Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chinese Buns in the Oven

It's one of those recipes I have looked at in my cookbook for years and wanted to try, but just never got around to it.  

Ginger, Soy Sauce, and Chicken wrapped up in homemade bread.

Shaped into a bun.

Allowed to rise in a warm spot.

Brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Baked in a warm oven where they puff up even more.

Then cooled.

They smell fantastic. (Next time I will roll them in the egg wash to cover the entire surface.)

They make a great take out lunch for work.

Sorry for the blur.  But, yum.

They freeze well, thaw quickly, and reheat in the microwave in 50 seconds.  Great with a little extra soy sauce on the side for dipping.

Stuffed Chinese Chicken Buns 
adapted from Bread Machine by Jennie Shapter

For the Bread

  • Combine 1 tsp of yeast, 5/8 cup warm water, and 1 tsp sugar in a bowl.  Let the yeast bloom for  about 5 minutes. In a second bowl mix 2 cups flour, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Add yeast mix and 1 Tbsp soft butter to the flour.  Knead for 8 minutes by hand or with a kneading attachment on your mixer.  Cover, and let it rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.

For the Filling

  • Marinate 2 chicken breasts cut into small pieces in a bowl with a 2" piece of grated ginger, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 1/2 Tbsp oil, 1 Tbsp minced garlic, 1 Tbsp honey for 30 minutes.  Heat some oil in a frying pan and cook chicken for about 6 minutes.  Add one bunch of chopped green onions and cook for a couple more minutes.  Remove from heat; add salt and pepper to taste, 2 Tbsp cilantro, and cool.
  • Divide dough into 8 pieces, press or roll into rounds, and place 1/4 cup of chicken in the center.  Fold up the edges and twist.  Place twist side down, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes.  Whip one egg yolk with 1 Tbsp of water and brush onto buns.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake 28-20 minutes @400 degrees.
Next time I will add diced carrot and chopped broccoli and mushrooms to the chicken.  A little red pepper flake and shiracha sauce would be good as well.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Moss Garden in the Making

Walking our property over the weekend I found so many wonderful things growing.  Some of them I collected and put together in a dish to begin a moss garden.  It's a pleasant distraction now on the porch table, but look closer, really closer, and you will see it's like a whole new world.

Breaking the garden down into small glimpses with my macro lens reveal tall forests of grass with seeds waiting on the tips which are really just clumps of moss I scavenged from the muddy ground under a stand of oak trees.

A few pieces of petrified wood found on our fence line adds a bit of texture and reminds me of the large rocks at Pedernales Falls State Park, though this one is only inches in length.

But the real gems are the lichen which invaded the branch of an oak tree in the front yard.  They look like small trees themselves through my lens.  A Charlie Brown Christmas tree or desert evergreen.

Everything has either a spore or seed to spread making the tiny landscape even more interesting.

Don't forget these are tiny!  The lichen pictured below, for example, is a mere 1/2 inch in diameter; far smaller that the picture itself.

Some scenes look as though they should be hidden in the sea with parrot fish and clown fish darting in and out of the terrain.

All are so interesting.

I am fascinated by the scenes my camera could see that I could not.  Who knew lichen was hairy?

Oh the things that escape the naked eye.

And this?  This is a piece of bark peeled from a tree limb that came down in a storm.

But growing into the bark are Tillandsia, or air plants.  Their tiny roots keep them attached to the bark.

Now they are tucked into my new tiny garden of moss and will hopefully thrive.

It will be fun to watch what happens to this little garden.  Hopefully it will continue to grow, but when the Texas summer heats up I fear it may not survive.  Only time will tell.

But in the meantime, I will enjoy my unexpected garden and all the tiny treasures within.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What's Your Comfort Food?

We all need it every once in awhile.  When a tree falls over while you are at work and cracks your main water line.  When you leave the grocery store with ice cream in your bag and find your car won't start.  In general, comfort food is great when things are just . . . well . . . bad.  And everyone is different in the food they crave.  For me it's Cane's three finger chicken basket, but for one friend having a particularly difficult week it's Rum Balls.

They are so easy to make and don't require many ingredients or time.  I made these with her favorite Rum and toasted pecans.

I started with 250 mg of vanilla wafers.  That's just a little less than a box or 2 1/2 cups.  I pulverized them in my food processor until they were fine, then added 1 cup of toasted pecans and pulsed until they were ground and blended.  (Yes, you should take the time to toast the nuts.  It only takes 6 minutes at 325 degrees and tastes better.)

