Recently I’ve been enamored with Amish Friendship Bread.  Basically, it’s a type of sourdough starter made from flour, milk and sugar.  Initially you chain-letter the starter to your closest friends and family, but it’s not long before you find yourself handing it off to just about anyone you come across.

The basic recipe uses the starter to make a sweet, cinnamon flavoured quickbread.  It’s ultra good but a girl can only eat so much!  Fortunately, it turns out that the starter can be incorporated into all sorts of different recipes thanks to the creative people of the world wide web.  Today I tinkered around with a recipe that I’ve been dying to try out for the longest time, but procrastination has a way of ruling my life.  When I found out that Friendship Bread Kitchen was holding a Ready, Bake, Set recipe contest for the month of July, I knew that it was finally time for me to get off my butt and set to work.

If you’re familiar with Leslie Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps, you’ll know how terribly addictive they are.  Unfortunately, it costs a pretty penny.  But the Gods had graced us with Julie Van Rosendaal, author of the book “Grazing: A healthier approach to snacks and finger foods”, as well as the blog “” and she amazingly cracked the recipe code to these tasty crackers.  Now my challenge was to adapt this so that some of the Amish starter can be incorporated.  This is what I came up with:

...raincoast crisps... amish style...

Amish Cranberry & Hazelnut Raincoast Crisps (adapted from this recipe)

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup starter
1½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey
½ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup flax seeds
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup hazelnuts, chopped

Yields approximately 6 dozen crackers.

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Then stir in the starter, buttermilk and honey.
  • Add in the remainder of the ingredients and stir until just blended.  Pour batter into two 8″x4″ loaf pans, greased.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until golden and springy to touch.  Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.
  • The cooler the bread, the easier to slice really thin (leave it till the next day or pop it into the freezer for partial freeze).  Slice the loaves as thin as you can and place them in a single layer on an ungreased sheet.
  • Reduce oven to 300°F.
  • Bake slices for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for an addition 10 minutes, until they become crisp and deep golden.
  • Let cool slightly and enjoy!

...cranberries & hazelnuts, mmm!...

...milk and crisps anyone?...

The end product definitely looks homemade and not necessarily as neat and pretty as the LS version, but they taste amazingly alike!  And I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make (although the slicing was a bit tricky as I didn’t have a serrated knife).  Serve with a dab of sweet red pepper jelly, or some soft creamy cheese and you have the perfect appetizer!


Occasionally I watch Throwdown With Bobby Flay when it is about a dish that I’m a fan of.  The most recent episode I’d seen was the one where Bobby got himself spanked by Sohui Kim, the co-owner and chef of the The Good Fork in the dumpling war.  So I knew that I just *HAD* to try out her recipe!

It was pretty easy to find using my Google-fu:

Sohui Kim’s Pork-and-Chive Dumplings
2 tbsp. canola oil, plus more for frying dumplings
1 cup diced onion
3 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. minced ginger
1 cup chopped garlic (or Chinese) chives
1 1/2 lbs. ground pork
1 8-oz. package firm tofu
3 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 16-oz. package dumpling wrappers (look for the Twin Marquis brand, Hong Kong style, available in many Asian food stores)
1 egg, beaten and reserved in a small bowl
Salt and pepper to taste

And here are the accompanying instructions:

In a large pan, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and garlic chives and cook for 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and let cool. In a large bowl, combine pork, tofu, and hoisin sauce with the chive mixture. Test-fry a small portion of the pork mixture and adjust seasoning.

..don't be afraid to get the hands down and dirrrrty...

(1) Holding dumpling wrapper flour side down, place a teaspoonful of pork mixture onto the middle of the wrapper.

(2) Dip your index finger into the beaten egg and rub it over half of the outer edge of the dumpling.

(3) Fold dumpling in half, crimping it in the middle and sealing along the egg-moistened edge, taking care not to leave any air pockets. Repeat procedure and pan-fry the dumplings until crisp and brown on both sides. Serve with a combination of soy sauce and rice-wine vinegar to dip. Note: makes about four dozen dumplings; extras will keep in the freezer for two weeks or so.


I pretty much followed the recipe written.. as it was the filling itself that I wanted after all, except I had doubled it because I knew I wanted extras to keep in the deep freezer.  But then I came up with the brilliant idea to go one step further by making my *OWN* dumpling wrappers.  The recipe I used goes like so:

100g flour
75g hot water

Stir together with a spoon until it starts to come together, then roll out onto a floured board and knead until the dough becomes smooth.  Cover and let rest for 30mins-1hour.  Then cut into 10g portions (usually works out to about 17 pieces).  My recommendation would be to make as many batches as you need separately and avoid doubling or tripling your recipe.  I had initially doubled the recipe and the dough just did not turn out as nicely as when I had just made the one batch.

