everybody fall asleep, or maybe just me.:D

I remember when we first arrived here in Virginia in 1992, we were greeted by tons of Redskins banners, pennants, caps, and tees everywhere, in the hotel where we stayed, McD's, groceries, etc. We were all wondering: what are REDSKINS? We came from Asia (Hong Kong) where we never heard of Redskins or American football. The football we knew was called soccer and the most popular sport in Hong Kong was and still is rugby. We found out that the Redskins won the Super Bowl just the night before and the area was still giddy with the win. When I saw the players's photos on the Washington Post I wondered what's up with the funny helmets and padded shoulders? Since the season was over I had to wait for late August to watch and understand the game that the whole country seemed to be celebrating. And it was to me a bit boring, nothing seemed to be happening for almost an hour and when I looked away for a second, there were large men in tights all piled up on top of each other. What the heck happened? I found out after the referee started peeling them off one by one that someone fumbled. It was odd to see a bunch of butts in tight pants staring back at me.:D

After watching and learning how the game is played and scored, I never watched ever again. And the Redskins has never won another Super Bowl, 17 years is a looong time for them and I believe this year is not good either. It's okay because today, win or lose to NYC Giants, I'll be enjoying some snacks, minus the beer because I don't drink beer. I will have vanilla malted milk, chai, hot spiced apple cider, or hot cocoa with rainbow-colored mini marshmallows and heavy cream, definitely NOT your typical football drink. For snacks: sweet potato fries with sea salt and coconut sauce, mini Pringles, homemade pink hot dogs, and mini sugar butter toasts (biscocho).

Coconut Sauce
1 can coconut milk
2 pieces raw sugar (panocha or gur), broken into pieces
  • In a medium sauce pan, combine sugar and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar melts completely. Turn heat to medium-low and let simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until dark brown, about 30 minutes. The sauce should be pourable.
  • Transfer into a clean jar or serving container. Refrigeration is not necessary.
The coconut sauce which we always have with glutinous rice bundles called suman is fantastic with the salted sweet potato fries. Yummy to the max!

Coconut Sauce
coconut sauce

 Blue Sweet Potato Fries
blue sweet potato fries with sea salt and coconut sauce

Suman
suman: boiled glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves

Biscocho
white bread
soft butter or Star margarine
sugar
  • Remove the crusts from bread and cut into 4 pieces.
  • Combine equal amount of soft butter and sugar. Spread on both sides of the cut bread. Toast on a rack in a 275 degree oven until crispy. Do not let the toasts brown.
  • Dunk in coffee, chai, or hot chocolate.
Bizcocho
very yellow and crunchy sweet bizcocho

November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

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Sweet Potato Challah

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

In addition to our usual Thanksgiving Day menu we will be having Baked Sweet Potatoes topped with sour cream, steamed buttered Brussels sprouts, and Sweet Potato Challah.

Challah which I regularly buy from the grocery bakeshop is one of our favorite sweet breads. For this year's Thanksgiving I wanted sweet potato challah but the store does not make them. I found and adapted this simple recipe. I like that it is has very little butter and just 2 eggs yet very rich tasting and absolutely delicious. The sweet and tart craisins (sweetened dried cranberries) that I added make me want to eat this challah all day long. I guess I won't be buying challah anymore from the store.:)

