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Chinese Walnut Cookies 核桃酥(Paleo, Gluten Free)

IMG_3058 (640x427)I thought I have posted these before but I actually have not! Even before we were married, hubby absolutely loves Chinese walnut cookies or 核桃酥. They are buttery, short and melt in your mouth. They are the must have if you visit a bakery in hong kong. IMG_3055 (640x427)

I have attempted a few “traditional” recipes in the past, but none was even close to what we remember travelling through hong kong and even back home in Malaysia and Singapore. Then randomly, I experimented with walnuts and coconut sugar- BLAM! This was close. I love that these has a melt in your mouth texture, and with a strong walnut taste. They are not as short as the traditional ones, but as I have removed refined ingredients such as icing sugar and butter, I think I can compromise on that. Top it with a few walnuts, and I think it is a good enough cookie to serve for next year Chinese New Year celebration!IMG_3054 (640x427)

 

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Travelling with a Toddler + Chinese Almond Cookies (Paleo, Gluten Free)

Chinese Almond CookiesDuring my travels, what I missed most was having the familiarity of my kitchen and ingredients that I know can sit well with our values, principles and food philosophy. I do believe in diversity and regardless of where we are at, our body needs a break from the usual routine. Food included.IMG_1165

I was really impressed with how Asher was with food. He ate pretty much anything and embraced the local food delights. From a typical breakfast of Indian Thosai, to different kuehs -he tried it all. He was a little hit and miss with durian. He didn’t love it but neither did he dislike it. I would just have to keep introducing it to him. IMG_0660

Another thing that we were most proud about was how well he behaved on the plane. We did not need to use gadgets-though we brought it and prepared it in advanced. We put together a goody bag of new puzzles, books and drawing materials. We had small little toys still wrapped up for him to open up on the plane. The funny thing was, it was the safety card at our seat that generated the most interest. He was literally studying it on each flight. Otherwise, snacks, conversation about the plane, reading, toys and nap time kept us sane. IMG_0871

We had quite a lot of misses on the toileting side of things on the plane- to be expected. We brought heaps of clothing but on the way back, we conceded defeat and put him in training pants to reduce the pressure on him and us. Lo behold, he went to the loo on the plane when we stopped asking, and kept his pants dry mostly. He asked for the toilet when we landed and that was sufficient till we got home.I don’t blame him. I’m not a fan of air plane loos myself!IMG_0682

Among the few things that Asher pick up during the trip were

  1. Eating ice cream
  2. He tried some juice
  3. Local fruits like Jambu Air, Jackfruit and Dragon fruit
  4. Smother in love from his grandparents
  5. Sharing food! 
  6. Some cookies and chocolate IMG_0572

Thankfully, I have always kept an open mind that Asher will experience the above some time in his life time. Besides, what’s life without chocolate, cookies and ice cream? Now back at home, Asher continued to eat his usual foods without much complains but was excited about some custard and instant blue berry ice cream (Cue: frozen bananas and blueberries). IMG_3044 (640x427)

I created these cookies as an adaptation of the Chinese Almond Cookies that my family loved for many years. The original recipe was almond meal and icing sugar. This version uses honey. The glaze is what made the yellow of the cookie stands out. My grandmother loved this and would have asked me to make it over and over again. If I could turn that time, I would gladly make them daily…just for her..
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White and Black Sesame Cookies (Gluten Free, Clean Eating, Paleo) + Chinese Traditions

IMG_3021 (640x427)Every year I say that I will endeavour to write and note recipes BEFORE Chinese New Year. It doesn’t seem to happen these days. Nevertheless, if you are following my Instagram, you would have noticed that despite my lateness- it didn’t mean that I have stopped baking cookies. I did! I just didn’t document it in time!IMG_3016 (640x427)

This year, I felt the immense sense of lost as we approach my grandmother’s 2nd year death anniversary. It is also the 2nd year we are celebrating CNY without her. As we were grieving last year, we hardly thought or did any celebrations. This year though, we attempted to do some spring cleaning, filled our cookie jars with some clean cookies and even attended a lunch with friends. 

As Asher grows, I am reminded by how far removed he is from family and friends. The slight fear that culturally, his knowledge will be even more diluted than ours. While we can, we decided that there will be a few things we would do to at least let him know his roots and where his ancestry is from.

  • We attempt to teach him CNY songs and wishes. Still a little early but he did say a sentence or two!
  • My parents forwarded some lion dance puppets
  • We followed some traditions like having tossed salad, saying greetings to friends and families, and the all important red packets
  • We connected to extended family members via face time.
  • We dressed him up in red and in new clothes. 
  • We took Asher for a hair cut

In time to come we will visit our family and friends in the festive season. 

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This was one of the cookies I created for CNY. Hope you will enjoy them.

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Fig and Mango Agar Agar Jelly (Paleo, Gluten free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar free)

IMG_1611 (427x640)Since I started working, I felt that my world has gotten smaller. I’m getting good at saying no, and scheduling less on weekends. I’m better at receiving help and having a blind eye when household chores doesn’t get done as quickly as what I would like. Meals have become simpler. Most weeks, I would have at least 1 meal that I cook a double batch which would be the next day’s dinner as well. 

