St. Patrick’s Day Snack ~ Shamrock Whole-Wheat Crackers with Parsley

I’m not Irish, but St. Patrick’s Day is still one of my favorite holidays! I always try to make something fun in the kitchen to celebrate. This year I made a couple of batches of these shamrock-shaped crackers with flecks of parsley for a little added color. (Gotta have a little green on this holiday!) I served mine with an Irish cheddar and Guinness spread to make this snack even more Irish.

Shamrock Whole-Wheat Crackers with Parsley

1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling the tops of the crackers

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 tablespoons light olive oil

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor, process the flours, parsley, salt, and baking powder to ensure the parsley is very fine. Add the olive oil and water, and pulse until combined. Take the dough out of the processor, and knead a couple of times with your hands until it becomes a cohesive ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for at least 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 3 portions. Lightly dust a clean work surface and a rolling pin with all-purpose flour. Roll out one portion of the dough until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Dust with a little extra flour if it sticks as you roll it. Cut out the crackers into desired shapes. (I used a cookie cutter in the shape of a shamrock for my crackers.) Repeat with the remaining two portions of dough.

Place the crackers on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt on top. Dock the top of the crackers with a fork to ensure they don’t rise and bubble very much as they bake. Bake each tray individually for about 12 minutes, turning once, until the crackers are crisp and lightly golden.

PS. After I took my photos for this blog entry, hubby said the cheese spread was also something delicious I should blog about! So here’s a bonus recipe. 🙂

Irish Cheddar and Guinness Spread

4 ounces sharp Irish cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons Guinness stout

Add all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Process a few minutes, until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times to make sure everything is well incorporated.

Korean Culinary Adventure! ~ Spicy Shrimp and Winter Squash Canapés on Sesame Crackers

My hubby and I visited a Korean restaurant earlier this winter, which sparked my interest in this delicious cuisine! Coincidentally, the Winter Olympics are now in South Korea, so this culinary adventure was well timed! I have made many visits to the Korean grocery store and cooked many traditional recipes this winter to explore the wide range of dishes. We’ve tried everything from japchae to tteokbokki to kalguksu to bibimbap to name a few. And I still have many many other dishes on my wish list that I want to try! A lot of the dishes are hearty and comforting (and spicy!!), so they are the perfect way to liven up our wet and gray winter days here in Seattle.

These little bite-sized appetizers were inspired by this Korean culinary adventure. I made sesame crackers as a base, since sesame seeds and/or oil are used in many traditional recipes I’ve tried. I made a winter squash purée as a seasonal sweet center to contrast with the salty cracker and the spicy shrimp. Then I topped it with shrimp coated in gochujang (Korean spicy pepper paste), sesame oil, and soy sauce. I also added a little gochugaru (Korean spicy pepper flakes) to kick up the heat a little more.

Spicy Shrimp and Winter Squash Canapés on Sesame Crackers

Makes about 25 canapés

For the crackers:

1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the tops of the crackers

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 tablespoons light olive oil

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water

For the squash:

1 butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into approximately 3-inch chunks.

Approximately 1 tablespoon high-heat cooking oil, such as rice bran oil

Salt to taste

Water for thinning the purée

For the shrimp:

2 tablespoons gochujang

2 tablespoons warm water

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Gochugaru to taste, optional, (if you like it extra spicy!)

Approximately 2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil, such as rice bran oil

Approximately 1/2 pound small raw shrimp (I used 70-90), peeled and deveined

For garnish:

The green portion of approximately 4 green onions, cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces, sliced into very thin strips

For the crackers:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, seeds, salt, and baking powder. Add the olive oil and water, and stir until combined. Knead the dough until it becomes a cohesive ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for at least 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 3 portions. One portion at a time, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/8-inch. Cut out crackers in desired shapes, or make squares with a pizza wheel. I used a biscuit cutter that was about 2-inches wide.

Place the crackers on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with a little salt on top. Prick the top of the crackers with a fork to ensure they don’t rise and bubble very much as they bake. Bake each tray individually for about 12 minutes, turning once, until the crackers are crisp and lightly golden.

Set the crackers aside as you work on the squash and shrimp.

For the squash:

Increase your oven temperature to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the pieces of squash with oil and salt until coated. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning once, until soft and slightly caramelized.

In the bowl of a food processor, purée the roasted squash. Add a little water if it is too thick. (It should be a consistency that allows you to pipe the purée.) Season with more salt to taste if needed.

Cool the squash purée to room temperature.

