Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine’s Day Shortbread Cookies

Hey you, Saint Valentine. Happy your day!
You sure are lucky to have such a dear holiday named after you.

My eight-year-old sister came home with 11 Valentines today. Being the nosy sister that I am, I read through all of them and let me just tell you, they were adorable! At my high school in New Zealand, there are red roses everywhere on Valentine’s Day. The school sells individual rose stalks as a fundraiser each Valentine’s Day and as the day progresses, red rose petals would start to carpet the ground. It’s a BEAUTIFUL sight.

There is no better way to show someone how much you love them than to put the time and effort into baking something for them. Forget Hallmark Valentines. This year, I opted for love notes on cookies instead.

I know that this recipe for shortbread is far from “nutritious,” (Lisa’s Nutritious Kitchen Experiments…) but I really had to share this recipe with you for these are the most scrumptious cookies that you will ever taste. This recipe is from my beloved NZ Edmonds Cookbook. Although great recipes are all over the worldwide web these days, there is something about following directions from a paper book. Ya know what I mean?

Decorating these cookies is almost as fun as eating them. Mix up some sweet colors and words, and have a blast making these look almost too pretty to eat.


250g butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup cornstarch
2 cups all purpose flour

For the royal icing:
1 egg white
½ tsp lemon juice
1 ¾ cup confectioners sugar
Food coloring


1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
2. Cream butter and confectioners sugar until light and fluffy. Sift cornstarch and flour together. Mix sifted ingredients into creamed mixture. Knead well.
3. On a lightly flour board roll out to 0.5cm thickness. Use a heart-shaped cutter to cut into hearts. Place on a greased oven try.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until pale golden.

For the icing:
In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and lemon juice together, adding the powdered sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Fill a piping bag with the icing and pipe as desired.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Sometimes, the dishes that “Chinese” restaurants here in the United States come up with amaze me. They have completely altered the dishes to cater to the palates of Americans. When non-Chinese think of Chinese food, they probably think of General Tao’s chicken, Kung pao shrimp, or moo shu pork, although these dishes have undergone drastic changes since arriving in the States. American Chinese food is deep fried and coated in thick sugary sauces unlike real Chinese food, which is light, and heavily spiced. It’s difficult to find authentic Chinese cuisine here, even in Chinatown, which is why I like to make my own Chinese food from timeless recipes handed down by my grandmother (or nai nai).

Chicken lettuce wraps is one of those Americanized Chinese dishes. From my knowledge, this dish doesn’t even exist in China. I think that the idea came from something quite similar, which is made with duck. It is the second course in Peking duck—duck meat stir fried with veggies and coated in a special sauce. While chicken cannot compete with the deep flavor of duck, it makes for a nice substitution. I mean, which local supermarket sells duck?

Chicken lettuce wraps at restaurants can total up to 1000 calories, just as an appetizer. These chicken lettuce wraps come in at approximately 250 calories. They’re also full of deliteful veggies, which will make you feel more full with less because of the fiber. The crunch of the iceberg lettuce is so captivating you won’t want to stop eating. OmNomNom!


4 tsp oil
2 stalks scallions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
2 carrots, sliced
¾ cup mushroom, diced
8 leaves iceberg lettuce

¼ cup hoisin sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce


1. Heat up a wok or large frying pan and add 2 tsp oil, half the scallions, and the garlic. Let the flavors infuse for one minute and then add the chicken.
2. Stir-fry the chicken until cooked through. Drain, and set aside.
3. Heat up the frying pan again, and add 2 tsp oil, and then the carrots and mushrooms. Stir-fry for 3 minutes or until the carrots are cooked. Add in the reserved cooked chicken, all the sauces, and salt to taste.
4. Stir-fry for another few minutes so that everything combines nicely. Add the remainder of the scallions. Take the pan off the heat.
5. Spoon the mixture into lettuce leaves and serve.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nian Gao (Mochi Cake)

Happy Chinese New Year!!!! 2011, the year of the rabbit, is a year to celebrate our lil cute bouncy fluff ball friends. People born this year, 12, 24, 36... years ago are fortunate enough to have the bunny as their idol. How lucky these people are to have a zodiac that can symbolize their inner cuddly selves. As a monkey, I just can’t wait to swing around (do ya like that one?) and take in all the New Year celebrations.

Chinese holidays are always so festive, so vibrant, and very over the top. In china, red, bomb-like fireworks are set off, everyone has a two-week break, and families gather together to watch the big New Year show held in Beijing. The festivities here in America are not quite as, well, festive, but nevertheless, I always made it a big deal. After all, it’s only one day in twelve years!

Just like with all holidays, food plays a big role in Chinese New Year. The special thing about Chinese New Year food though, is that they all have a story behind them. For example, on the part of China where I come from, we eat dumplings for breakfast on Chinese New Year. They are made the night before and ready for boiling the next morning. Eating dumplings symbolizes wealth because the dumpling is shaped like an ancient gold coin. There is a tradition to enclose a coin in one of the dumplings, and the person who gets that dumpling has good luck for the year. I haven gotten it a few times, and I have to say, the luck really helps me get through the year.

Fish is also eaten on Chinese New Year to symbolize profit (essentially meaning money). This is because the Chinese word for fish (yu) is homonymous with the word for wish or abundance. In other parts of China, people eat a sweet sticky cake known as nian gao. This cake is meant to symbolize a family “sticking” together. Nian gao is nothing like your usual soft and spongy cake. It’s actually rather dense and chewy. Traditionally, nian gao is steamed, but I think that baking serves as a great alternative. You get the crisp golden edges that don’t come with steaming.

What a day this has been: Chinese New Year, Hump Day, Stuffed Animal Wednesday, no school due to the ice storm, and my two year anniversary with America! I think that this is a great beginning to a brand new year.



1/3 cup oil
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups milk, warmed to a little hotter than a fever
1 pound (16 ounces) glutinous rice flour (the green bag with the 3 elephants on it)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2-1 cup red bean paste


1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla and milk. Stir in the rice flour and baking powder. The mixture may be lumpy so try and break up the lumps.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Drop red bean paste by scant teaspoonfuls onto the top of the cake so that they will float.
4. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cake springs back when lightly touched. It should be golden.