I’m not as good in replying messages or being on top of catching up with friends. Most of our friends are in a similar situation, where time is so precious that rest/activities/children get prioritised above meet ups. Sometimes I feel bad, but then realised that when it comes to friendships, it’s a joint responsibility between us. The other thing I realised is that not meeting/connecting over messages/coffees/meals isn’t necessary a bad thing. When friends meet, we fall back into the same pattern. The same keenness to catch up. The genuineness in wanting to know how things are going with work, relationships, health and life. It may have been 3 months since we spoke but that gap does not seem to matter as much anymore. Fig and Mango Coconut Jelly

Friendships and parenthood. It’s a strange combination. I’m of an opinion that just because I’m a parent does not mean I do not need friends. Also, I don’t just need parent friends. I need grown up friends who will talk to me about other things than looking kids too. Having said that, I appreciate every parent friend I have. They always puts things into perspective for me. IMG_1610 (640x427)

I made these pretty little jellies twice. Once was for a meet up with some friends over roast meats and chats. The other, was for family. Both times, I enjoyed making them. I love the pretty colours. The purple from the fig, and yellow from the orange. Because I used coconut cream, I felt that I need not add much sweetness since the fruit gave it a little touch of sweetness too. Bite size cuteness. I hope you like this as much as I do!

 

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Pork Jerky/Bak Kwa

My only preparation for CNY this year. I like to think that I have grand plans every year. This year, I confess that it creeped up on me and I found myself short of time to do much.

This has always been one of my favourite snack on CNY- I love the sweet and savoury aspect of it, the meaty texture, the crisp of the slightly charred bits. At every home visit, people would sometimes exchanged stories about how long they queue up to purchase the best bak kwa (My hubby calls it Long Yok). I think Bak Kwa is in hokkien dialect and Long Yok is cantonese.

I bookmarked a few recipes to reference to. My favourite is still Sonia’s. I reduced the sugar to 50 grams and think the sweetness is just right. However, I think the meat wasn’t pressed thinly enough. While it did have a crisp texture, I felt that it was too thick. Nevertheless, we loved it!

Not without a mini incident…

I was chatting with my grandma on the phone while it was it the oven. I set it to high on grill (which is around 250C), took it out to turn it around and my baking paper caught fire. Lucky for me, hubby was there to save the day, but my grandma found it amusing. I could literally feel her glare on me- just like the first time I cooked in her kitchen. So another lesson learned… concentrate when doing something new!

Using my chopsticks, marinating the meat was easy. Turning it round and round, making sure the meat was all gluey. Thanks to Sonia’s pictures, I knew what to look out for. That’s the reason why I love blogging. It allowed me to learn more about my own culture, food that I grew up loving- I never wish to forget my roots.

And hopefully, this compensate for my lack of preparation (which is what a good Chinese wife should do) for CNY.

Pork Jerky/Bak Kwa
480 grams of pork mince
50 grams of sugar
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/2 tsp of fish sauce
1/2 tsp of chinese wine
1 tablespoon of dark caramel sauce
1/4 tsp of 5 spice powder
1/4 tsp of salt
2 tablespoon of honey

Marinate meat with all ingredients with a pair of chopsticks. Turning it till it turns gluey. Place in fridge for a few hours (mine was around 4 hours).

Pre heat oven to 160C. Prepare baking tray- Sonia didn’t use any baking paper. I did. Press meat into tray as thinly as possible. Bake for 15-20 mins. Remove from oven.

Change oven function to grill high or 240C. Snip meat by using a scissors, knife or pizza cutter into pieces. Place it back under the grill. I find that it is charred within 3-4 mins. Turn pieces and place in oven again.

Cool and eat (if you can wait that long).

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Walnut Red Bean Cookies

I know. Here am I still blogging about what I did for Christmas (and the left overs) and Chinese New Year is just around the corner. Again, this year, we are celebrating it in Perth with Hubby’s extended family members and it is just NOT the same without the festive feel around us.

While many bloggers have already started blogging about their CNY bakes, I have only just began. This recipe comes from Patisie Chong, a well known cook back in Singapore/Malaysia. I love how unique some of her cookies are and this one is no different.

Bite into one, and you will find red bean paste. You can also use lotus paste but I couldn’t find any in our local stores. Probably because it isn’t moon cake festive. However, I think red bean suits CNY more yeah?

Walnut Red Bean Cookies (Makes around 10)
200 grams plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
130 grams margarine
70 grams icing sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk

Decoration
60 grams of walnuts
1 egg yolk whisked

Filling
80 grams of lotus seed paste

Preheat oven to 180C and lined a baking tray.

Knead all ingredients (other than decoration and filling) till it become soft dough.
Measure filling into 8 grams balls. Wrap dough around it. Brush with yolk and decorate with a small piece of walnut. Bake for around 20 minutes.