Scoop the squash into a piping bag with a large round tip.

Set aside.

For the shrimp:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the gochujang, water, sesame oil, and soy sauce until smooth. Add a pinch of gochugaru if you would like the sauce to be spicier.

Preheat the high-heat cooking oil in a medium sauté pan until shimmering. Add the shrimp, and sauté on both sides until just cooked through. Toss the shrimp in the bowl with the gochujang mixture until well coated.

To assemble:

Pipe a small dollop of squash onto the crackers. Top with 2 shrimp. Top the shrimp with the green onion. Serve immediately.

PS. This appetizer is good warm, room temperature, or cold, so you can make all of the components ahead of time. If you are not assembling the appetizers right away, store the crackers in an airtight container, and refrigerate the squash and the shrimp.

Winter Wonderland ~ Snowflake Wonton Crackers

Remember the paper snowflakes you used to make as a kid? Fold up a piece of paper and cut slits into it. When you open it up again, you end up with a beautiful snowflake! That is the general idea behind these crackers. Let your inner child come out to play this winter with this fun little baking project. 🙂 Bonus: It will warm up your kitchen!

Snowflake Wonton Crackers

Round wonton wrappers

High heat cooking spray

Salt to taste

Grated Parmesan, optional

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Fold each wonton wrapper in half, and then in half again. With a sharp pair of kitchen scissors, cut little slits into the sides of the wrapper. Open the wrapper so it lays flat again. Spray the wrapper with a light coating of cooking spray and gently rub the oil evenly over the surface with your finger. Season with a sprinkling of salt and Parmesan if you would like. Repeat with as many crackers as you desire.

Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until the wonton wrappers are golden brown and crunchy.

 

Happy New Year! ~ Pimento Cheese Balls

We closed 2017 and rang in 2018 with one of our favorite recipes from the past year. 🙂 I made my pimento cheese into individual portions, so everyone could easily grab one onto their plate. I also dressed them up for the party with a few adorable New Year flags from IsiDesigns!

Pimento Cheese Balls

Makes about 12 cheese balls

Approximately 2 cups sliced almonds

2 ounces extra sharp cheddar, coarsely grated

1/2 cup reduced-fat cream cheese

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

2 tablespoons jarred pimentos, drained and squeezed to remove excess liquid

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Pinch of cayenne

Chop the almonds coarsely. Set them aside in a shallow bowl.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the remaining ingredients. Process until smooth.

Transfer the cheese to an airtight storage container, and refrigerate overnight.

After the cheese is chilled, scoop it into 1 tablespoon portions. Roll the chilled cheese in your hands to make a ball. Roll the ball in the almonds until evenly coated. Repeat with the remaining portions of cheese.

 

A Tropical Treat for Santa ~ Macadamia Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoy these tropical Christmas cookies as much as we did. 🙂 If you use coconut oil instead of butter, they make your whole house smell like a tropical oasis as they bake. Ahh…

Macadamia Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup coconut oil or butter, room temperature

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugars and the oil or butter, whichever you are using, until well combined. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well incorporated.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and beat until just combined.

Add the nuts and the chocolate. Mix them into the dough by hand with a spatula.

For each cookie, scoop out 1 tablespoon of dough and roll between your hands to form a dough ball. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheets, pressing down slightly to make them discs. Make sure to give them about an inch and a half to spread while baking.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until cooked through, rotating the pans halfway through to ensure even baking.

Happy Halloween ~ Roasted Pumpkin Soup

There’s nothing more comforting than a thick pumpkin soup on an autumn day. This soup can be a sophisticated first course if you serve it with a dollop of crème fraiche, balsamic vinegar, and some chives on top. Or you can play with your food and make it a whimsical Halloween dish! I think this season, more than any other time of the year, is the time to have fun in the kitchen. 🙂 I dressed up my roasted pumpkin soup for Halloween with a sour cream spider web and a witch’s broom made of a pretzel, a thin slice of Swiss cheese, and a chive.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

1 medium sugar pie pumpkin, cut in half and seeded

1 medium onion, cut into approximately 1-inch pieces

3 carrots, peeled, and cut into approximately 1-inch pieces

3 whole garlic cloves, skin removed

Approximately 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or more for a thinner soup)

Pinch of cayenne

Sour cream, thinned with a little water

Roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss all of the vegetables in olive oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them.

Roast until the vegetables are softened and starting to caramelize, tossing halfway through, approximately 45 minutes.

