Three Recipes

Strawberry and Lemon Bars

I made these last week for the first time and they are delicious. The sour lemon nicely compliments the sweet strawberry jam and powdered sugar glaze.

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Ingredients 

Bars:

1 2/3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberry jam

Glaze:

6 Tbsp powdered sugar, sifted
1-2 Tbsp  lemon juice
1/4 tsp lemon zest

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F and line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

3. Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl at medium speed until light and fluffy; add  lemon zest. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture until just combined; dough will resemble a coarse meal.

4. Reserve 1 cup dough for topping; use a sheet of parchment to press remaining dough evenly into bottom of prepared baking dish.

5. Place jam in a small bowl and microwave briefly (about 10 seconds). Whisk to loosen. Use the back of a spoon to gently spread jam over the dough.

6. Toss the remaining dough with 2 teaspoons water to form large crumbs and then sprinkle over jam filling.

7. Bake until top is golden, about 20-25 minutes. Cool completely in baking dish on a rack, then cut into bars with a sharp knife.

8. While the bars are baking prepare the glaze: Whisk together powdered sugar,  lemon juice, and zest in a small bowl.

9. Drizzle glaze over bars and let set before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, or wrap well and freeze.

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Super Moist Vegan Chocolate Cake 

This is one of my go to cakes. Super easy and fast. I usually always have all the ingredients on hand and it comes out perfect every time.

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Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour
3 Tbsp cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt

5 Tbsp oil

1 Tbsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup cold water

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8×8 inch pan (or pan of your choice – I used my mini loaf pan this time).

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt.

3. Make three deep holes in mixture, add oil to one hole, vinegar to the next hole, and vanilla to the last.

4. Pour water over the top and mix well.

5. Pour into pan and bake for approx. 20-25 mins. Test using a toothpick and when it comes out clean, remove from oven and cool.

I decided to cut them into little slices and make a cream cheese frosting for on top.

IMG_4795They are the perfect little snack bites of cake.

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Almond and Apricot Bars 

I love Larabars but they aren’t available in Taiwan. Thanks to my recent purchase of a food processor I have been able to re-create a similar bar at home.

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Ingredients
1 1/2 cup almonds (or other nuts, raw or roasted but definitely unsalted)
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted (I used regular dried dates and soaked for a half hour before processing)
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup coconut
A pinch of sea salt
Directions
1. Line a baking dish with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until they are chopped (stop before they start turning into nut butter). Pour them into a large bowl.
3. Process the pitted dates, dried apricots and sea salt until forms a paste. (You may need to scrape the sides of the processor from time to time.)
4. Break up the fruit mixture and add the nuts to the food processor. Process until the chopped nuts are incorporated evenly into the fruit mixture. Return to bowl and mix in coconut.
5.  Spread the mixture into to the baking dish, and use your hands to press it into an even layer.
6. Place bars in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, remove, and use a sharp knife to cut into bars.
7. You can wrap each bar in plastic wrap or store the bars together in  tightly for individual servings.  Store them in the refrigerator or freezer.

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I put them in the freezer for a post-baby snack.

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Cooking Up A Storm

The weather in Taipei has been very strange. Last week, for most of the week, the weather was hot. On Friday it was really warm all day and then around late afternoon the sky started changing color and we could feel the storm brewing. This didn’t stop us from getting out for some exercise. We headed down to the riverfront on our bikes and once at the bike trail, Luke got off and ran while I trailed behind him on my bike.

IMG_4171He ran for what seemed like forever.

IMG_4172Thankfully I had my headphones so was able to catch up on ‘This American Life’ podcasts.

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After the run we came home and after making a batch of healthy-ish cookies, we went out for pizza. The cookies, which had oatmeal and carrots in them, turned out really well. I will definitely make them again and possibly add some walnuts next time.

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Oatmeal Raisin Carrot Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside.
3. In the bowl combine the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Using hand blender, blend approximately 2 – 3 minutes, on medium speed. Add the egg, and mix until fully incorporated. At this point you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the vanilla.
4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add to the butter and egg mixture, and mix until just combined.
5. Strain the water from the raisins, ensuring that you remove most of it. Add the carrots, rolled oats, and raisins dough and stir.
6. Using a  melon-baller or small spoon, scoop each cookie and place it on an ungreased baking sheet 4 inches apart. Flatten each cookie slightly with a spoon. Place the baking sheet into the oven on the middle rack and bake for 10 – 12 minutes.  Cool for 15 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. Cookies can be stored in the fridge or the freezer.

