Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Year's Dumplings and Wok Fried Noodles and a Guest Post from Gastronome Tart

I'm so excited to share this guest post today from my friend Amy over at the beautiful blog Gastronome Tart.  Amy is such a talented cook and baker and I feel like I learn so much from her about organic cooking and foreign cuisine since Amy is such an avid traveler!   Amy lives close to me so we and our friend Courtney from the food blog Cook Like a Champion have a ball getting together periodically to find a new little restaurant or bakery haunt and talk about life and food blogging. 

In case you're wondering where I am this week, it's my 5th anniversary and my husband and I are having a little anniversary trip to New York City.  It was great being there for the Chinese New Year and when Amy told me she wanted to make dumplings to celebrate I thought that was a fantastic idea.  They are one of my all-time favorite foods and I told Amy that one of the things I was looking forward to most was eating basically my weight in dumplings (yes, I'll just go ahead and admit that) since there are so many fantastic dumpling bars and spots in New York that are like nothing we can get back home-- so her post was a perfect choice! 

So, enjoy these delicious recipes from Amy and while you're at it, go on over to her blog and say Hey! 

Guest Post: A Chinese New Years Celebration

Hello to all you Ryan Bakes readers! Or shall I say Ni Hao (Chinese for Hello)? What an honor to be asked by Ryan to provide a guest post while she is away. Ryan sure has some talent in the kitchen and I can attest to that not only by reading all of her wonderful posts, but by tasting some of her delicious goodies as well (remember those delicious Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bars? To die for. Literally!) She has become a great blogging friend whom I have been able to toss ideas back and forth with not only through the online world, but in person as we live not that far away from each other. So, when she asked me if I wanted to do a post while she was away, I didn't hesitate. Of course!

As many of you know, January 23rd, marks the Chinese New Year's and if you any of you follow my blog (or even if you do not. Welcome!) I am a complete sucker for travel and new food experiences. Having been to Beijing in April of 2010, I have always made it a point to celebrate this beautiful holiday. 

Chinese New Year is completely different from Westernized versions of a new year's. It is more about family and friends and ushering in a new year with new and renewed hope for all thing's good in the coming year. The Chinese also take this holiday very seriously. Almost to the same degree that we take Christmas and Hanukkah.

This year, we will be ushering in the year of the dragon. The dragon symbolizes power, benevolence, graciousness and wisdom. Other symbols that you may see is the color red which symbolizes prosperity due to the fact that many years ago, it was made from carnelian which was a very important and valuable mineral. As well as a full moon because the new year always is the first day of the lunar new year. Which is why you may notice a lot of round shapes which are thought to bring luck.

Whichever symbolism you may take into your home for the holiday, nothing says Chinese New Year more than the meal and as any gastronome can attest to, that is the best part right? I was in search of many ingredients for this meal that could not be found at our regular grocery store. Due to this, I made my first trip to an Asian super market and I absolutely LOVED it. As I scavenged the shelves of the market trying to make sense of this bottle of sauce from that (English? Forget it!) it transported me back to my time in China. A beautiful country with excellent food and traditions.

I have been holding onto these two recipes for the past couple of years in anticipation to make for Chinese New Year's. Not only did they live up to the idea of what I thought they would taste like, they were surprisingly easy to make. Although I must admit that the prep was a bit time consuming, it cooked up very fast.

A few items from the Asian Market: Mushrooms, dumpling skins, lotus root, Chinese celery, oyster sauce & Shao Hsing Wine)

For this celebration I chose to make New Year's Dumplings because round dumplings signify family reunion. Northern Chinese families traditionally spend New Year's Eve preparing the dumplings which are then eaten at midnight. Crescent- shaped dumplings are a symbol of wealth and prosperity.This dumpling was prepared with garlic chives which symbolize eternity.The noodle recipe was chosen because long noodles symbolize a long life so do not cut them and as the Chinese would say on this day: Gong Xi Fa Tsai! Which means congratulations and be prosperous! 

New Year's Dumpling

Makes about 40 dumplings
Recipe adapted by: Martha Stewart


1 small head Napa cabbage (about 1.5 pounds) trimmed and finely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 ground pork
1/3 pound garlic chives, trimmed and minced
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, plus more for sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine or sake
2 tablespoons peeled and minced ginger
1 tablespoon cornstarch, plus more for dusting
40 round dumpling or gyoza skins
2 tablespoons safflower oil, plus more if needed
2 1/4 cups water


1. In a medium bowl, combine cabbage and 1 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine. Let stand, at room temperature for about 1 hour. Squeeze liquid from cabbage and transfer to a large bowl.