...the humble beginnings of a dumpling wrapper...

...rollling, rolling, rolling...

...another dumpling close-up...

So after slaving away like I was in a dumpling sweat shop, I finally ended up with a total of 34 dumplings with home-made wrappers, and 69 dumplings made with pre-made wrappers.  Those made with the home-made wrappers were a bit more misshapened as the dough was more difficult to work with.  The pre-made wrappers made the dumplings look more uniformed with their perfect pleats, and were much easier to manipulate.

...exhibit A: premade wrappers...

...exhibit B: homemade wrappers...

Lay em out flat on a cookie sheet for them to freeze up nice and hard, and then chuck the lot into a heavy duty freezer ziplock bag for easy storage.

But don’t freeze them all up… make sure you save a few (or more!) for dinner.  Instead of pan-frying them like the original recipe had suggested, I decided to take a page out of the potsticker method and cook these Chinese style.  Heat up a well-oiled non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, and place the dumplings bottom-side down in a nice even layer.. don’t over crowd!  Let the bottoms sizzle up until a nice brown crust develops.  Then pour into the pan enough hot water so that the water level reaches about a third of the way up the sides of the dumplings (anywhere from 1/2 to 3/4cup).  Be quick about this and watch out for the sizzling oil!  Cover IMMEDIATELY with a lid and wait for about 10 minutes, which is typically how long it will take for the water to cook out.  Some water may still be present when you do lift the lid, so just keep it uncovered and let the rest of the water evaporate.  Let it cook in the pan for a little long, until the bottoms have the chance to crisp up again.

Serve hot with your choice of dipping sauce… I keep it simple and just add a small splash of red rice wine vinegar to soy sauce.  And the taste verdict… despite the extra labour, the dumplings made with the home-made wrappers were by far much tastier!  The dough was very tender to bite into, and the filling came out juicier.  In my opinion… this is so worth going the extra effort for!  Hope you have fun with this recipe!

...crispy bottoms...


Oh how to fill in a day off without Mr O hovering about?  Well, sometime earlier this morning I came up with the brilliant idea of making my own dan tats.  To be serious… I have no idea what I was even thinking!  I’m not exactly the most avid (nor skilled for that matter) baker… but admittedly, it’s been a long while since my last dan tat and I had a sudden craving for it.  And since the nearest Chinese bakery is a good 5-6 hours drive from where I am, if I wanted some then I had better learn to make them myself!

First, let me tell you a bit about this lil mouthful of heaven… dan tats are essentially egg custard tarts that are found aplenty in any reputable Hong Kong style bakery, and is served hot, not room temperature like a western style custard tart.  You can find dan tats in 2 different types of crusts: shortcrust and puff pastry.  And I had a helluva time finding  a recipe… I cannot believe how elusive the recipe to this sweet and savoury Cantonese treat is!!

After much surfing through the world wide web, I finally came across a YouTube video with step-by-step instructions.  Here is her recipe:

Dat Tat crust:

  • 200g flour
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 egg, beatened
  • 100g butter, room temperature
  • 1-2tbsp cold water

Dan Tat filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 100ml water, hot
  • 80g sugar
  • 100ml milk

So you’ll notice that the ingredient contents is by *weight*… I know I sure did!  Already I’m feeling way over my head… but the girl in the video made it look so easy!  Luckily, I found a small scale on sale many moons ago and bought it on a whim.  This is the first time I get to use it… but I had to find it first…

Before I began, I took the hot water from the filling’s ingredients and stirred into it the sugar so that it would be dissolved by the time I was ready for it.  Set it aside and begin to work on the dough.


First of all, this dough is the shortcrust variety.  And it started off easily enough… first I blended the flour and sugar together, then added in the butter and mixed until it was all crumbly, then added in the egg.  It was terribly dry looking  after a few minutes of kneading before I added in the cold water.  As soon as I did it became this watery mushy mess which threw me into a full blown panic mode… zOMG!!  What did I just do?!  I killed my dough!

But to my relief, as I continued to knead the dough eventually smoothed right out and became a proper consistency again.  It was still nowhere near as smooth looking as the one in the video, and it looked terribly greasy.  Perhaps I was off in one of my measurements?  I had no idea what to do.  Had I been a more experienced baker I probably would’ve known what the problem was and how to rectify it… but alas I wasn’t, so I kneaded for another few minutes and hoped for the best.