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Our Saturday turned out to be really busy filled with a few social engagements. So busy that we didn’t really get to have a proper dinner. So Sunday we both woke up pretty hungry. I was going to make pancakes but then I started thinking about scones and so decided to make them instead. Served with fruit and hard-boiled eggs and of course coffee.

I used an old recipe of mine: Cinnamon Sugar Scones

IMG_4200I rolled them out and baked them on my Silpat, (which I got for Christmas from my parents and absolutely love) and they turned out beautifully.

IMG_4202Sunday afternoon I went out for some bread and stopped in a department store close by. I was browsing in the kitchen appliance section when I noticed they were having a big sale on Kitchen Aid appliances. I have had my eye on a 3.5 cup Kitchen Aid food processor for a long time and finally it was at a price I could happily justify!

I tried it out as soon as I got home. First I used it to make dinner – chopping first an onion, then carrots, then peanuts, then coriander for my chicken lettuce wraps. And after dinner I used it to make us dessert. A recipe I have long been itching to try – Banana Soft Serve.

IMG_4228Basically you chop up a few frozen bananas, throw them in the food processor, and puree for 3-5 mins. Done.

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I went a step further and melted some chocolate and poured over top. Words cannot explain how delicious and how much like ice cream this simple concoction tastes.

IMG_4231And finally my belly at 32 weeks.

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For a bit of fun, here is my belly at 17 weeks. Incredible!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

We’ve been on a chocolate kick for the last few weeks. It all started when I bought a Costco-sized container of cocoa powder. Now every baked good I set out to make ends up having a chocolate component. For example, we’ve been munching our way through chocolate cupcakes, chocolate Mexican wedding cookies, and fudge.

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But perhaps a standout recipe out of all the things I’ve made were these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (like Reese’s but healthier)

Bottom layer ingredients:

-2 TBS melted coconut oil

-4 TBS smooth peanut butter

Bottom layer directions:

Stir coconut oil and peanut butter until smooth. Set 10 mini muffin paper liners onto a tray or plate and pour 1 Tablespoon of the mixture into each liner. Place in freezer on flat surface. Freeze for at least 1 hour.

Top layer ingredients:

-2 TBS melted coconut oil

-4 TBS smooth peanut butter

-1/4 cup cocoa powder

-1 tsp. stevia (or 1 TBS sugar)

Top layer directions:

Stir ingredients together until smooth. Remove the bottom layer from freezer and pour 1 Tablespoon of the chocolate mixture into each liner on top of the peanut butter. Place back into freezer for at least 20 minutes and then enjoy.

If you don’t eat them all at once you can store the remaining cups in the freezer.

Pumpkin Bread for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving isn’t really a thing here in Taiwan so we’re not doing much to mark it this year. I did, however, buy some smoked turkey lunchmeat which we’ve been having on sandwiches and I also bought a giant can of Libby’s pureed pumpkin which I have been slowly working through. The first thing I made with the pumpkin was a loaf of pumpkin bread which turned out to be really good. A bonus is that it is made with olive oil, so healthy-ish.

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread (from Fine Cooking, Oct/Nov 2011 issue)

Ingredients

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup honey

2 TBS unsalted pumpkin seeds

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, oil, and honey until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir.

2. Pour batter into loaf pan and sprinkle top with pumpkin seeds.

3. Bake for 40-45 mins. If it looks as though the top is browning too quickly, place a piece of aluminum foil over it and continue baking until done.

4. Cool and enjoy.

(Fern sat and watched from her favorite spot as I baked this).

Apart from this bread, we will also be enjoying a harvest of Taiwan fruits today.

I have a big bowl of passion fruits to get through.

Shouldn’t be too hard as I have been averaging at least 5 a day! Our baby is going to either come out with an allergy to or a love for passionfruit!

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Seasonal Vegetable Quiche

For years I have only ever eaten egg whites. When I found out I was pregnant and started reading about pregnancy diet and I soon realized that whites only just weren’t going to cut it. Egg yolks are filled with so many awesome nutrients that are good for the baby. So slowly I started incorporating yolks back in my diet. Now I eat eggs scrambled, fried, and hard-boiled. But hand-down one of my favorite ways to eat eggs is in a quiche. It’s a great dish as you can serve it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I recently made one for dinner and it was so good I thought I would share the recipe.