Remove the pumpkin flesh from the skin and discard the skin. Add all of the roasted vegetables to a soup pot. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer.

In a blender, purée the soup in two batches. Strain. Return to the pot to simmer. If you would like a thinner soup, add more stock at this point.

Add salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of cayenne.

For the spider web garnish, scoop sour cream mixed with a little water into a piping bag fitted with a small piping tip. Pipe a swirl on top of each bowl of soup. With a wooden skewer, drag lines from the center to the outside of the bowl to make the web shape. Add a few roasted pumpkin seeds on top as the finishing touch.

Pumpkin Season! ~ Pimento Cheese Pumpkins

Every October I love to try a bunch of different pumpkin recipes, both savory and sweet. Since pumpkins are not only delicious but also so festive, I even love to make dishes that look like pumpkins, whether or not they have any actual pumpkin in the recipe. This pimento cheese ball is one of those recipes. It is dressed up in a pumpkin costume for the season! 😉

Pimento cheese is a Southern classic, which you can serve with crackers, crudités, or bread. For my version, I made wonton crackers in different autumn shapes. The super simple recipe for the crackers can be found here.

Pimento Cheese Pumpkins

Makes 2 small cheese balls

Approximately 2 cups cheddar cheese crackers (I used Annie’s Cheddar Squares)

2 ounces extra sharp cheddar, coarsely grated

1/2 cup reduced-fat cream cheese

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

2 tablespoons jarred pimentos, drained and squeezed of excess liquid

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Pinch of cayenne

2 2-inch long pretzel sticks.

Place the crackers in a gallon-sized zip-top bag. Smash the crackers with a rolling pin until the crumbs are fine. For an even finer crumb, process the crackers in a food processor for a couple of minutes. Set the crumbs aside in a shallow bowl.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the remaining ingredients, except for the pretzels. Process until smooth.

Cover the cheese in cling wrap and refrigerate overnight.

After the cheese is chilled, divide into 2 equal pieces. Roll the chilled cheese in your hands to make a ball. Roll the ball in the cracker crumbs until evenly coated. With the back of a butter knife, indent the sides of the ball to look like the grooves on the side of a pumpkin. Top with a pretzel to make the “stem.” Repeat with the remaining piece of pimento cheese.

Celebrating Autumn! ~ Spiced Honeycrisp Apple Mini Bundt Cakes

I absolutely love fall. 🙂 Now is the time to enjoy crisp evenings, harvest colors, and some of my favorite flavors of the year! I kicked off this fresh fall season with these spiced Honeycrisp apple mini Bundt cakes.

I used a mini Bundt pan that holds 4 cups of batter. Alternatively, this recipe also makes 10 standard-sized muffins. These cakes also freeze well so you can enjoy fresh cake with your morning coffee. Just microwave for about 30 seconds to defrost, and they taste like they came fresh out of the oven. 🙂

Spiced Honeycrisp Apple Mini Bundt Cakes

Makes 6 mini Bundt cakes

Butter (for greasing the pan)

1 large Honeycrisp apple

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup light olive oil

2 tablespoons skim milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Butter a mini Bundt pan. Make sure you get the butter into all of the crevasses to make sure the cake will come out cleanly.

Peel the apple and cut out the core. Grate all of the apple flesh on a coarse grater. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Add the shredded apple and stir well.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Take care not to over mix at this point.

Fill each mold in the Bundt pan about 3/4 of the way full. Tap the pan on the counter to help any air bubbles escape.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then invert onto a cooling rack.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve.

Wedding Anniversary Hors d’Oeuvres ~ Clams Casino

Legend has it that clams casino was first served at the Narragansett Pier Casino in Rhode Island in 1917, or possibly earlier. It is fun to imagine dining at this luxury resort on the water 100 years ago. Eater.com featured an in depth article about the history of clams casino, which I found fascinating. If you’d like to learn more, I think it’s an interesting read!

The dish has stood the test of time for good reason. Traditionally the clams are served on the half shell and topped with toasted breadcrumbs and bacon. How can you go wrong with that? 😉 I used panko breadcrumbs and prosciutto for my version.

Clams Casino

Serves 2

About 1 tablespoon high heat cooking oil

1 small shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock

1 pound Manila clams

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup (approximately) panko breadcrumbs

High heat cooking spray

2 or 3 slices prosciutto, sliced into small pieces

Place your oven rack in the middle and preheat the broiler. Set aside a casserole dish that is large enough to hold all of the clam halves in a single layer.

