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Archive for February, 2019

The first time I had a brown sugar icebox cookie was from Karin Johnson Specialty Cakes and Pastries in Castro Valley, California. They used oatmeal instead of nuts that is typically used for this cookie. As I was chewing the first bite I was pulled by its characters– honest, pure, simple and down to earth. Honest as it does not have any fancy coating; pure in its flavor that is not taken over by other addition; simple for its ingredients and texture, and down to earth for its form and nature goodness.

This cookie is not to be sat side by side with other kinds (especially the Chocolate ones!), because they are often overlooked. But if you give them a chance, they will keep you in good company, especially on cold rainy days, with a cup of tea, a good book, and some soothing music playing in the air… Life is content, life is love, life is beautiful.

Brown Sugar Icebox Cookies

Brown Sugar Icebox Cookies

Brown Sugar Icebox Cookies– recipe adapted from Auntie Rose’s brown sugar-walnut Icebox Cookies posted on BostonGlobe.com (makes about 30-35 pieces)

Ingredients:

2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter– soften– see note below
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup oatmeal– toasted– see note below

Method:

  1. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Mix in egg, followed by vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.
  3. While the mixer on lowest setting, gradually add in flour mixture to butter mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is smooth. Stir in toasted oatmeal with a spatula until well distributed.
  4. Divide the dough in half and scoop onto a large parchment paper and shape into a rectangle bar or cylinder. Wrap up tightly and chill until it hardens. Slice into 3/8-inch thickness.
  5. Place cookies on a lined baking pan, 2 inches apart. Bake at preheated 350F oven for 15-20 minutes. Cool on a rack and store in air tight container when cooled completely.

Regina’s Note:

  • Butter: Use really good quality butter as it’s the soul of these cookies.
  • Toasted oatmeal: Because I want to taste the buttery and brown sugar of the cookies, I used toasted oats instead of nuts. Oatmeal is a very “mild” ingredient to provide some texture without taking over flavor of the cookies.
  • My cookies were crunchy on the edge when they were fresh out from the oven, with the center being firm (but not hard or crunchy). As the days go by the cookies get a little soft each day. So if crunchy cookies are preferred, slice the, thinner and/or bake them longer.
  • Cookie dough can be kept in freezer– wrap up dough tightly with parchment paper, then double wrap with foil. Thaw slowly in the refrigerator or until the dough can be sliced. To prevent cookies from spreading out during baking, slice dough when you are ready to bake, or keep sliced cookie dough chilled in the refrigerator.

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My dear Chinese friends, are you tired of all the Chinese New Year foods? Want something light, healthy and simple? Look no further. This is very simple to prepare and easy on your tummy! Bonus is that you can prepare ahead of time!

Eggplant Appetizer 凉拌茄子

Eggplant Appetizer 凉拌茄子

Eggplant Appetizer 凉拌茄子 (serves 4 people)

Ingredients:
2 Chinese long eggplants

Sauce (mix together):
2 cloves garlic– minced
2 red hot peppers (optional)– minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp black rice vinegar 黑糯米醋– see note below
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chili oil
1 tsp sugar

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Method:

  1. Fill a large bowl with some water (enough to soak eggplants after they are cut), add in 2 tbsp white vinegar. Start the steamer on high heat.
  2. Wash eggplants and remove the stem caps. Cut into 3-inch length pieces, then cut in half lengthwise. Immediately soak cut eggplants in vinegar water. Since eggplants tends to float on the top, use something heavy (pot, plate, bowl etc.) on the top to press down eggplants, so they are totally submerged in vinegar water to prevent discoloration after cooking.
  3. Drain the water. Place eggplant in steamer with skin side face up. Steam on high heat for 3 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  4. Cut eggplants into strips then place in a bowl or deep dish plate. Spoon over the sauce and garnish with cilantro. Served cold or room temperature.

Regina’s Note:

  • Black rice vinegar 黑糯米醋: I like to use black rice vinegar in this recipe because it’s less acidic than typical white vinegar and has a some sweetness to it. If you use white vinegar, use less amount and increase amount of sugar.
  • To prevent eggplant from discoloration after cooking, soak in vinegar water and steam with skin side face up.

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Malaysian style pork jerky, or locally called ‘Bak Kwa’ is different from American version– well, it’s mostly made of pork, usually sweet, tender and moist. Taiwanese version of jerk, although flavor is closer, is different too as it is mostly made of beef, and it lacks the typical ‘shine’ that you’ll find in Malaysian style. In Malaysia and Singapore, ‘Bak Kwa’ is an luxurious snack due to its expensive price, making it a popular gift for friends and family on special occasion like Chinese New Year. I remember eating ‘Bak Kwa’ sandwich with plain white bread on rare occasions… great childhood memories…

Back to making ‘Bak Kwa’, there are many recipes online and I tried at least a couple different versions before, but none tasted quite like the way I had it from ‘Bak Kwa’ specialty stores in Malaysia. Then I started thinking~ Bak Kwa sellers must keep the ingredients simple in order to cut down the cost… so the recipe I look for should have simple ingredients rather than a long list of all kinds of sauces and spices (as I tried before)… thus I chose this recipe “Homemade Bak Kwa (Chinese Pork Jerky)” from MyKitchen101en.com. I did make some modifications to the ingredient list to play around. The results is quite good especially the flavor. Although the look is not as pretty as I expected but that’s probably because no red coloring was used.

With the Year of Pig at our doorsteps, I’m done trying out recipes for CNY snacks (for now!). Now I’m shifting focus to Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner menu– it’s the feast of the year in my family. I can’t wait for the lunar new year to start, so I can finally lay back and relax, while enjoying the fruits of love of all the hard work I put in. May the Year of Pig bring you abundance of health, wealth and joy. Huat Ah!!

Malaysian Style Honey Pork Jerky 'Bak Kwa' 蜜汁猪肉乾

Malaysian Style Honey Pork Jerky ‘Bak Kwa’ 蜜汁猪肉乾

Malaysian Style Honey Pork Jerky 'Bak Kwa' 蜜汁猪肉乾

Malaysian Style Honey Pork Jerky ‘Bak Kwa’ 蜜汁猪肉乾

Malaysian Style Honey Pork Jerky ‘Bak Kwa’ 蜜汁猪肉乾

Ingredients:

1 lb ground pork– see note below
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp Chinese rice cooking wine

Coating (microwave for a 5 seconds then mix well):
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp water

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir in same circular direction until the meat becomes sticky. Alternatively, use a stand mixer with paddle attached, mix on medium high speed for a few minutes until the meat gets sticky. Cover and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Lined two large baking pans with parchment paper. Place half of the meat in the center. Cover with a large sheet of plastic wrap, then roll out to 3mm thickness. Repeat with the remaining meat.
  3. Remove plastic wrap, bake in preheated 325F oven for 12 minutes. The meat meat will shrink and there will be some liquid drawn out. Let the pork jerky cool slightly while it absorbs back some liquid. Brush with honey water and cut into big pieces (for easier handling during charring on the grill)
  4. Transfer pork jerky to grill to char slightly. Cut into desired size. Cool completely before storing in container.

Regina’s Note:

  • Ground pork: If the meat is too lean the pork jerky will be dry in texture. I like to use 80(lean)/20 (fat). Also, mix some coarse ground pork with regular ground pork for better texture.
  • I found out my honey water was a bit too thick and thus the jerky was a bit too sweet. Next time revise honey water to 1:1. Or skip honey water for the classic original flavor.
  • My jerky was a bit thin for my liking. Next time just use one large tray instead of two trays.

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