2. Add pork, chives, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, ginger, cornstarch, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Combine thoroughly using your hands or a wooden spoon. The mixture should be rather thick and sticky.

3. Lightly dust a baking sheet with cornstarch. Place about 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling in the center of the dumpling skin. Use your finger or a pastry brush to moisten the edge of the dumpling skin with water. Fold skin over filling to form a half-moon shape. Press edges to seal. Place on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining filling and dumpling sauce.

4. To make the dumpling sauce; In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup water and remaining 1/2 cup soy sauce. If desired, add a little sesame oil; set aside.

5. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of safflower oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the dumplings, folded edge down, placing close together so they stand up and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a moderate boil, and cook until skins are translucent and filling is cooked through 7-10 minutes.

6. Uncover and allow liquid to evaporate. Loosen dumplings from the pan with a spatula, adding a small amount of safflower oil, if necessary. Continue cooking until bottoms of dumplings re-crisp about 1 minute more. Turn out onto a serving platter. Repeat with remaining oil, dumplings and water. Serve hot with dipping sauce.

Wok-Fried Long Life Noodles with New Year Vegetables

Serves 2-4 
Recipe from Jo Ng of Chinatown Brasserie in NYC


1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for frying
6-8 (1/8 inch thick) slices lotus root
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
2.5 ounces Chinese Celery, julienned into 1.5 inch long pieces
2 ounces yellow leeks, julienned into 1.5 inch pieces
2 ounces shiitake mushroom caps
2 ounces black trumpet mushrooms
2 ounces snow peas, julienned
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing wine
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken broth
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2  teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounce E-Fu noodles, reconstituted according to directions
3 drops white truffle oil
8-10 scallions, white and light-green parts only, julienned


1. Heat a large skillet with high heat filled with 1/2 inch high vegetable oil until it reaches 250 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer. Add lotus root and fry until golden brown; transfer to paper towel lined plates to drain.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring until golden brown. Add celery, leeks, broth, both mushrooms, snow peas, and wine; cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl; set vegetable mixture aside.

3. Add chicken broth, oyster sauce, sugar and salt to pan. Add noodles and cook, tossing constantly, until liquid is absorbed,about 1 minute. Return vegetable mixture to pan and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, add truffle oil and remove from heat.

4. Serve noodles immediately, garnished with fried lotus root and scallions.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Mini Cheesecakes and a Guest Post from The Orange Bee

One of the best things about blogging is the people that you meet, and I have so enjoyed getting to know Linda at The Orange Bee over the past year.  Even though we live in separate parts of the country, we have had a great time swapping blogging tips and chatting about food and life as we figured out this whole new world of food blogging.  Not only is Linda a talented cook with many, many mouth-watering recipes on her blog, but she also happens to be a beekeeper!  How cool is that? She entertains us all with anecdotes and educational tips about life at the hive.  If you've never visited Linda's blog, you are in for a treat, so go over and check it out here.

Linda was so kind to write a guest post for me while I'm away this week and I am excited to have her here to share one of her delicious recipes with us.  These mini cheesecakes look incredible! 

The Orange Bee Bakes

What a joy and an honor to find myself writing a guest post for Ryan the delightful hostess at “Ryan Bakes”.  She is tough competition in the baking department as I’m sure you, her faithful followers can attest to.  Somehow it just didn’t seem right to blog about anything other than something baked. 

I've had these cute cupcake liners for a couple of months now but found not a single use for them during the holidays.  Orange is my favorite color and I thought what better time to celebrate and use these colorful liners than for my guest post. 

I decided to make mini cheesecakes.  After the holiday food frenzy it seems just a bite or two of something sweet is fitting.   Cheesecake is a favorite dessert in my kitchen.  There are so many delicious flavors that work with a basic cheesecake.  Chocolate, orange, pumpkin, peppermint, coffee, lemon….the possibilities are limitless.  A variety of toppings often complete this creamy dessert. 

When baking a cheesecake I always use the Neufchatel cheese to reduce the calories and fat. To tell you the truth not one family member or guest has ever complained about the use of the lower fat variety of cream cheese.  I've made cheesecakes with toppings and without.  A time or two I’ve even topped my cake with that canned cherry pie filling.  It’s very colorful and festive around holidays where “red” is a focal color. 