Then I stirred in 2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder and 1 cup of 10x confectioner's sugar; poured in 2 Tablespoons of light corn syrup and 1/2 cup of spiced rum, and stirred until everything was well incorporated.  Easy, right?

All that was left at this point was to shape the balls and roll them in more 10x.

I used my little scoop that still remains one of my favorite cooking tools, and they all came out the same size.

The recipe made 2 dozen at this size with exactly 1 extra for chef to test.  They will be better when they cure in the refrigerator for a few days, but a few tonight will hopefully put a smile on my friend's face.

What's your go-to comfort food when things are crazy?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Super Bowl Leftovers? Yes.

I love Super Bowl food.  Who doesn't?  It's gorpy and gooey and totally wrong, but I love it.  This year I made two foods to bring to a friend's house to watch the game.  One has become the perfect go-to appetizer for me and it is always well received.  It's Bacon Wrapped Sriracha Chicken and it's amazing.  I even like what the cilantro adds to the flavor and I'm not usually a fan.

The other was Bourbon Apricot Kielbasa and not a hit.  It needed more layers of flavor to impress me (and everyone else, it seems).

Because it was not popular, I had plenty of left over Kielbasa to play with when I got home and I came up with a way to reinvent it as a meal that turned out pretty well.

I took some green pepper, red onion, garlic, and jalapeno and sauteed them in a little oil, then tossed in some of the Kielbasa and apricot bourbon sauce to heat through.  I then added some soy sauce and red pepper flakes and served it over rice.

Since I hate throwing away food I was glad to have found a way to save this dish, though it will not be making a repeat appearance at next year's Super Bowl.

Monday, February 2, 2015

My Apologies on Behalf of West Elm to the Landfill

I haven't updated you on the condo progress in awhile mostly because there hasn't been much.  I don't get to Houston often so the projects are few and far between.  That being said, Breck and I did get around to adding a little something new to a spot that really needed to be filled.  Please don't pay any attention to the mess.

I found a shelving unit at West Elm that fit the measurements I needed and Breck ordered it online.  Breck warned me that there was an obscene amount of packaging that came with the shelves before I arrived to check it out.

I admit to not being fully prepared.  I have never seen so much waste.

So much corrugated, (the thick stuff not the flimsy stuff), heavy Styrofoam, and whatever that thin plastic wrap junk is.

And do you see those big boxes in the middle?  They are empty.  EMPTY.  They are fillers to keep things from shifting.

So you may wonder what come out of a 7 foot long box.  This is it.  8 pieces of wood and a drawer.  Crazy.

But the real kicker to me was the tag on the file cabinet drawer.  Do you see the irony?  I love West Elm, but seriously, wow.  They could have shipped the flat shelves and brackets in one thin box and the file drawer in another and saved so much on the packaging.

 In the end, I will recycle the cardboard, but just look at all the Styrofoam!

After getting all the garbage squared away, I got to the fun part.  Assembly.  Um, I did ask you not to look at the mess.  It's a work in progress.

I've put together enough IKEA in my day that this was no trouble at all.

And I love it!  It fits the space perfectly and now Breck has a place to put some of his favorite things.

Like the bowl I made him for Christmas to put his loose change in at the end of the day and the tree carving picture I made him for Valentine's Day a few years back (Carved Lover's Tree Photo).

I somehow didn't get more pictures of it, but I'm sure it will make it's way into future posts.   However, that was not the end of our condo upgrading.  We found this city scape at World Market for over the sofa.  Great colors and the price was right.  It was on sale 50% off plus I got an online coupon at the checkout counter on my phone for 15% more.  It was the deal of the day.

 And did you notice the light over the dining table?  It's new too.

Quite the upgrade from where we started.  Sometimes I need to look back at these photos to remind myself of just how much we HAVE done as to not focus on how far we still have to go.

Oh, and Breck has developed a green thumb.  All his plants are doing very well in the morning light from his windows.  

Last but not least, a few other things going on.  The back splash has been removed and the wall in the kitchen has been moved back.  And that big stainless steel thing in the background is a new counter depth refrigerator.

And since the old dishwasher died, a new stainless one is in its place still covered in blue protective plastic.  See the shelf in the background?  Love it.

So that gets you caught up.  It may be awhile before I have anything new from the condo.  Honestly, I'm not even sure what I'll tackle next.