In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat the oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, cook the shallot until softened. Then add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant. Add the white wine and stock, and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover the pan, and cook until they are just opened. Transfer the opened clams to a plate to cool slightly. Season the broth with salt and pepper.

Remove the top shell of each clam. (I found that kitchen shears worked well.) Loosen the meat from the bottom shell. Place each clam half in the casserole dish.

Spoon a little bit of the white wine mixture (that the clams cooked in) to each clam. Top the clams evenly with panko. Spray the top of the breadcrumbs with a light coating of cooking spray.

Broil until the panko is lightly golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes. Watch them very carefully so they don’t burn.

Top each clam with a small piece or two of prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Wedding Anniversary Hors d’Oeuvres ~ Crab Imperial Bites

For our second special anniversary dish, I made crab imperial bites. Crab imperial is a type of crab casserole or dip from Maryland, and it is usually served in a ramekin or baking dish. I made my version into bite-sized hors d’oeuvres with our favorite local Dungeness crab for a West Coast twist. 🙂

Crab Imperial Bites

Makes about 18 hors d’oeuvres

18 wonton wrappers

High heat cooking spray

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs, plus more for the top

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

Pinch of cayenne

Salt to taste (if needed)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 pound lump crabmeat, picked through to make sure there are no hidden bits of shell.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Cut the wonton wrappers into circles that will fit into the holes of a mini muffin pan. I used a circular cookie cutter for this, but kitchen scissors also work. Spray the wrappers with a light coating of cooking spray on both sides, and rub the oil with your fingers to ensure an even coating. Form the wrappers into cup shapes in the mini muffin pan.

Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the wonton wrappers are golden and crunchy.

Set aside.

Turn up your oven to 400 F.

In a medium bowl, mix the remaining ingredients except for the crab. Add the crab, and mix well, but try to keep the bigger pieces of crab intact.

Place the filling into the prepared wonton shells.

Top the bites with more panko. Spray the top of the breadcrumbs with a light coating of cooking spray.

Bake until heated through, about 4 minutes. Then turn on the broiler, and broil until the breadcrumbs are lightly golden. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t get too brown.

Wedding Anniversary Hors d’Oeuvres ~ Crab Rangoon Dip with Wonton Crackers

It’s our wedding anniversary weekend once again! This year was lucky 17. 🙂

We celebrated at home with delicious Northwest seafood. I’ve been exploring vintage recipes this year, and I made three classic seafood hors d’oeuvres with a twist for this occasion: crab Rangoon, crab imperial, and clams casino.

Crab Rangoon is an old tiki bar classic, and it can sometimes be found at Chinese or Thai restaurants. The filling is typically made with cream cheese and a tiny bit of imitation crabmeat. Then the filling is wrapped in a wonton wrapper and the whole thing is deep-fried. For my version, I made a dip based on the classic filling, but I used real Dungeness crab and a higher ratio of crab to cream cheese. I also made crab shaped crackers for dipping. 🙂

Crab Rangoon Dip with Wonton Crackers

Wonton wrappers

High heat cooking spray

Sea salt, to taste

2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

4 ounces lump crabmeat, picked through to make sure there are no hidden shells

1 scallion, green part only, minced

1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon fish sauce

1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Salt (if needed) to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut your wonton wrappers into desired shapes. Spray the wrappers with a light coating of cooking spray, and season with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the wonton wrappers are golden brown and crunchy.

In a medium bowl, mix together all of the remaining ingredients.

Serve the dip in a ramekin or dish alongside the crunchy wonton wrappers for dipping.

One more tropical celebration of summer! ~ Luau Meatballs

I made one more tropical recipe to celebrate this beautiful summer! I am soaking up the sunshine and warm weather while we still have it. It has been an especially lovely summer here in Seattle.

The pineapple cocktail sticks are from Two’s Company. They were too cute to pass up when I saw them at the store. 🙂 I wanted to use them before the summer’s end. These cocktail sticks were actually the inspiration behind this pineapple recipe!

The adorable summer pineapple printable banner is from My Sister’s Suitcase. It is free to print for your personal use. 🙂 I hope you’ll go over to their website to check out all of the fun things they have posted.

Luau Meatballs

2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons minced shallot

2 green onions, minced

3 tablespoons minced cilantro

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 pound ground pork tenderloin

1 cup fresh pineapple juice

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

12 fresh pineapple pieces, for garnishing

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the panko, shallot, green onions, cilantro, soy sauce, and salt. Add the pork and mix well. Form the mixture into about 12 meatballs. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the meatballs for about 12 minutes, or until they are just cooked through. Be careful not to over bake or your meatballs will be dry.

