Tuesday, April 17, 2012

DIY Stuffed French Toast

I made this for our family brunch a couple of Sundays ago, but it would be great anytime. You can even prepare it the night ahead, cover, and store in the fridge, and then just bake the next day. I used homemade strawberry jam and homemade yogurt cream cheese, but you could use any kind you like to vary the flavors.

Homemade Stuffed French Toast Recipe
  • Bread to cover 9x13 pan in two layers
  • 8 eggs beaten
  • ¼ cup milk
  • Jam
  • Cream cheese or yogurt cheese
  1. Grease a 9x13 pan and preheat 350F.
  2. Layer bread to cover the bottom of the pan.
  3. Spread strawberry jam and then cream cheese over bread.
  4. Cover with another layer of bread.
  5. Beat eggs and milk until well combined and then slowly pour over bread to saturate.
  6. Bake at 350F until the top is golden brown, about 35–45 minutes. Remove from oven, and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 面条 (Noodles)

A Chinese friend of mine came over last week and showed me how to make some Hainan (Hǎinán, 海南) style noodles (miàn tiáo, 面条). I'll share the basic recipe and method with you, but all amounts are very approximate.

Hainan style food uses a lot of garlic and green onion, but not a lot of other seasoning or sauces. Traditionally they cook with lard to bring in more meat flavor, without having to use a lot of expensive meat. However, most people now use oil. This dish would traditionally be eaten for breakfast (or maybe lunch). But we like it for dinner as well.

This dish is very simply, and we liked it a lot. The boys especially ate huge helpings and were thrilled that there were leftovers for the next meal.

Hainan Style Noodle Soup

  • ¼ cup or more oil or lard
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 cup green onion chopped
  • ½ pound lean pork chopped
  • 1 pound fresh or dried wide rice noodles
  • salt to taste (lots if your trying to get authentic flavor)
  • water
  1. In a large pot (guō, 锅) heat 1–2 quarts of water. Cook noodles if dried or simply wash the noodles if you bought them fresh from the market.
  2. Meanwhile in a wok, known as a "fry pot" (chǎo guō, 炒锅), heat oil or lard. Add garlic, onion, and pork, and fry until brown.
  3. Add noodles and a good amount of water to the wok. Bring to a boil.
  4. Salt to taste, and serve.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Family Fridays: Rejoicing

April 8, 2012

I hope that everyone had a great holiday over the weekend. We certainly did, even though we had to catch up with family and friends over Skype. We certainly have a lot to rejoice over and celebrate since the tomb is empty.

We are also rejoicing in things settling down a little after moving and this past week I have been feeling much better. I am hoping that most of the nausea is past for this pregnancy now that I am 15 weeks along.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

DIY Scottish Shortbread

My husband loves shortbread. I used to think it was a rather boring cookie, but now he has me convinced how wonderful they are. The difference is baking them with 100% real butter. With just three ingredients these are really simple cookies, but you can totally taste the difference if you make them with anything besides all butter. Personally, I think it is a waste of time now to even attempt shortbread with margarine, somethings you can't taste the difference, but this isn't only of those recipes. I think these make great food gifts as well because not everyone makes them, and they don't have any nuts or chocolate in them if someone has allergies.

Homemade Scottish Shortbread Recipe

  • 1½ cups flour
  • ¾ cup butter
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and cut in butter with a pastry cutter. Mixture will be very crumbly and resemble pie crust crumbs.
  2. Press into an ungreased 9x9 (for thick shortbread) or 9x13 (for thin shortbread) pan. Recipe can easily be doubled to fill a jelly roll pan nicely.
  3. Bake at 350F until edges just begin to brown. Time varies widely on baking these by oven and thickness of the cookies from 5–15 minutes, so you really just have to watch them carefully.
  4. Allow to cool before cutting so they are not too crumbly. We also love melted chocolate drizzled on top after they have cooled.

    Friday, April 6, 2012

    DIY Chocolate Covered Cherries

    I had some leftover melted chocolate from making chocolate covered peanut butter eggs and decided to cover some maraschino cherries with it. Simply melt the chocolate, I suggest using a double boiler, and then dip the cherries in. Draining the cherries in a colander or on paper towels will make them easier to cover with chocolate. After dipping in chocolate, place on wax paper, aluminum foil, or a silicone pan, and place in the refrigerator to harden.

    Family Fridays: If You Give a Boy a Chocolate Covered Spatula...

    ...he will become chocolate covered too.

    DIY Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Eggs

    This is a really simple recipe for a great homemade treat for Easter/Resurrection Sunday. I do like the symbolism of eggs, something that looks dead, like a tiny tomb, but from which new life can spring forth. I made similar candies at Christmas time and never got around to posting them, but I made trees and squares then. You can of course make these whatever shape you wish for any occasion you wish, and everyone will be delighted.

    Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy Recipe

    • 1 cup peanut butter
    • 2 cups powdered sugar (I used homemade this time. You can also substitute powdered milk for up to ⅓ of the sugar. I did this at Christmas time, grinding the powdered milk up finer in the blender, and it worked well also.)
    • 1 bag chocolate chips for melting and dipping
    1. Combine peanut butter and powdered sugar (and powdered milk if desired) in a bowl. Knead together until it is well combined and becomes the consistency of play dough. If you feel like it is too crumbly add more peanut butter, if too sticky, add more powdered sugar.
    2. Form desired shapes, and place in refrigerator or freezer to chill while you melt the chocolate.
    3. Melt chocolate chips. I suggest melting them in a double boiler as it is the only way that I have tried that I have never ruined a batch. You can microwave them too, but I've had them burn occasionally. And this time I was in a hurry at first and thought I'd just melt them in a pot over really low heat, and they first bag of chocolate chips got all weird and crumbly and wouldn't melt. So melt chocolate chips completely with your desired method, but I think I'll be sticking to the double boiler.
    4. Dip peanut butter shapes in chocolate mixture, coat thoroughly, pull them out with a fork and tap on the side of the pan to dip off excess chocolate, and place on aluminum foil or waxed paper to cool. Repeat until all of the shapes are covered. Refrigerate to set up the chocolate, and then store in an airtight container in a cool place or the refrigerator.
    I made just over 30 small eggs, and I actually had a little melted chocolate left over this time, so I made chocolate covered cherries too. 

    You can also put these candies on sticks to make a candy pop. I insert a small stick or straw into the candy after the chocolate has hardened and then individually wrap these for small gifts for my kids. Great for Easter baskets, Valentine's day treats, or stocking stuffers.

    How not to melt chocolate

    Thursday, April 5, 2012

    DIY Unleavened Bread

    I thought about trying to make lamb this week, but it was really expensive...and really gross looking at the store. So I decided that I was just going to be glad that I don't have to kill a lamb anymore, or even just skin part of an already killed one, and not attempt something that was going to make me feel ill right now.

    So I just made stew with ground beef, but also made this unleavened bread to go with it. We read and talked briefly with our boys about the passover and last supper. They are still very young of course and can't understand everything, but it was one more way we are just trying to be always teaching them.

    This bread turned out quite tasty and would be a good accompaniment to soups, stews, or pasta, anytime of the year. It was delicious both plain and with butter for dinner.

    Homemade Unleavened Bread Recipe
    • 3 cups flour (I used 1½ cups whole wheat and 1½ cups white flour)
    • 1 cup or more of water
    • 1 Tbsp oil
    • 1½ tsp salt
    1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, kneading dough until well combined and smooth. Add more water as needed, but dough should remain slightly dry.
    2. Divide in 8–10 pieces, and roll into 5 inch flat circles about ½ inch thick.
    3. Place on cookie sheets, and bake in a preheated oven at 350 F for 12–20 minutes.

    Easter/Resurrection Preschool Activity: Window Coloring

    It's been a little while since we've bought out the window crayons and markers around here, and when I unpacked them in our new house, the boys we're begging to use them. So I thought it would be a good way to do a simple Easter or Resurrection activity with the boys. I simply drew three crosses and an empty tomb and then let them color them and the rest of the window while we talked about the story together. The window crayons and big drawings made this activity special, but it was a really simple and low-key way to talk about the story with my 3½-year-old and 2-year-old.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    Mandarin Mondays: 清明节 (Tomb Sweeping Day)

    I'm a little late posting a Mandarin Mondays post again, but this week all days are a little off here. And this time it is not just due to our latest blessing, but everyone's schedule in this city is changed. This is because this week is Clear Bright Festival or more commonly known as Tomb Sweeping Day (Qīngmíng Jié, 清明节). In the city, they are only officially supposed to get one day off, but many people work through the previous weekend so they have three "days off" for the holiday this week. This does make sense for those who feel the need to travel a long way for this holiday but can disrupt a lot of schedules too.

    For this traditional festival Chinese, people travel (sometimes a long distance) to return to visit their ancestors' tombs. When they are there, they quickly "sweep" or clear away leaves and overgrowth off of their relatives graves. Then they may offer food and burn "pop-up" houses or other objects to their relatives to sustain them in the next life. This is done by decorating their grave with these items. They may then say a prayer to their ancestors before lighting off fireworks (which they don't clean up) and leaving to repeat the process at their next relative's tomb. How much of these practices is done varies widely by the individual, usually related to their closeness to their ancestors and their ancestors' level of affluence. The more respected and affluent a person, the more ornate their tomb, and generally the more ornately decorated each year as well.

    I must admit that this is one holiday I am quite grateful I don't have to participate in, because my Greatest Ancestor's Tomb is empty.


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