Chinese Restaurant Almond Cookies

Chinese Restaurant Almond CookiesPersonally, I’m not a huge “almond flavour” person. I hate marzipan! My caveat however is this recipe! I LOVE these cookies. There is just something about them that is so delicious and not overly sweet. Traditionally, this recipe would call for the use of lard. For obvious reasons, lard would not work for me. The compromise here is to use half butter/margarine and half Crisco/vegetable shortening. You can use 100% of either, instead of a mix, but I find the mix works best. This recipe makes 4 dozen cookies.

Ingredients:

2 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter or margarine
½ cup Crisco or vegetable shortening
1 egg
2 teaspoons almond extract
6-10 drops yellow food colouring (optional)
48 almonds or almond slivers
1 egg (for egg wash)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together into a bowl. Cut in the butter/margarine until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add egg, almond extract and food colouring. Mix well.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Set them 2 inches apart on an un-greased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a floured glass, gently press down the cookies to flatten them, to about a ¼ inch. I don’t suggest using your fingers, as they will leave grooves in the cookie that the egg wash will settle in. Place an almond on top of each cookie and press down to slightly. Brush each cookie lightly with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven until the edges of the cookies are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Enjoy!

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Authentic Chinese Egg Rolls

Egg RollsOriginal recipe makes 20 egg rolls

Ingredients:

4 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
1 medium head cabbage, finely shredded*#
½ carrot, julienned#
1 (8 ounce) can shredded bamboo shoots
1 cup dried, shredded wood ear mushroom, re-hydrated (or other mushroom)
1 pound barbecued or roasted meat or tofu, cut into matchsticks
2 green onions, thinly sliced*
2 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 (14 ounce) package egg roll wrappers
1 egg white, beaten
oil for frying, as needed

Directions:

Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Pour in beaten eggs and cook, without stirring, until firmed. Flip the eggs over and cook for an additional 20 seconds to firm the other side. Set egg pancake aside to cool, then slice into thin strips.

Heat the remaining vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Stir in cabbage and carrot; cook for 2 minutes to wilt. Add bamboo, mushroom, meat/tofu, green onions, soy sauce, salt, and sugar. Continue cooking until the vegetables soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in sliced egg, then spread mixture out onto a pan, and refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

To assemble the egg rolls, place a wrapper onto your work surface with one corner pointing towards you. Place about 3 tablespoons of cooled filling in a heap onto the bottom third of the wrapper. Brush a little beaten egg white onto the top two edges of the wrapper, then fold the bottom corner over the filling and roll firmly to the halfway point. Fold the left and right sides snugly over the egg roll, then continue rolling until the top corners seal the egg roll with the egg white. Repeat with remaining egg roll wrappers, covering finished egg rolls with plastic wrap to keep from drying out.

Heat about 6-inches of oil in a wok or deep-fryer to 350 degrees F. Fry egg rolls 3 or 4 at a time until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Alternatively, for a healthy version, you can bake the egg rolls at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes, or until they are nice and golden brown.

* To see how to properly clean cabbage and green onions, click here.

# For ease of convenience, you can purchase pre-cleaned, pre-checked, bags of shredded cabbage and carrots.

The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies

Chanuka Sugar CookiesThis is the perfect combination of a recipe AND a fun activity for the kids (or just those that act like kids). Prepare the dough ahead of time and keep covered in plastic wrap in the fridge. When company comes over, before the meal, set up a decorating station and have everyone cut out their own cookies and decorate as they please. Have bowls of sprinkles, chocolate chips and tubes of ready-bought icing for them to use. Just remember, the icing goes on AFTER the baking, not before 🙂

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups butter (or margarine), softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. If you prefer the slice and bake method, form into 2 thick logs and wrap completely in plastic wrap. If you are eventually going to roll out your dough, it’s easier to form them into 2 thick disks, and then again, wrap completely in plastic wrap. Chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If you are rolling out the dough, do so on a floured surface, rolling to about  ¼ to ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. If you are slicing the cookies from a log, simply cut with a sharp knife (you may want to wet it between slices) and cut slices about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely. Makes about 60 cookies.

Blintz Soufflé

Blintz SouffleIngredients:

1 dozen frozen blintzes, any flavour (cheese, blueberry, cherry, etc.)
1 ½ cups sour cream or yogurt (light or regular)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
4 eggs (or 1 cup egg substitute)
½ cup orange juice
cinnamon, as garnish

Directions:

Place blintzes in a single layer in a sprayed 9” x 13” glass baking dish. Using a steel blade, process sour cream or yogurt, with vanilla extract and sugar for a few seconds. Add eggs and orange juice through feed tube while machine is running. Process until smooth. Immediately remove bowl from the base of machine to prevent leakage. Pour topping over blintzes(can be prepared in advance and refrigerated.) Sprinkle the top with some cinnamon (it looks good AND it tastes good!). Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour, until puffed and golden. Serve with sour cream or a sauce that matches the blintz filling; e.g.: cherry, blueberry, etc.