In a medium saucepan, bring the pineapple juice to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and cornstarch to make a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the simmering pineapple juice. Cook until thickened.

Dip each meatball in the pineapple sauce. Top with a piece of pineapple. Serve on a cocktail stick with extra sauce for dipping.

Happy Fourth of July! ~ Haupia Stars

I hope you had a festive and fun Fourth!

You might have noticed I am on a Hawaiian kick this summer, exploring the many foods of Hawaii. It’s fun to take a virtual vacation through my kitchen!

I stayed with that theme for the Fourth of July. To celebrate America’s birthday, I barbequed some huli huli chicken from a Cook’s Country recipe, which I would highly recommend. Then the grand finale of our dinner was haupia with fresh summer berries.

Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian coconut pudding with a mild sweet flavor. The consistency is much thicker than most pudding recipes, so it can be cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. I cut mine into stars, and then chose red and blue summer berries to round out the colors of the holiday. 🙂

Haupia

6 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup water

1 can organic coconut milk (Note: Light coconut milk really doesn’t work very well in this recipe)

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the water until they make a slurry.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the coconut milk and sugar. While continuing to whisk, cook the mixture over medium heat until it just begins to boil.

Slowly pour the cornstarch and water mixture into the pan while whisking constantly. Cook until very thick, which will only take about a minute.

Take the pan off the heat. Add the vanilla and whisk well.

Pour the haupia into a 9 by 4 inch loaf pan. Spread until the pudding is an even layer in the pan.

Refrigerate overnight until the pudding is set.

Invert the haupia onto a cutting board. (The smooth side on the bottom makes a better presentation than the top side.) Cut into desired shapes with a knife or cookie cutter.

Serve and enjoy!

Warm Weather Appetizers ~ Chicken Lau Lau on Purple Sweet Potatoes with Taro Chips

The weather is warming up, and that gets me into the mood for something tropical! I decided to cook a traditional Hawaiian dish called lau lau, which means “leaf leaf” in Hawaiian since it uses two different kinds of leaves. I recently learned how to make the classic dish from a native Hawaiian lady, and this is my spin on the tradition. 🙂

I served some of the shredded lau lau as an appetizer on rectangles of purple sweet potato with taro chips to garnish. I love how the colors of the potato and taro compliment one another, and I also think using both the leaf and the root of the taro plant balances the dish nicely.

We enjoyed the remaining lau lau as a main course for a few days (with the extra bits of baked sweet potato!) It is a bit of a project to make this dish, so I recommend making a lot for leftovers. Or, this is a great dish to serve a big crowd. Perfect for a summer backyard luau!

Chicken Lau Lau on Purple Sweet Potatoes with Taro Chips

9 chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed of excess fat

About 18 fresh taro leaves

About 18 ti leaves or 2 large banana leaves

Hawaiian sea salt

2 large purple sweet potatoes (I used Okinawan sweet potatoes)

Olive oil

Taro chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Set aside either a large pot with a lid, or a large casserole dish with two layers of aluminum foil to cover.

Salt the chicken liberally, and rub the salt into the meat with your fingers.

Remove the tough stems from the taro leaves. If using ti leaves, remove the tough stems. If using banana leaves, cut into manageable pieces, approximately 8 or 9 inches in length.

Nestle 2 taro leaves together. Place 1 chicken thigh in the middle of the leaves. Wrap it into a bundle so the chicken is completely covered by the leaves.

Then wrap the taro bundle in the ti or banana leaves so it is completely covered. Either tie the bundles with kitchen twine (or traditionally, the stem of the ti leaf) or make sure the last fold is on the bottom so they stay closed while cooking.

Place the bundles in the prepared pot or dish. Bake for approximately 3 1/2 hours, or until the chicken falls off the bone and shreds easily.

The ti and banana leaves are not edible, so remove before serving.

Shred two or three bundles of chicken for the appetizers. Reserve the remaining lau lau for an easy weeknight main course.

Turn up your oven to 400 F.

Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut 2 large purple sweet potatoes into approximately 1/3-inch slices. Then cut the slices into rectangles.

Toss the rectangles (and the extra bits) in olive oil so every side is well coated. Sprinkle with sea salt, and toss to evenly coat. Arrange the potatoes on the baking sheets in a single layer.