I’ll tell you an amusing little ditty about a cheesecake topped with that pie filling.  I’ve submitted numerous photos to those sites like “Foodgawker” and the only photo they have ever accepted is one of a cheesecake I made for my daughter’s birthday, topped with that gooey stuff.  When I think of all the beautiful, natural foods I’ve prepared, photographed and submitted that were denied, only to be beaten out by a cheesecake topped with canned pie filling!  It’s a good laugh for sure. 

These mini cheesecake gems are perfect for a bridal shower, to serve at a luncheon or to have on hand for a few bites of something sweet.  I like the fresh fruit topping and the color it adds to these mini cheesecakes.  The filling itself is simple; cream cheese with a bit of lemon zest, lemon juice and a touch of vanilla.  Plain and simple deliciousness.

I thank you, Ryan for the opportunity to reach new readers and share some yummy little bites with you, the reader.


Mini Cheesecakes

1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. butter, melted

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. lemon zest
¼ tsp. vanilla
1 egg

Fresh fruit of your choice

Combine crumbs, sugar and butter.  Press a rounded measuring tablespoon of crumb mixture into the bottom of each of six paper-lined muffin cups.  Bake at 325*F. for 5 minutes.

Combine cream cheese, sugar, juice, zest and vanilla, mixing at medium speed of an electric mixer until well blended.  Blend in egg, pour over crusts; filling each cup ¾ full.  Bake at 325*F for 25 minutes.  Cool before removing from pan.  When cool, top with fruit pieces. 

To make ahead, wrap each individual cheesecake in plastic wrap and freeze.  Let stand at room temperature for about 40 minutes before serving and top with fruit just before serving. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bread Pudding

Ok, wow, Hello! In case you forgot, I'm Ryan, thanks for visiting my blog, and it's been about 12 years since my last post.  I reaaaallly didn't mean to be gone so long.  I hope everyone is having a good start to the New Year! So far this year, I've been doing mostly healthy cooking as we are trying to be good on our diets in the time-honored tradition of New Year's Resolution dieting.  I hope to be posting more of my favorite Cooking Light and Weight Watcher's friendly recipes in the coming weeks because if you're like me, you are always looking for more healthy dinner and snack options.  Now.....

If you are doing well on your New Year's diet, I would advise you to not read any further as this recipe is most certainly NOT diet friendly.  This peanut butter chocolate bread pudding made with cubed croissants is  the anti-diet recipe.  In fact, I saw it during the holidays in a Christmas magazine that I picked up and flagged as a recipe that I wanted to make during the holidays, but then they came and went and I thought, well, maybe I'll make this next year during the next season of calorie-laden excess.  Then we had company come into town and I bought a lot of croissants for breakfast and no one ate them so I didn't want to be wasteful so I thought when else am I going to find myself with tons of day-old croissants? I'd better just go ahead and make this bread pudding! :)

If you like chocolate and peanut butter, you'll love this version of bread pudding. This recipe takes no time to make and is impressive and luxurious-- a great idea for company!  While the bread pudding is delicious, you definitely need to make the sauce to complete this dessert.  The sauce adds a creamy sweetness and makes this dessert more of a "pudding" than if you left it off.  Also, the original recipe for the sauce calls for whiskey instead of vanilla.  I'm sure that would be delicious as bread pudding with bourbon sauce is scrumptious.  However, I didn't have any on hand so I substituted vanilla extract and the sauce was rich and delicious.  I included the measurements for both so you can pick your preference in case you want to make this dessert for a more child-friendly audience.  Finally, you do need a lot of croissants for this recipe and buying them at a warehouse club such as Costco or Sam's is an economical option to the grocery store.  I bought my croissants at Costco and used almost the entire gigantic package in this recipe.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bread Pudding
Makes 10 to 12 servings

12 cups cubed croissants, lightly toasted (about 10 large croissants)
2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks
6 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup crunch peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 recipe Peanut Butter Sauce (recipe follows)

1. Spray a 13x9x2-inch baking dish with nonstick baking spray with flour.  Spread toasted croissant cubes and semi-sweet chocolate chunks evenly in prepared dish.

2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs.  Add milk, sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla, whisking until smooth (I found I had to use my electric mixer to get the peanut butter to combine with the other ingredients so you can also use  a stand mixer or a handheld mixer to help out). Pour over croissants. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Remove baking dish from refrigerator.  Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

5.  Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 50-60 minutes.  Serve warm with Peanut Butter Sauce.

Peanut Butter Sauce

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla or 2 tbs. whiskey

In a large saucepan, combine peanut butter, brown sugar, and cream over medium heat.  Cook stirring constantly, until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add vanilla or whiskey, stirring well.  Cook until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.

Adapted from Christmas Cooking Southern Style

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