Latkes – 3 Ways

Potato LatkeRegular Potato Latkes

Ingredients:

4 medium potatoes
1 onion
2 eggs
½ cup flour or matzo meal
1 teaspoon chicken soup mix (bullion)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Oil for frying

Directions:

Shred potatoes in a food processor. Rinse and drain the potatoes shreddings very well. Take half of the shreddings and puree them along with the onion. Add the eggs, flour, chicken soup mix, baking powder, salt and pepper to the puree. Mix the puree together with the remaining portion of shredded potatoes. Pour oil to about ⅛” depth into a large skillet. When hot, drop in potato mixture by large spoonfuls to form pancakes. Brown well on both sides. Drain well on paper towels. Yields about 2 dozen or 5 dozen miniatures.

Sweet Potato LatkesSweet Potato Latkes

Ingredients:

2 lbs. sweet potatoes or yams
2 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 – 2 teaspoons cinnamon (to taste)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
Oil for frying

Directions:

Shred potatoes in a food processor. Rinse and drain the potatoes shreddings very well. Take half of the shreddings and puree them. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, and spices to the puree. Mix the puree together with the remaining portion of shredded potatoes. Pour oil to about ⅛” depth into a large skillet. When hot, drop in potato mixture by large spoonfuls to form pancakes. Brown well on both sides. Drain well on paper towels. Makes about 18 – 20 pancakes.

Zucchini LatkesZucchini Latkes

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini
1 large potato
1 small onion
3 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Oil for frying

Directions:

Shred the zucchini and potato in a food processor. Rinse and drain the potato shreddings very well. Remove the excess water from the rinsed potato shreddings and the zucchini shredding as well (you can put them in dish towel or cheesecloth and squeeze out moisture). Take half of the shreddings and puree them along with the onion. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, and spices to the puree. Mix the puree together with the remaining portion of shredded potato/zucchini. Pour oil to about ⅛” depth into a large skillet. When hot, drop in batter mixture by large spoonfuls to form pancakes. Brown well on both sides. Drain well on paper towels. Makes about 12 – 18 pancakes.

Banana Orange Cranberry Bread

Cranberry Orange Banana BreadThis is a good use of a few leftover items hanging around your kitchen: Cranberry sauce, bananas and an orange! In fact, when you start to see your bananas heading south, stick them in the freezer for when you wish to make banana bread at a later date, as you’re gonna need the dark overly-ripe ones for the recipe! The original recipe makes 2 – 9×5 inch loaves.

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar
1 cup shortening
3 eggs
3 mashed bananas (very ripe)
1 orange, peeled and mashed
1 cup cranberry sauce
½ cup milk (you can use soy or water as well)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup chopped walnuts (or nut of choice)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, and mix in bananas, orange, cranberry sauce, milk, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Gradually blend flour mixture into the banana mixture. Fold in walnuts. Pour into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, and cool completely.

Due Finali Dolci

TiramisuTiramisu

This dish, again seems to be a bit labour intensive, but again, worth it! The best advice I have for you is to make it at least a day in advance, if not two, so that the flavours have a chance to meld and develop. If not, you might find it somewhat bland and unbalanced. I also recommend serving it chilled.

Ingredients:

6 egg yolks
¾ cup white sugar
⅔ cup milk
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound mascarpone cheese
½ cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature (espresso is even better)
4 tablespoons rum or alcohol of choice
2 (3 ounce) packages ladyfinger cookies
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, don’t stop, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow it to cool slightly. Cover tightly and chill in refrigerator 1 hour. Remove from the fridge and whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth, you may wish to use an electric beater for this if you have one, it will make the job easier and give you a silky texture. In a separate medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. In a small bowl, combine coffee and rum. Take each lady finger and dip it into the coffee mixture. Arrange half of soaked ladyfingers in bottom of a 7×11 inch dish. Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers and sprinkle with cocoa. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, until set, but preferably overnight or even a day or two.

BiscottiItalian Biscotti

This recipe is for a basic almond cookie, but the flavour options are endless. You can replace the extracts with ones of your choosing, such as anise, orange or lemon. You can add, remove or change the nuts used, or use chocolate chips or poppy seeds instead. Add citrus zest or dried cranberries! You are truly only limited by your imagination.

Original recipe makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

12 ounces butter/margarine
1 ¾ cups white sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 ounces chopped almonds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together, and then add eggs one at a time, beating until fluffy. Stir in the almond and vanilla extracts. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and then incorporate them into the egg mixture along with the chopped almonds. Stir the dough with a spoon until it begins to come together. I find it easier, once the basic dough has formed, to then dump it out onto a clean floured surface and knead by hand at this point. Divide the dough into 4 parts. Roll each piece into a log about 15 inches long (or as long as your baking sheets are). Place logs onto cookie sheets, two to a sheet, the long way. Flatten the logs out until they are about 3 inches wide with a slight hump going down the middle. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, then remove them from the oven. The loaves should be firm to the touch. Transfer the logs to a rack to cool slightly, and then using a serrated blade, cut the loaves into diagonal slices ½ inch wide. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Stand the slices upright on the baking sheet and bake for another 40 minutes. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup

Now while I don’t know any Jewish wedding that this amount of soup would fit the bill for, you can feed about 8-10 people with it as a nice starter. Think of it as an Italian chicken soup, but with meatballs instead of matzo balls! Not that the edition of matzo balls would be a bad idea… hmm…

Ingredients:

Meatballs:

1 pound lean ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup dried bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3 tablespoons minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
⅓ teaspoon salt, or to taste
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Soup:

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
⅓ cup coarsely chopped onion
⅓ cup coarsely chopped carrot
⅓ cup coarsely chopped celery
1 teaspoon tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 ½ quarts chicken broth
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
salt to taste
1 cup seashell pasta (or other small-shaped noodle)
2 cups spinach – packed, rinsed* and thinly sliced

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine the beef, eggs, bread crumbs, basil, parsley, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined, but do not over mix. Shape the meat into ¾ inch balls, and set aside. In a large stockpot, on medium-high heat, add the oil and sauté the onion, carrot and celery until the onion becomes slightly translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic, and let cook a few minutes more until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the broth, bay leaf and peppercorns and any salt that is desired, bringing the broth to a boil. You may wish to put the bay leaf and peppercorns in a little cheesecloth bundle, to make for easy removal later, but you can skip this step, and simply fish them out later. Once boiling, slowly drop in the meatballs and pasta. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, at a slow boil for about 10 minutes, until the pasta is al dente and the meatballs are no longer pink inside. At the last minute add the spinach and wilt it into the soup. Serve hot with crusty bread and enjoy!

* click here to check out how to clean spinach properly.

Tre Formaggio Arancini (Three Cheese Rice Balls)

Arancini

This recipe may seem a little labour intensive, but trust me, the end result is worth it!! Of course, it’s always easier if you just happen to have left over risotto sitting around your kitchen :). For those of us that don’t though, you’ll find this a very easy recipe as it does not involve the time consuming process that a regular risotto does. Buon appetito!

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
½ cup dry white wine
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)
½ cup shredded fontina cheese (2 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 large eggs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 ½ cups breadcrumbs, divided
vegetable oil, for frying

Directions:

Bring the broth and ¼ teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the rice, garlic and onion, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let cool completely (if you’re in a hurry, try sticking the sheet in the fridge or freezer!). Combine the pine nuts, mozzarella, fontina and parsley in a bowl and set aside. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then stir in the cooled rice mixture, the parmesan and ⅔ cup of the breadcrumbs. Shape the mixture into sixteen 1 ½ -inch balls. Put the remaining breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Press your finger into the centre of each rice ball, and insert 2 teaspoons of the cheese mixture, then pinch the rice around the filling to seal. Roll the balls in the breadcrumbs and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Loosely cover and refrigerate, at least 1 hour or overnight. (If refrigerating overnight, roll in more breadcrumbs before frying). Heat ½ inch vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F. Working in batches, fry the rice balls, turning, until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels; season with salt. Enjoy hot with marinara sauce or plain!

Mains: One Meat & One Dairy – And Everyone Is Happy!

Moussaka

Mousakas Latheros (Vegetarian Mousaka)

Ingredients:

4 medium eggplants
1 cup oil
3 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
3 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 cup milk
3 large eggs, beaten
8 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the stems from the eggplants and cut lengthwise into thin slices. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside to drain in a colander. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Lightly sauté the potato slices over medium heat until they start turning golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the onions until they are soft and golden, then remove from the oil and set aside. Add the eggplant to the skillet and sauté until soft and lightly coloured. Remove from the skillet and layer the vegetables in a medium baking pan, beginning with the eggplant, then potatoes, then the onions, until all of the ingredients are used. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper, and spread the mixture over the vegetables. In another bowl, thoroughly mix the milk, eggs and feta cheese. Pour this mixture over the tomatoes. Rock the baking dish gently to distribute the cheese mixture evenly. Bake for 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and crusty.

Greek Lemon Chicken 1

Greek Chicken

Ingredients:

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 lemons
4 large cloves of garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4-5 pepperoncini, sliced, plus liquid from jar
½ cup olive oil

Directions:

In a large container or freezer bag, place the chicken, the salt, pepper, sliced pepperoncini, and the mashed garlic. Rub the oregano in your hands to bring out the essential oils and add that to the mix. Zest the lemons, then quarter and squeeze the juice from the lemons into the mixture and add the lemons and zest as well. Lastly add the olive oil and about ¼ to ½ cup of juice from the pepperoncini to the mixture. Seal the bag or cover the container and toss the chicken around to make sure every bit is covered. Let marinate for 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge. Do not let it go overnight, as the acids in the salt and lemons will start to cook the chicken, and it will become rubbery. In a large skillet, sauté the chicken, (along with the bits of lemon, peppers and garlic) in the oil from the marinade. The chicken will brown up nicely. Sauté until cooked through. Serve over rice, couscous or orzo.