Seasonal Vegetable Quiche

Ingredients

-Puff pastry, thawed (enough to cover whatever baking dish you are using)

-1/2 onion, chopped into small pieces

-1 cup of chopped veggies (whatever is in season, I used corn and green beans)

-5 eggs, lightly beaten

-1/4 cup milk

-1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (cheddar is good to if you have it)

-Olive oil

-Salt and pepper

Directions

-Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

-Lightly spray baking dish with canola oil (quiche or pie dishes work best)

-Line dish with puff pastry and bake for 10-15 mins

-Meanwhile, heat frying pan on stove, saute onions in a few dollops of olive oil and then add your other veggies. Cook until tender.

-Crack eggs into a bowl and lightly beat. Add milk, sautéed veggies to eggs and then cheese. Stir to combine and then sprinkle salt and pepper over mixture.

-Once quiche crust has been pre-baked, remove from oven, pour egg and veggie mix into crust and place in oven.

-Bake approx. 20-25 minutes, or until firm.

Enjoy!

A Foodie Week

I had a very food-oriented week. It was one of those weeks where I felt like very specific things for each meal. It started with a craving for a really fresh, fully loaded salad on Monday.

There is a new place located not far from where we live called ‘Dressed’ it’s a make your own salad/wrap/panini place. I have been dying to try it out. So when my craving hit, that’s exactly where I knew I had to go. It was great. The menu has a bunch of really good salad combos but I decided to make my own. It took me at least ten minutes to decide on the ingredients because there were so many.

In the end I went for romaine with chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted beets, carrots, fresh mozzarella with an aged balsamic dressing.

It was pretty expensive coming in at around $280 NTD (an average lunch in Taipei should typically cost you around $75-$100 NTD) but it was oh-so worth it.

Tuesday the weather turned slightly cooler so I had a hankering for a big bowl of soup. I had just bought some fresh ears of corn and remembered my sister, Natalie, telling me about a really good corn chowder she recently made. So I asked her for the recipe and got busy in the kitchen. It was kind of labor intensive but the result was delicious and I would make it all over again in a heartbeat.

The recipe can be found here: Whole Living Corn Chowder

This soup lasted us a few nights and it kept getting better and better. Tonight it was time to cook again. I was really feeling like tofu and veggies. I toyed with the idea of making a stir-fry but I didn’t feel much like rice. I remembered that I recently bought some puff pastry and thought it might be nice to use for dinner as the carb. I did some googling and came up with a Tofu and Veggie Pot Pie.

I had to patchwork the puff pastry a bit as I didn’t defrost quite enough for the bottom and top. But it all worked out and tasted awesome.

(I smothered mine in ketchup after this pic was taken.)

In between meals this week I have also had my favorite snacks. A girl in my Chinese class recently went back home to see her folks in Japan and brought these back.

I had forgotten how awesome these little sticks of fun are!

I also has a boatload of pecans lying around in the pantry that I have been wanting to turn into a pecan pie but never quite seem to have the motivation to make a full on pie (it’s always making the crust that puts me off). So I thought a good (and probably healthier alternative) would be to candy them. I followed this recipe from Allrecipes: Sugar-Coated Pecans

I made a huge jar of them and by the second day the above was all we had left.

And finally, if you aren’t hungry yet, I made my Vegan Banana Bread and spruced it up by adding some chocolate chips.

I had a very happy husband this week.

Now it’s time for us to hit the gym.

Righting Wrongs in the Kitchen

I made a big home cooked dinner on Saturday night and wanted to make something nice and light for dessert. So I decided chocolate meringues would be the perfect treat. I whipped the egg whites perfectly, added the other ingredients, and carefully placed them on the baking sheet and into the oven to bake for 20 minutes. I peeked into the oven after 15 minutes to see how they were progressing only to feel that the oven was way too hot. I checked the thermostat and sure enough it was set to 250 C rather than 150 C. I took one look at the meringues and knew they were beyond saving. Major kitchen fail.

You’ll notice one missing. Luke was a good sport and tried one but the look on his face after the first bite was telling. They were awful.

I was pretty disappointed about the whole affair so decided to wake up early the next morning and give my baking ability a self-esteem boost by making something and having it turn out as intended. I thought nothing better than some delicious scones. They turned out beautifully and certainly made me feel better about my disaster the night before.