I stuck the bowl into the fridge while I put the filling together, and it was at this point I pre-heated the oven.  For some reason I had it in my head to bake these at 400F, but later as I was re-watching the video, I saw that she had the oven set to 350F.  Oopsies!!

The filling is super easy to make.  Beat the eggs well, then add in the sugar-water mixture and milk, and beat some more.  Pour everything through a sieve to get all the gunky eggy parts out.  Keep the custard mixture in a measuring cup for easy pouring.

Now comes the hard part… the assembly of the tart shells!  I found some foil tart tins at a dollar store some time ago and brought those out.  I brushed very lightly with butter so that the finished product won’t stick to the surface, but now I’m wondering if I had to since the dough was so buttery to begin with!

To make it easier, I rolled the dough into a huge log and sliced them into 10 equal pieces.  I placed each dough disc into the bottom of a foil tin and, using the thumbs of both my hands, began to painstakingly press the dough up along the sides of the shell.  Be diligent, you want the layer of crust to be even, particularly along the bottom edges.  Once I was done all 10 tins, I pricked along the bottoms with a fork to let air escape during baking so that it doesn’t puff up and spill the custard everywhere.

Place all your tins onto a baking tray and fill with the egg mixture.  Carefully slide it onto the middle rack of your oven and let bake for 20-25 minutes.  I checked in on them after 20 minutes and saw that there was some uneven heat flow going on in my oven as half the tray was ready and the other half wasn’t, so I rotated the tray by 180 degrees and let it bake for another 5 minutes.  They came out perfect!  (Even despite being baked at a higher temperature!)

...into the oven we go...

...dan tats fresh out of the oven!...

The kitchen smells really good by this point and I carefully transferred the tarts onto a cooling tray… I was so anxious to try them!  Now, the egg custard is quite puffy looking when they first come out of the oven, but they do settle down once they’re cooled.

...cooled and ready to eat...


The crust ended up much thicker than I’d like them to be… they’re usually quite a bit thinner at the bakeries.  But boy did these end up tasting good!  I will definitely try to make these again, but I think next time I will try to yield 12 tarts out of this recipe.

Now I just have to find a good recipe for the puff pastry version and then all will be well in my world!

Mr O’s been stressed lately with an impending final exam in quantitative statistics (…but then again, who wouldn’t?) so I thought I’d cheer him up with a gingerbread house.  I had made one a few years ago using a recipe I found online and it turned out quite well so I thought I’d use it again.

Instead of  molasses, it asks for instant butterscotch pudding mix so it’s not as strong as regular gingerbread… which is fine with me because I’m not a big fan of real gingerbread myself.  The recipe is as follows:

  • 1 package of butterscotch instant pudding mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 and 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

In a bowl, cream together the pudding mix, butter and sugar until it’s somewhat smooth.  Then add in the egg until it’s well mixed.  In another bowl, sift together the remainder of the ingredients and then slowly mix it into the pudding mixture.

Now the important thing is to knead like you’ve never kneaded before!  The dough’s gonna look reaaaal crumbly, but you gotta persevere!  I probably had to knead the dough for a good 10 minutes before it turned out into a smooth ball.  It’ll still look kinda crackly, but it’ll have a nice greasy gloss to it.  Cover the dough up in saran wrap and stick it into the fridge for about an hour to chill.

ball o' dough

Due to space restrictions, I prefer to only work with half the dough at a time, leaving the other half still in the fridge.  Roll the dough out on a lightly floured board until it’s roughly 1/8th inch thick, then cut out your shapes using your template (or cookie cutters if you’re not opting to make a house.)  Lay the shapes out onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in a 350F preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes… pretty much until the edges start to turn golden.  Let the cookie cool on wire racks.  If you’re making this recipe for the purpose of making cookies, you can pretty much eat them whenever they’ve fully cooled.  But if you’re gonna make a house, you have to let the cookies sit overnight to dry out.

ready for construction!

Due to the lack of molasses in the recipe, you actually don’t need very long to let the cookie pieces dry out.  Just 1 day will do, in fact.  On the day you’re ready to assemble the house, make some royal icing to glue the construction together.  This is the one I use:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 4-5 cups icing sugar

Super simple eh?  Just whip the egg whites until they’ve turned just past the point of foaminess, like liquidy whipped cream.  Then slowly add in the icing sugar, whipping until the mixture is nice and glossy and able to hold peaks.  Use your discretion on how much sugar to use.  The recipe officially asks for 5 cups, but where I’m living and the dryness in the air I really only needed 4 cups before the icing turned so thick that my mixer threatened to break apart.