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!! May the Dragon Year bring you closer to your wishes!! 

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Zhai Choy (Vegetarian Vegetables)

The name sounds ironic. It is a direct translation from a well love dish that I grew up with. Keeping with my vegetarian theme, I cooked this in celebration of CNY for our guest. Once again, without the actual recipe, I went with the guidelines of what I recall grandma doing in the kitchen when I was growing up. She would made this every year-waking up very early in the morning on the first day of CNY so that our whole extended family can enjoy this for lunch.

Top with her super hot chili-one WILL find it hard to forget the taste of this.

For me-it was a taste of home. 



Zhai Choy (Vegetarian Vegetables) 

1 small bunch of mung bean noodles- soaked and drained
1 small packet of fah cho-soaked 
1 can of button/straw mushrooms
1 small bunch of chinese cabbage-shredded
around 10 shitake mushrooms dehydrated and sliced

Seasoning
2-3 tablespoon of light soy
1 tablespoon of dark soy
1/2 cap full of chinese cooking wine
lots of pepper.
pinch of salt
(traditonally, grandma will also add fermented beancurd but I couldnt find it in time and left it out)

Fry everything together and add seasoning. Dish up and serve hot with rice! =)

Baked Nien Gao

So this is an awfully late post- given that CNY was over more than one month ago! To add to the lateness, I spotted this recipe in 2008 by Little Corner. Two years later, I finally digged out the recipe that I printed and saved in my folder. It was one recipe that I kicked myself for not trying earlier- because it is dead easy and certainly a good talking point when we bought it to celebratory gatherings.

One batch certainly yields enough for heaps and heaps of people. I split mine into two serves and brought it to TWO gatherings. Talk about saving time and effort huh? ;p

My mother-in-law asked me over the phone what did I bring to one of our family gatherings (My father in law’s cousins). I proudly said “Nien Gao!” which she replied “now that is an interesting dish to bring!” Phew.. I thought I nearly failed the “daughter in law test” given that we regretfully did not manage to return to Malaysia for our first CNY as a married couple. In fact, I felt like I have failed the “best granddaughter” test too when I had to tell my grandmother the same thing in Singapore. Though they understand, one cannot deny the pain that I felt when I heard the disappointment in our parents and grandmother’s voices.

So hopefully we will be back next year!

ps- recipe from Lin.

Almond Cookies

I can’t can’t can’t get enough of these cookies. They must be one of the easiest but yet so delicious cookies to make. I have previously posted them about it here. Looking back though, I didn’t feel that I have given it enough credit so here am I doing this again!

Since baking these cookies, friends and family members have been requesting for the recipe. They are so powerful that a friend of mine who has never done any baking in her life decided to give it a go. (She said she felt embarrassed about asking me to bake for her every week). I can see why though, these have a melt in your mouth texture and the crunch of almonds is irresistible.

I have tried using canola oil as I couldn’t locate corn oil… and others have attempted it using olive oil. One observation I have is that the texture depends alot on the humidity of your kitchen and country. In summer, I have to add a little milk or oil as it tends to be drier. Play it by ear is the best way I think!

This is from my favourite nonya cook book of all times by Patrica Lee. 

Almond Cookies 

250grams of silvered almonds
450 grams of plain flour
225 grams of icing sugar
260 grams of peanut oil
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Egg wash- 1 egg yolk.

Preheat oven to 150C. Toast almonds. Reserve 50grams for garnishing.

In a mixing bowl, mix plain flour, icing sugar, baking powder, soda and salt together. Add in corn oil and almonds. Knead to make dough.

Shape dough and brush with egg wash. Press some reserved almonds on it. Bake for 20-25 minutes till brown.

Happy Tiger Year!

Gong Xi Fai Cai!

Happy Chinese New Year everyone! What a lovely year it was and now we have approached the Tiger year.

I kept this recipe for more than 2 years now. Finally this year, a chance to try it out! Golden Pineapple Tarts.

Sure enough, it lives up to its name of being hard work. Yet every second was worth it. The night before, I cooked the pineapple filling. Soon after, the kitchen was filled with lovely scents of cinnamon and star anise.

On Friday, I quickly tapped away on my computer, completing all my paperwork before 2.30pm! SCORE! Time go home and make the dough.

Truth be told, the dough wasn’t difficult to make. It was, however, encasing the pineapple filling into the dough that was tricky. Mine started out huge, then it became slightly more manageable.

Finally, an unglam picture of the hubby. It was the moment of truth when he bite into it.

He was kind and finished every bite of it. I found the dough/short bread to be too thick and wish I could have practice more to put more filling in it. Having said that, we both agreed that the filling was lovely and wasn’t as sweet as commercially bought ones.
Thanks to the inspirations of Rasa Malaysia and Fresh from the Oven. It is the generosity of such great food bloggers who shared their secrets and kitchen knowledge that allow a novice like me to learn so much.

Here is wishing everyone a Prosperous New Year filled with happiness and joy. Not forgetting the most important one GOOD HEALTH!

HUAT AH!