Cinnamon Sugar Scones

Ingredients

– 2 cups flour

– 2 teaspoons baking powder

– 2 teaspoons baking soda

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1/2 cup butter

– 1 egg, separated

– 3 tablespoons honey

– 1/3 cup buttermilk (I never have buttermilk so always use a substitute of regular milk with an added a splash of vinegar)

Cinnamon topping:

– 1 tablespoon sugar

– 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the glaze:

– 1 cup powdered sugar

– milk

– vanilla

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C).

1. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter and mix until crumbly.

2. In another bowl, mix the egg yolk with the honey and buttermilk, until well blended.

3. Add wet mixture to dry mixture. Stir until combined.

4. On a floured surface turn out dough and roll into a ball.

5. Place ball on a baking sheet covered in baking paper and shape ball into an 8-inch circle and cut into eight even slices.

6. Lightly beat egg white with a fork and then brush dough with the white.

7. Make cinnamon topping by combining cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle over dough.

8. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

They should come out looking like this:

The final step is to make the glaze and drizzle over the hot scones. To make the glaze combine powdered sugar, a dash of milk, and a dash of vanilla. Mix well and then drizzle.

These were delicious and it did not take us long to eat the whole batch!

Freezable Vegetarian Burritos

I knew that I wouldn’t be very mobile after my surgery and that my ability to do housework and cooking would be limited. So before my surgery I cleaned the house and put in a big effort in the kitchen – making cookies and dinners to last us a few days. For dinner, I wanted something that could be easily pulled out of the freezer and popped in the microwave. So I ended up making vegetarian burritos. There are so many different recipes on the internet. I looked at a few, then looked in my cupboards, and came up with my own variation. They turned out perfectly and are so easy to make.

Freezable Vegetarian Burritos

– 6-8 whole wheat tortillas

– 1 can vegetarian fat-free refried beans (you could also use black beans or pinto beans)

-1 cup cooked brown rice

– jalapeno peppers (optional)

– 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used monterey jack but cheddar would be good too)

Directions

1. Lay the tortillas out on a flat surface and spread equal amount of the ingredients into each tortilla in the following order: beans, rice, jalapeno peppers (1 or 2 depending on how spicy you like it), cheese.

2. Roll up each burrito by tucking in the edges and folding over tightly.

3. Wrap each in plastic wrap and place into a plastic bag. Seal and place into freezer

To  heat and eat:

Oven method

-Pre-heat oven to 350 F

-Remove plastic wrap and cook for about 15 minutes or until done.

Microwave

-Remove plastic wrap and microwave for 3-5 mins

Happy Birthday Little Sister!

Yesterday was Natalie’s birthday.

It has been a big year for her as she had a major operation on her ankle. The operation went well and for the last few months she’s been recovering.

To celebrate Natalie’s birthday I decided to make a little treat to enjoy in her honor. I woke up early and paid a visit to our local traditional market.

Buried amongst the other goodies you will see a large stalk of fresh young ginger. I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at homemade crystallized (or candied) ginger for quite some time. I know Natalie loves ginger as much as I do so it was the perfect birthday recipe to make for her.

I followed Alton Brown’s recipe found here and copied below. It turned out perfectly. Next time I come back to Ohio I’ll be sure to bring a batch with me for you, Nat.

Candied Ginger

Ingredients

Nonstick spray

1 pound fresh ginger root

5 cups water

Approximately 1 pound sugar

Directions

1. Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a sheet pan lined with parchment.

2. Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices using a mandoline (or a sharp knife).

3. Place into a 4-quart saucepan with the water and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the ginger is tender.

4. Transfer the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar.

5. Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes.

6. Transfer the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and spread to separate the individual pieces.

7. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

I saved all of the liquid the ginger was cooked in and and have been adding it to my green tea. It’s delicious.

I know Goose and Fern really wanted to wish Natalie a Happy Birthday but they were too sleepy  – I couldn’t wake them up!

Happy Birthday Nat. We hope you had a wonderful day!

Love, Mel, Luke, Goose and Fern

Lovely Lemons

Lemons are one of my favorite fruits. I like lemons in water, with green tea, squeezed over a big salad, and my favorite – baked with a piece of fish.

Recently I have been experimenting with using lemons in baking. Over the weekend I trialled a lemon cookie recipe and they turned out to be scrumptious so I thought I would share it.

Lovely Lemon Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds (I threw them in my blender)
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar and egg until well blended. Add lemon juice and peel.
  3. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Add almonds.
  4. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour.
  5. Roll into 1-in. balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned (cookies will not brown on top).
  7. Remove immediately and transfer cookies to wire racks; cool for 5 minutes
  8. Roll in powdered sugar and enjoy!