Throw the mess into a piping bag (I use a ziplocked bag with a corner trimmed off) and begin the assembly!  Use your imagination… I don’t imagine you’ll need me to walk you through this step ;)

...the unglamorous side of gingerbread houses...

...raising the roof!

Let the house sit for at least another hour to allow for the icing to harden.  Then the fun begins!  Get your children and significant others and decorate with all the candy you can find.  Have fun and make sure to take plenty of pictures of it before the roof “mysteriously” begins to disappear!

decorations in progress...

...making a pathway...

...our house, is a very very very fine house...

August 15, 2009

It was purely coincidental that I’m posting two consecutive posts about sushi, I swear!  But for our 3rd annual summer BBQ at our office my contribution to it this year was sushi… maki rolls to be exact.  Sashimi grade salmon is not available for purchase up in Williams Lake, so I made california rolls and chicken teri rolls.

chicken teri rolls

chicken teri rolls

One thing I learned about living in a small town in up-country is that you’re not always able to find certain ethnic ingredients quite so readily at the local Save-On… particularly the nori (aka seaweed paper).  It’s a regular staple in our cupboards now and I always try to have at least one un-opened package at the ready… which reminds me, I’ll have to pick some more up the next time I’m down at the coast.  But anyhoo…

I like to prepare the rice like so:

  • 2 cups sushi rice (generic medium grain will do)
  • 2 and 1/4 cups water
  • 4 tbsps rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsps sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Rinse the rice really well with running tap water to remove as much of the excess starch as possible.  It helps to agitate the rice with your fingers.  The water will appear very cloudy at first before becoming more clear as the starch is washed off.  Once you’re satisfied with how clean your rice is, drain off as much of the water as possible and just let it sit for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, sugar and salt together until all the granules are dissolved.  Set aside for later.

california rolls too!

california rolls too!

When the time comes, I add the rice to the rice cooker (sorry folks, I’ve never had to make rice on a stove before!), add the water, set it and forget it.  I have a large wooden salad bowl, that I picked up from Value Village of all places, that I use to mix my rice with.  It’s not too deep and has a pretty wide perimetre which makes it perfect for cooling the rice in.

Add the cooked rice to your mixing bowl of choice, drizzle the vinegar mixture evenly over it, and begin to gently combine the ingredients together.  The rice needs to be fanned down to bring down the temperature.  If you have company handy, make them go to work… or do like I do and park myself in front of the oscillating fan.

Use gentle, “cutting-like” motions and folding techniques to mix the vinegar into the rice without breaking or mashing the grains together.  I prefer to use a large wooden spoon to do this.  You’re done once the rice feels like it’s about room temperature.

The rest is easy… just spread your rice over the rough side of your nori, add in the fillers of choice, roll and slice!  Right?  Hahaha… I kid, I kid.  To spread the rice, I find it easiest to work with wet hands, otherwise the rice will stick to your skin like crazy.  I keep a bowl of cold water beside me so that I can always dip my fingers into them.  And remember, practice makes perfect so don’t stress over your rice application technique.

The california roll includes crab (I used imitation stuff), avocado and cucumber.  I substituted the crab with chicken teriyaki slices to make the chicken teri roll.  The ingredients should be lined up in a nice horizontal line, roughly 1/3rd from the bottom of the nori sheet away from you so that it’s easier to roll your maki together.  Slicing should be done with a very sharp knife so that clean cuts into the nori can be made without squishing the ingredients together.  Again, keeping the knife blade wet will ensure less sticking to the rice.

seaweed-less sushi

seaweed-less sushi

As an added bonus, I decided to make some “seaweed-less sushi” for those that… well… don’t like seaweed!  I ripped off a square piece of saran wrap, and laid out a strip of avocado in the middle of the plastic.  I then laid out a thin slice of chicken to either side of the avocado, or added a dollop of crab mixture to it, depending on which variety of sushi I was making.  To that, I added a larger dollop of the rice, carefully brought the ends of the plastic wrap together, twisted and shaped the whole thing into a little ball.  I thought the end result was very cute!  Overall, I was pleased with my dish… and judging by the empty dish, so were my co-workers!