Sweet Potato And Craisins Challah


Sweet Potato Challah

1 package instant yeast
4 tablespoons sugar
½ cup warm water, about 110 degrees
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, room temperature
3 to 3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup mashed sweet potatoes
1-inch piece grated ginger
2 cup Craisins or sultanas
1 egg and ½ tablespoon water for egg wash
  • In a stand mixer bowl with the paddle attached, combine 1½ cups flour and yeast. Add 2 eggs, butter, water, salt, and sugar. Mix on low speed until well combined. Add sweet potato and ginger, mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Stir in more flour, half cup at a time. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl if needed. Remove paddle and replace with dough hook. Knead on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add dried cranberries and knead on low for 1 minute, finish kneading with hands. When the dough is smooth and springy to the touch, shape it into a ball.
  • Transfer the ball into a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat the surface. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  • Remove dough from bowl and transfer into a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly to remove gas and let rest for 2 minutes. Divide in half if you want 2 small loaves (I made one very large loaf). Divide each half into 3 pieces and roll out each piece into a 12 inch long log, making the middle portion thicker, then taper both ends. Pinch together the logs at the tips, braid, then pinch together the other end, tuck the ends under. Repeat with the other dough half.
  • Transfer loaves into a silpat-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost double in bulk.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat the remaining egg with water or heavy cream. Brush tops with egg wash. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Transfer into a rack to cool completely.

November 21, 2008

Pumpkin And Squash Recipes For Thanksgiving

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Baked Hubbard Squash And Tart Apple
baked Hubbard squash and tart apples

Sugar Pumpkin Souffle
Sugar Pumpkin soufflé

Sweet Dumpling Dumplings
Sweet Dumpling dumplings

Kabocha Squash Cupcakes
Kabocha cupcakes

Here are a few pumpkin and squash recipe suggestions for Turkey Day, 3 recipes can be prepared a day ahead and the soufflé an hour before dinner starts.

I have been cooking several kinds of squash these past 3 weeks and whenever I see unfamiliar ones at the farmer's market I couldn't resist buying them. The Hubbard squash which looks like a very large (about 5 pounds) pregnant and pockmarked zucchini has a very mild sweetish flavor and light yellow color. I like that its skin is soft and edible just like zucchini and kabocha. And when I saw the teeny tiny less than half a pound Sweet Dumpling squash I knew I wanted to make it into, what else, dumplings! It is also very mild in taste and color and the recipe I found online is just perfect in its simplicity.


Sweet Dumpling Squash and Sugar Pumpkin
tiny Sweet Dumpling squash and Sugar pumpkin

Hubbard Squash
the quite large Hubbard squash

Sugar Pumpkin Soufflé recipe adapted from here
Kabocha Cupcakes recipe adapted from here
Sweet Dumpling Dumplings recipe adapted from here

Baked Hubbard Squash
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
20 ounces peeled and thinly sliced Hubbard squash
salt and pepper to taste
grated nutmeg
1½ cups heavy cream
2 medium tart apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced
3 ounces goat cheese, diced
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Rub casserole dish with 1 T butter. Place dish on a baking sheet. Cover bottom of dish with a layer of squash, season with salt and pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Repeat with remaining squash and seasoning. Pour heavy cream over all.
  • Bake 30 minutes, remove from oven. Press squash/cream mixture down using heat proof spatula, return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
  • Toss apples with the oil. Cover top of squash with a single layer of apple slices, overlapping slightly, pressing apples gently into cream mixture with a spatula.
  • Return to oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Top with cheese. Return to oven and bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is slightly browned.
Take your pick, they're all delicious, I promise you!:-)

November 17, 2008

Churros And Hot Chocolate

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Churros And Hot Chocolate
tsokolate-eh and churros

One of the eating habits we sorely miss doing back in the Philippines is sitting in a Spanish coffee shop called Dulcinea sipping cups of tsokolate-eh (hot thick chocolate drink) and munching on freshly fried churros. They are best enjoyed when cooked and served by other people. There aren't shops or restaurants here in my area that serve similar churros. We are not fond of the extremely large and airy ones sold in the malls, amusement parks, and at the Costco fast food counter. The only way for us to enjoy the Spanish/Filipino churros we prefer is to make some at home which I am not willing to do very often because I am not a deep fry enthusiast. Deep frying makes the house smell of oil for hours and hours, the odor sticking to furniture, clothing, and hair. Ack!

