Friday, August 28, 2009

Chinese Iced Tea

Behold, floral, yummy BLISS. I have no idea why it's taken me so long to make this, but I know I'll be making it again soon!!
Chrysanthemum tea is very popular in Hong Kong, both for its health benefits and for its great taste. As you can see in the photo above, it's nothing more than water and dried flowers. Kinda pretty, isn't it?
Chrysanthemum tea is served unsweetened in most tea houses and dim sum parlors. However, it can also be bought in little boxes, like our juice boxes, complete with straws and enough sugar to satisfy even the pickiest of third graders. The second beverage is what I was setting out to recreate.
(One warning - when I finished steeping my tea, it was a lovely, rich yellow, just as I was used to. When I returned to the tea a few hours hard turned a rich, emerald GREEN. Even the flowers, still sitting in the strainer in the sink, had turned green. Just didn't want anyone to get scared when their iced tea goes leprechaun on them!)
Aunt LoLo's Iced Chrysanthemum Tea
You'll need:
A soup pot full of water
1/2 cup dried chrysanthemums (available at any Chinese grocery or medicine shop)
Rock sugar, to taste. (I used a block about the size of my fist...I suppose that would be about 1 cup of white sugar?)
Combine everything in your pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and simmer until everything tastes right and the sugar is dissolved, about 7-9 minutes.
Pour the contents of your pot into a metal sieve placed over a large heat-safe bowl. Allow the tea to cool, and then put it in a pitcher in the refrigerator.
The flowers can be re-used if you like: refill your pot with water, put the flowers back in with sugar, and make a second pot of tea. I wouldn't recommend waiting too long between batches - you don't want your flowers to mildew! I made up two pots, and by my calculations it cost me about $2, total. I made this tea very sweet, in homage to my Alabama heritage, but you can add as little or as much sugar as you like. Also, this tea is very good for you. It is "cooling", meaning that if you are "heaty", as a result of lack of sleep or over indulgence in junk foods, this tea will help to balance that out. Symptoms of being too "heaty" are a swollen tongue, canker sores, bad breath and breakouts on your face.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Crumbs Bake Shop: Hostess Cupcake

We have a new favorite sweet shop out here - Crumbs Bake Shop.

There are several locations around the NYC area, but we are lucky enough to have one within about 40 minutes of the house.

These are, hands down, the best cupcakes I have ever had.

Let me put it this way - Lo Gung hates frosting. (Just ask my father - every birthday cake always has one little corner left naked, just for Lo Gung!) Lo Gung ate all his frosting on his cupcake.. Whoa.

Proof #2 - When I asked Lo Gung what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he said, "Crumbs cupcakes!" Harumph! Guess he doesn't want a homemade cake this year!

This beauty is the Hostess Cupcake.'s one of their "Signature" size, meaning that two people could share it easily. (Think Costco muffin size!) (There are small cupcakes available, but their flavors are a lot less frilly - plain vanilla or chocolate, with icing, with or without sprinkles. These small ones run about $2.50. There are also tasting boxes of mini cupcakes.)

These aren't cheap - about $3.50 a pop. However, you'd pay the same for a trip to an ice cream parlor!

We have found, however, that the cupcakes with fillings are drier than their un-filled cousins. Stick with the unfilled cupcakes, and you will not be sorry.

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(Besides the Hostess cupcake, we have also tried the Red Velvet, the Pina Colada, and several of their vanilla varieties, with either strawberry or chocolate icing. All delicious...but the Red Velvet and vanilla cupcakes are definitely my favorite.)

Making Butter(milk)

Step 1. Get your hands on some heavy whipping cream and a jar with a lid. Oh, and a pair of strong arms.
Step 2. Pour the cream into the jar. (Note, about half way through the shaking process, I put half of the cream into another jar. You want to leave plenty of room for the cream to MOVE. Don't fill your jar more than 2/3 of the way full. 1/2 way is better.)
(Oh, and yes - these are baby food jars you're looking at. We didn't have much cream on hand.)

Step 3. SHAKE IT. Shake it up, shake it sideways, shake it like those bartenders you see on TV. Whatever floats your boat. First it will slosh around, then it will slosh slower and slower. Then, it will be really hard to slosh. That's when you grab the jar with both hands and...

...SHAKE it UP and DOWN, like those glass ketchup bottles in diners that never let the ketchup out without a fight. Pretty soon....PLOP. You'll hear your butter hit the top of the jar while the buttermilk sloshes around inside the jar. Shake it another minute or so to make sure the fat is good and stuck together, and then...

...VOILA! You've got butter! Strain the buttermilk out (save it to make pancakes!) and wash your butter until the water runs clear. You want to get all the buttermilk of of your butter - it will keep it fresh longer.

Now, go find yourself some yummy bread and start spreading your homemade butter!

(Note - this butter is really sweet and tasty, but it would taste better on bread with some salt in it. Anyone know if I'm supposed to add the salt pre or post shaking?? I wasn't sure how to work salt into already-made I just left it as is.)

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Eggs and Tomatoes

*Edited....the ingredients should have read "minced garlic", not "minced (blank)". Sorry!

When I lived in Hong Kong, this was absolutely, hands-down, my favorite lunch. We would find a cart on the street - restaurants couldn't get this dish right for some reason. For a few bucks you could get enough rice to feed a full grown man and two sides. I always chose a vegetable and eggs with tomatoes. The tomatoes are stewed down and combined with sugar and garlic, then a beaten egg is gently cooked in. The result is sweet and savory and garlicky and absolutely delicious.

This is my version of the dish...enjoy!

Aunt LoLo's Eggs and Tomatoes
2 T. oil

1 tsp. minced garlic

3 roma tomatoes, cut in wedges (or one large beefsteak tomato, or equivalent)

2 eggs, beaten

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. soy sauce

1/2 tsp. sesame oil

2 green onions, sliced

In a medium skillet, heat the oil until shimmering, then add the garlic. Sautee until fragrant and add the tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium, cover and let the tomatoes cook until they release their juices and the peels are coming off - about 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, scramble two eggs in a small bowl. When the tomatoes are ready, gently pour the eggs into the skillet. Allow the eggs to simmer on the juice until they are almost set, then gently stir to break up the eggs. (You want scrambled eggs in stewed tomatoes, not egg-drop tomato soup!) Before you stir in the solid eggs, add in the sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and green onions. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Serve over rice.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Easy Peasy Cheesy Chili Dip

This dip is great for a party, or a cold afternoon, or...anytime you really just need something to dunk your Wheat Thins in.

(*Note - while the bowl above IS lovely, please do not leave your crackers stuck into the dip for any long period of time. They melted. Thank you.)

LoLo's Easy Peasy Cheesy Chili Dip
Adapted from the memory of a similar dip her grandmother served at a family gathering 10 years she's sure it came from a women's magazine somewhere

In a microwave safe bowl, combine 1 can chili** and 8 oz. cream cheese*.

Microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, or until the cheese is almost melted and the chili is heated through. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Serve with crackers.

Can be kept in a teeny-tiny crockpot during the party to keep warm.

*You can substitute Velveeta cheese for the cream cheese for a truly tailgate-esque experience.

**I used Cattle Drive Chicken Chili.