Aug 1, 2009

Alrighty, so this next post isn’t exactly a restaurant review… nor is it defined as beyond the borders of hope.  In fact, it’s at my parent’s house right in the heart of East Vancouver.  But I insist on sharing with the world how my family does barbeque at home!

a precursor to a feast!

a precursor to a feast!

First of all… it’s ALLLLLL about the meat!  You have your obligatory green salad and Momma’s specialty potato salad… but the rest of the meal is meat.  Vegetarians are not welcomed.  And it’s REAL meat.  If you’re looking for a hotdog or a hamburger patty… keep on walking!  You won’t find that crap at this party!

I happily snapped away with my camera throughout the meal to the amusement of everyone present.  As soon as food was plucked off the grill and placed onto the serving platter I had to literally beg everyone to give me a moment alone with the meat… (wait… that didn’t quite come out right… heh heh heh).

drumsticks and porksteaks and skewers... oh my!

drumsticks and porksteaks and skewers... oh my!

There was so much food we had to keep two grills going simultaneously.  Lemongrass porkball skewers (my Dad’s own specialty), lemon garlic chicken wings, charsiu style pork steaks, sweet and salty pork belly skewers, savoury and saucy baby back ribs AND short ribs… MMmMmMmm!!

So I’m gonna do something sacrilegious and share the recipe to my Dad’s skewers.  Now, as with most asian cooking there isn’t really any specific amounts of ingredients used so you’ll have to reach for the inner chef within you and go with the flow.  But for simplicity sake, I’ve also included a rough estimate of the ingredient amounts that you can use as a baseline and just add accordingly to suit your own taste.

lemongrass porkball skewers

lemongrass porkball skewers

  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 1/4 c lemongrass, minced
  • 5-10 garlic cloves, chopped finely (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp seasoning salt
  • 1-2 tsp pepper

Throw the whole mess into a very large and sturdy bowl and, using your hands, thoroughly blend everything together.  Once everything is well incorporated, you’ll have to scoop the entire amount of meat out of the bowl and throw it forcefully back down into the bowl.  Work fast otherwise the meat will go flying all over the place, and it’ll create a very loud bang on impact so make sure your pets, young children, and any highly strung adults aren’t in the vicinity when you do this.

Repeat this process a few more times… the more you do it the more smooth and paste-like the meat will become.  This allows for the meat to hold its shape better once they are rolled out.

Alright, now that you’ve worked your aggression out on next dinner, we’re gonna slow things down a bit and allow the seasonings the marinate its way into the meat.  Cover and set aside in the fridge for a few hours.  In the meanwhile, throw some wooden bamboo skewers into a pitcher full of water to let the wood soak.  About an hour before dinner, take the meat out and start to shape them into bite-sized balls.  Make sure they’re uniform in shape so that they all cook evenly.

Ahh… this reminds me of  the old days of sitting around the kitchen table with my sister, mom and whatever aunt that just happened to be around, encircling a GINORMOUS bowl of this stuff.  We were a meatball making factory!  I used to dread it… the call for my name when it was time to roll those damn balls!  But as I matured into the young woman that I am (hey it’s my blog, I can say what I want) I grew to appreciate family gossip for the fun past-time that it is.

But I digress…

Depending on the size of skewer, carefully thread on 5-7 meatballs evenly, making sure not to squish them together too much, otherwise they’ll take longer to cook.  Barbeque them over a well greased grill until it’s thoroughly cooked through and becomes a nice golden colour on the outside.  Serve and enjoy!  This recipe should make enough for 4 people as a main course, or 6-8 people as an appetizer.

X x X x X

All good things do come to an end though… we noticed that the platters began to take longer to empty as everyone started to slow down and it seemed that as soon as one person would push themselves away from the table, the rest followed like a line of dominoes.  Oh there was still so much food to eat… I felt almost guilty for becoming full.  Seeing all the leftovers made me sad because I wasn’t able to take any home with me… (the 6 hour drive makes it pretty inconvenient for any take-away.)

There’s no dish easier to make the next day than leftover barbecued meat served over a bowlful of vermicelli, shredded lettuce, fried onions and drizzled over lightly with some salty nuoc mam.  Yummy!!

ribs ribs ribs!

ribs ribs ribs!

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp vinegar
  • 5 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or 1 tbsp carrot, finely grated
  • 1 small chili pepper, finely sliced (optional)

Combine the water and sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.  Then stir in the remaining ingredients and use as pleased.  I like to keep mine in a glass jar and it stays in the fridge for up to 3 months.  Incidentally, this is the same sauce you’d use for any Vietnamese fare.