Bake for about 10 minutes, turn the potatoes over, and continue to bake until fork tender.

To serve, top the potato squares with some shredded lau lau chicken. Top each with a piece of taro chip for garnish.

Beachside Snack ~ Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas with Hawaiian Sea Salt

I recently picked up a few bags of crunchy roasted chickpeas at the grocery store, and I discovered a delightful snack! I wondered if I could make them in my own kitchen with canned chickpeas, since the canned variety is much easier for me to find at my local store. Happily the answer is yes! Now they are one of my new favorite summertime snacks, perfect for the beach. They are so simple, but so amazingly crunchy and delicious. They are easy to pack in your beach bag, or you can dress them up for a summer party with cute paper cones made of scrapbook paper.

I have tried several variations of this snack. They are wonderful simply seasoned with salt, but for extra flavor, add a dash of pimentón and cumin with just a hint of cayenne. The sky is the limit on the flavors you can create.

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas with Hawaiian Sea Salt

1 15-ounce can of chickpeas with no salt added (I used Eden Organic Garbanzo Beans)

Approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt, ground, to taste

Spices such as pimentón, cumin, or cayenne, to taste (optional)

Make sure your oven rack is in the middle. Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Then spin them in a salad spinner to get off the excess moisture. Gently roll the chickpeas between two layers of paper towels to make sure they are very dry.

In a medium bowl, toss the chickpeas with the oil, salt, and spices (if using), until evenly coated.

Spread the chickpeas onto a rimmed baking sheet, making sure they are in a single layer.

Bake for 35 minutes, tossing once midway through. Then turn off the oven, but leave the chickpeas in for another hour until they are dry and crunchy.

Cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Maypole Cakes ~ Hummingbird Mini Bundt Cakes with Cream Cheese Filling

Today is May Day, which is also Lei Day in Hawaii! After the chilly and wet winter we’ve had in Seattle this year, I can appreciate a day that celebrates the arrival of springtime and the warm tropical state of Hawaii. (This holiday also gave me an excuse to bake more cake. 😉 ) I celebrated the occasion by making Maypole cakes out of one more batch of tropical hummingbird cakes!

I found the cute May Day printable design that inspired these cakes at ThePolkaDotPosie.com. They are absolutely adorable and free to use for personal use. 🙂 I hope you go over to their website to check out all of the cute designs they have.

I attached thin pastel ribbons to the printout, and mounted it all on a skewer. Then I attached the skewer near the middle of the cake for a cute edible display. I love how the swirl of the Bundt cake design gives the ribbons a little swirl.

Hummingbird Mini Bundt Cakes with Cream Cheese Filling

Makes 6 mini Bundt cakes (and 6 muffins)

For the filling:

8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

For the cake:

Butter, softened, for preparing the pan

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons coconut oil, liquefied

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 or 3 bananas, depending on the size)

1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple, drained

3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1/2 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut (optional)

Powdered sugar, for dusting the cakes (optional)

For the filling:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, sugar, and egg. Blend until everything is well combined. Then add the flour, and beat until just combined. Scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium round nozzle. Set aside.

For the cake:

Evenly spread a thin layer of butter over all the nooks and crannies of the mini Bundt pan.

(Line a muffin pan with 6 paper liners for the leftover batter and filling if you wish.)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, oil, egg, and vanilla. Add the banana and pineapple, and stir until well combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until everything is just combined. Add the nuts and coconut (if using), and stir until they are evenly distributed in the batter.

Fill each well of the mini Bundt pan about 1/3 full. With the back of a small spoon, make a channel in the batter all around the pan. Pipe a layer of cream cheese filling into the channel, taking care to keep it away from the sides of the pan. Top the filling with batter until each well is about 3/4 full.

(With the remaining batter and filling, you can make muffins in the same manner, each with a dollop of filling in the middle. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan to cool on a wire rack.)

Bake the Bundt cakes for about 27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cake comes out clean.

Let the Bundt cakes cool in the pan. Once cooled, invert the cakes. If desired, dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Happy Easter! ~ Easter Bunny Rolls

The Easter bunny came to our house today! 😉

I found this bunny roll idea in several places online, and I couldn’t resist making a batch of my own. They are simple and quite adorable.

I made these rolls with my basic whole-wheat dinner roll recipe. I didn’t use dill this time around, but I think an herb of some sort would be delicious. I love this recipe because I can make the rolls in the evening, let them rest in the refrigerator overnight, and then bake them in the morning. There is nothing quite like fresh bread on Easter morning (without having to get up early to make it! 😉 )

Easter Bunny Rolls

Makes 5 dinner rolls

2 tablespoons warm water (about 80 degrees F.)