Once in a while specially during the cold months, I get the munchies for churros and hot chocolate. Two weeks ago I found a packet of chocolate tablets at the Filipino grocery. They are pure cacao and sugar formed into thick 1-inch round tablets that are dropped in a saucepan of milk, water, or a combination and simmered until they are dissolved. The cooked chocolate is then beaten using a wooden beater to create froth. The beater resembles a large honey dipper. The dark chocolate has a very distinct flavor that my daughter says reminds her of champorrado (glutinous rice and chocolate sweet porridge}, a favorite Filipino breakfast. When I suggested I add a few pieces of bittersweet chocolate she refused because she loves the taste of this chocolate on its own.

Chocolate Tablea
chocolate tablea from the Philippines

Churros

Churros

1 cup water
2 teaspoons fruity olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup cake flour, sifted
light olive oil for frying
sugar for sprinkling
equipment: cookie press with large star tip, or pastry bag with large star tip.
  • Heat 2 inches of oil in a medium pan to 400°F.
  • Prepare the dough: Place the sifted flour in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the water, oil, and salt, let come to a boil. Pour hot water mixture into the bowl of flour. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until evenly mixed. Transfer into the cookie press or pastry bag.
  • Press directly into the hot oil forming a 4-inch loop. Fry until golden brown and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.
  • Serve immediately. Don't forget to dip them in the chocolate, extra yummy.
Churros
they are a bit pale but so crunchy and yummy

November 14, 2008

Soup

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Kabocha Squash Soup
kabocha soup

It's been chilly the past 3 weeks which means time to enjoy plenty of delicious soup for dinner. I have made Matzoh Ball, Kabocha Squash, Chicken Tinola, and Hot & Sour, the recipes I am sharing except for the Matzoh Balls because I prepared it straight out of a box. The soup is really good, we all loved it. I bought some matzoh crackers and will make the balls and soup from scratch and will write about it soon.

Kabocha Squash Soup
1 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
3 cups peeled and cubed kabocha
2 to 3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
grated orange zest, optional
crème fraîche* or sour cream
  • In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add garlic, shallot, and ginger. Stir fry until shallot has softened, making sure the mixture does not get brown. Add the kabocha, water, salt, and orange zest, if using. Increase the heat to medium high and let come to a boil. Cover the pan, decrease heat to medium and simmer until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Turn the heat off. Puree the soup in the pan using a stick blender. Or transfer into a blender and puree.
  • Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche.
*To make crème fraîche at home: in a clean jar, combine 2 T buttermilk and 1 cup heavy cream, both at room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and leave on the kitchen counter for 24 hours or until thick. Refrigerate immediately. Will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Hot And Sour Soup


Hot And Sour Soup

This Chinese soup is one of our all-time favorites. It takes very little time to prepare and enjoy. The soup usually has a cup of julienned lean pork which I omitted.

2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup sliced shiitake or baby portabella
½ cup julienned bamboo shoots
¼ teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with ¼ C water
1 cup diced firm silken tofu
1 large egg, beaten
sesame seed oil
snipped scallions
  • In a medium saucepan, heat the stock, soy sauce, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the vinegar, cornstarch mixture, tofu, and pepper flakes. Boil gently while stirring until the soup becomes clear (cornstarch is completely cooked). Turn the heat off and stir in the beaten egg and a few drops of sesame seed oil. Transfer into a soup tureen.
  • To serve: Sprinkle individual bowls with scallion and sesame oil.
Chicken Tinola

Chicken Tinola

I don't have the exact measurements for this Filipino chicken soup and did not follow any recipes. I made it from what I remember it should have and taste like. My mother's tinola had young capsicum leaves added for color and extra nutrition. I used green beans because that's what I had available when I prepared the soup.

1 whole chicken, cut into serving pieces
4 cups water
2 tablespoons peeled and sliced fresh ginger
6 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoon fish extract
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorn
1 small green papaya, peeled and cubed
green leafy vegetable such as baby bokchoy or horseradish tree leaves
  • In a large pot, heat water and chicken and let come to a boil. Skim off the foam and discard, then add ginger, scallions, fish extract, salt, and whole peppercorns. Cover pot and let boil over medium heat for 40 minutes. Add the green papaya, boil for another 5 minutes. Add the green leaf vegetable and cook for another 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

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