1/2 tablespoon dry active yeast

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

1 3/4 cups white whole-wheat flour

All-purpose flour for dusting work surface

Approximately 1 tablespoon beaten egg

Approximately 1/2 tablespoon coarse salt

Place a piece of parchment paper on a half sheet pan, and spray the parchment with cooking spray. Make sure you have enough room in your refrigerator for the sheet pan where the rolls will rest overnight.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, add the water. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let stand until the yeast and water mixture looks creamy, about 5 minutes. Next, add the ingredients from the sugar through the whole-wheat flour to the bowl. Let the mixer knead the dough for about 10 minutes. The dough will be elastic and sticky.

Remove the dough from the bowl onto a clean work surface that is lightly dusted with all-purpose flour. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Sprinkle a little extra all-purpose flour over the dough and on your hands if the dough sticks.

To make bunnies, roll 5 of the pieces of dough into long ropes, each about 12 inches long. Take the two ends of each rope and twist them over each other twice, leaving about an inch of both ends sticking out on top for the ears. Make sure the bottom has a loop with a hole in the middle to make room for the tail. Cut the remaining piece of dough into small pieces for the tails. Roll each piece into a ball, and place the ball in the center of the loop. (If you have leftover dough, you can form a little Easter egg shape to go with the bunnies!) Place all of the rolls on the prepared baking sheet. Take care to leave enough space between the rolls to allow them to rise without touching each other.

Spray the tops of the rolls with nonstick cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let the rolls rest in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, remove the rolls from the refrigerator. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes, or until close to doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Brush the rolls with the beaten egg, and sprinkle a little coarse salt on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown and cooked through.

Easter Eggs ~ Pickled Rainbow Deviled Eggs

Happy Easter!

My mom makes pickled eggs with beets for Easter, just the way my grandma used to make. I think it’s an old Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that made its way into our family. I decided to expand on our tradition this year by dying my eggs pink…and yellow, orange, blue, and purple, and I was delighted with all of the bright colors, which were, amazingly, totally natural! 🙂

After I dyed the eggs, I made them into deviled eggs. Use your favorite deviled egg recipe. I like to use Greek yogurt in mine, so between the pickling and the filling, they have a bit of a tang. These deviled eggs are perfect for an Easter afternoon snack—if they make it that long. 😉

Pickled Rainbow Deviled Eggs

(Inspired by Food52)

For the pickled eggs:

3/4 cup white-wine vinegar

3/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled (for all 5 colors, use 15 whole eggs)

(Each coloring recipe below is for 1 batch of the basic pickling blend above. To make all 5 colors, make the basic pickling blend in 5 separate batches.)

For pink:

1 small red beet, roasted, peeled, and cut into large pieces

For yellow:

1/2 tablespoon ground dried turmeric

For orange:

1/2 tablespoon ground dried turmeric

1 small piece (the equivalent of approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons) roasted and peeled red beet

For blue:

1/4 small red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

For purple:

1/4 small red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda

Divide the eggs into five glass containers that are big enough for three eggs and one batch of the pickling liquid.

In a small saucepan, bring one batch of vinegar, water, and salt to a simmer. Whisk the mixture to ensure the salt fully dissolves. Then, turn off the heat and add the coloring of your choice.

Pour the colored pickling blend over the top of three eggs, making sure they are fully submerged. Repeat with the remaining four colors.

Refrigerate the submerged eggs until they are the color you desire. I left mine in the pickling blend for a few hours, stirring every hour or so, to ensure they colored evenly. (I found that the pink, orange, and yellow took less time to reach the color I wanted than the blue and purple, so I left the latter colored eggs in the pickling blend longer.) The eggs will also become more pickled with time.

If you make all 5 colors, you’ll end up with 15 whole eggs or 30 deviled egg halves.

Deviled eggs:

Prepared pickled eggs

5 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Salt to taste

Cut each egg in half and remove the yolks.

In a medium bowl, mash the yolks with a fork. Add the yogurt, mustard, mayonnaise, and salt, and mix until the filling is well incorporated and smooth.

Scoop the filling into a piping bag fitted with a star tip, and then, pipe the filling into each egg white half.

Easter Treats ~ Hummingbird Mini Bundt Cakes with Cream Cheese Filling

Happy Easter!

To celebrate the holiday this year I made hummingbird cakes, which are a Southern classic with a tropical twist. They are filled with banana, pineapple, pecans, and sometimes coconut. That combination leads me to dream about warmer weather and palm trees! 😉 Plus the name of the dessert just sounds like springtime to me. I thought they would be perfect for Easter this year.

Hummingbird cakes are usually frosted with a cream cheese icing, but rather than cover the pretty Bundt cake design, I decided to fill mine with a cream cheese filling. The sweet cream cheese is a nice surprise to find when you cut into the cakes.

I used a mini Bundt pan that makes 6 small individual cakes. The pan holds about 4 cups of batter between the cakes. After filling the pan I still had some leftover batter and filling, so I made muffins with the extra in cute Easter liners. The muffins go well with coffee for breakfast. 🙂

Hummingbird Mini Bundt Cakes with Cream Cheese Filling

Makes 6 mini Bundt cakes (and 6 muffins)

For the filling:

8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

For the cake:

Butter, softened, for preparing the pan

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons coconut oil, liquefied

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 or 3 bananas, depending on the size)

1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple, drained

3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1/2 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut (optional)

Powdered sugar, for dusting the cakes

For the filling:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, sugar, and egg. Blend until everything is well combined. Then add the flour, and beat until just combined. Scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium round nozzle. Set aside.

For the cake:

Evenly spread a thin layer of butter over all the nooks and crannies of the mini Bundt pan.

(Line a muffin pan with 6 paper liners for the leftover batter and filling if you wish.)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, oil, egg, and vanilla. Add the banana and pineapple, and stir until well combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until everything is just combined. Add the nuts and coconut (if using), and stir until they are evenly distributed in the batter.

Fill each well of the mini Bundt pan about 1/3 full. With the back of a small spoon, make a channel in the batter all around the pan. Pipe a layer of cream cheese filling into the channel, taking care to keep it away from the sides of the pan. Top the filling with batter until each well is about 3/4 full.

(With the remaining batter and filling, you can make muffins in the same manner, each with a dollop of filling in the middle. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan to cool on a wire rack.)

Bake the Bundt cakes for about 27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cake comes out clean.

Let the Bundt cakes cool in the pan. Once cooled, invert the cakes. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Double Irish Cheer ~ Stout and Whiskey Cupcakes

What’s even more Irish than chocolate Guinness cupcakes? Chocolate Guinness cupcakes topped with Irish whiskey frosting! I wanted to make one more round of cupcakes for the day. 🙂 These cupcakes celebrate two of the most famous flavors of Ireland – stout and whiskey.

I love how versatile the frosting I made in the last blog entry can be. It is a classic 7-minute frosting, which is fluffy and meringue-like. Unlike most frosting, this one is quite a bit lighter with no butter or cream. It is wonderful to work with and pipes beautifully. It doesn’t hold as well over time as a buttercream, so make it shortly before you need it, but it stays together for a few hours. I was so interested and excited about this frosting that I played with the recipe by making small batches in different flavors that I thought may pair well with the chocolate Guinness cupcakes. I made a sparkling wine frosting, a Harp beer frosting, and even an IPA beer frosting! But I settled on this Irish whiskey frosting to top one more batch of cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day. This flavor was my pot of gold at the end of a rainbow of flavors. 😉

Stout and Whiskey Cupcakes

Makes about 24 standard-sized cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1 cup Guinness stout

1/2 cup light olive oil

2 tablespoons skim milk

3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

For the frosting:

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 cup water

4 egg whites

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons Irish whiskey (I used Jameson)

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the stout, oil, milk, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla until everything is very well combined.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, flour, and baking soda.

Add the wet mixture in the medium bowl to the dry mixture in the large bowl, and whisk until just combined.

Divide the batter between the muffin tins, filling each cup about 2/3 full.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

Find a big pot in which the bowl of a stand mixer can fit inside without touching the bottom. Fill the pot with about 2 inches of water. (Take care that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.) Bring the water to a simmer.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the sugar and cream of tartar. In the bowl of the stand mixer, add all of the frosting ingredients except for the whiskey, and whisk until combined.

Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the bowl. Whisking often, let the mixture come up to 160 F. It will look a little frothy.

Once the mixture is at 160 F, remove the bowl from the pot and place it on the stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.

Whisk on high speed for about 7 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy, cool, and very stiff. Add the whiskey, and whisk until just combined.

Pipe or spoon the frosting onto your cupcakes.