Saturday, June 30, 2012

Canadian Flag Cake

Gather ’round, mes petits choux! Tomorrow is Canada Day, and do I have a cake for you! Run - don’t walk! - to the grocery store to buy two packages of strawberry or raspberry Jell-O, eh? And about two pounds of fresh strawberries, eh? And a white cake mix, eh? And a small tub of Cool Whip, eh? And some Dr. Oetker (or the generic equivalent of) red glaze mix, eh? 
Start the celebration! Why not substitute sparklers for the flags?

I don’t normally bake with mixes, but tomorrow, Canada celebrates its 145th birthday, and this almost-as-old blogger has no intention of fussing in the kitchen. Because the US will whoop-de-do on the 236th anniversary of its independence from Britain on July 4, I’ll have a very special Fourth of July Pie for you in a couple of days - also very, very simple. I once lived in Australia - a spectacular country close to my heart - and promise to post one of my favorite Aussie recipes shortly before Australia Day, next January 26thSo many recipes! So little time! But today, the Canucks will bask in the spotlight, eh?
Canadian Flag Cake:
One 18 oz. (515 g) pkg white cake mix
Two 3 oz. (85 g) pkgs strawberry or raspberry Jell-O jelly powder (or generic equivalent)
2 c. boiling water
3 c. ice cubes
2-to-2-½ lb. fresh, ripe, hulled strawberries, divided
8 oz. (250 mL) Cool Whip (or generic equivalent), thawed in refrigerator for several hours
3-½ oz. (10 g) pkg powdered Dr. Oetker red glaze mix (or small amount of pre-mixed glaze)
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. for glass or metal cake pan or (or 325 deg. F. for dark-colored or coated pan). Lightly grease and dust with flour a 13x9-in. pan. Prepare cake mix as package directs (using 3 egg whites, ¼ c. vegetable oil, and 1 c. water). Pour into prepared pan, baking 23-to-28 min. Cool in pan on wire rack. When cake has completely cooled, place cake in its pan on baking sheet with sides. 
Dissolve Jell-O in 2 c. boiling water. Add ice cubes, stirring 3-to-5 min. until slightly thickened. Remove remaining ice cubes with slotted spoon. Stir in 2 c. rinsed, dried, and crushed strawberries (crush with a blender set to “low” or “pulse”). Pour jelly mixture over cake in cake pan until jelly almost reaches top of cake pan, allowing second pan to catch any overflow. Try not to over-fill. Refrigerate 30 min. until jelly is well set. 
Lightly smooth thawed Cool Whip over entire cake, striving to even out  strawberry lumps and bumps. Cover with foil and return to refrigerator at least 2 hr. Cover and return any remaining Cool Whip to refrigerator. While cake and toppings are chilling, Google and print an image search of the Canadian flag. Set aside.
Rinse, blot dry, and slice remaining strawberries. Cover, chill, and set aside. When Cool Whip over cake has thoroughly chilled, patch any areas of “jelly bleed” with a second, light covering of Cool Whip. Cover and return to fridge, eh? When second layer of Cool Whip has set, line both “short” sides of cake with two columns of sliced strawberries laid side-by-side. 
Now the fun part: If the maple leaf image on the flag you’ve printed is approximately the correct size, center on cake equidistant from the sides, top, and bottom, marking outline with toothpick holes and filling in with sliced berries to resemble the maple leaf on the Canadian flag (Realizing too late that I’d started my maple leaf too low on the cake, I added small cloth flags to create the optical illusion of “raising” the maple leaf’s position on the cake. When the strawberries I laid down looked more like Mickey Mouse than the majestic maple leaf, Ron complied with my request that he fix my faux pas. Never be bashful about asking for help, Dollinks!).
With the berries artistically arrayed, follow red glaze package instructions, carefully dabbing on glaze for sheen, show, and color. Remove cake from baking sheet, serving directly from cake pan. Yields 18 slices of about 2x3-inches. I’ve made this cake for many years. Everyone, everytime, wants the recipe. So now they have it! 

Prepare pan: Knock flour into all corners, removing excess
Assemble all ingredients

This adds pizzazz!

Prepare cake mix as directed

Prepare jelly with boiling water, as directed

Stir in and remove ice cubes when slightly thickened

Add crushed strawberries
Frost with Cool Whip

Try to keep topping as smooth as possible
Slice strawberries. A lot of strawberries.
Check out the Canadian flag, eh?
I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends
(Ron's artistry and Dr. Oetker's red glaze mix)

Who, Moi, patriotic???

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ron’s Honeyed Chicken Wings

These are great - excellent for the holidays, parties, or football games!  

Ron’s Honeyed Chicken Wings: 

This recipe requires extra time for marination

4-to-5 lb. chicken wings, sliced in half
1 c. honey
½ c. soy sauce
6-to-8 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ tsp. Asian chili oil
½ tsp. dried thyme

Combine all ingredients, marinating 2-to-3 hr. or overnight. Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Bake 40 minutes in a single layer, turning halfway through.

See my post of June 10, 2011 indexed as Appetizers: Chicken-Based featuring three different types of Chicken Wings). Ron and I decided to pit his wings against mine (I made my Sticky Ginger Wings and he made the recipe above. Youll find my wings at 

Together, we cooked 4 lb. (2 kg) of wings and then sat down to eat. We called this The Great Chicken Wing Cook-Off! Who won? Youll find the answer below!

We baked our wings in identical dishes - Ron’s clear ...

And mine tinted blue, so we could tell our wings apart.

Ron’s Honeyed Chicken Wings are marinated.

My Sticky Ginger Wings need no marination.

We baked both sets of wings, side-by-side

With Ron’s wings on the left, and mine with a sprinkling 
of sesame seeds on the right, which wing won?

The answer? I liked Rons wings best. He preferred mine. Why dont you decide? We hope youll try all our wing recipes!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Buttery Steamed Carrots

I like trying new things, and recently bought a special hand-shredder that makes chocolate and vegetable curls. My little shredder gives grated carrots a new and interesting look - particularly with this recipe. I’ve cooked carrots this way for many years, but grating them in long, loopy curls seems more fun than the usual, short grate. This is a delicious, quick, and very simple way to prepare them. 
Buttery Steamed Carrots:
5-to-6 large carrots, shredded
1-½ tbsp. butter or margarine
1 tbsp. ginger slivers (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Melt butter on low heat in small saucepan with tight-fitting lid. Add carrots, seasoning to taste. Cook, covered, 5-to-7 min.

This simple grater works lickety-split - as fast as
a vegetable peeler. It cost about $12 in a kitchen store

These long shreds go into a covered pot with melted butter

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Carrot and Other Tasty Juices

“Why, oh, why are you so delicate and slender, Nicole? Why, when you prepare so many luscious recipes, do you not look like a sumo wrestler?”
Hah! No one ever says that. In fact, I do look like a sumo wrestler, but find the top-knot and the diaper unflattering.
The Canadian Flag Cake I recently told you about is now baked and partially decorated, with only the finishing touches needed. Im about to start my Fourth of July Pie, but havent quite done it, yet (I know it’s early, Dollinks, but I want you to have those recipes in plenty of time for the holidays). Those blogs will require a little extra work, and this being the weekend, with people to see and places to go … well, it may just be a few days before I post those recipes. So here’s a dead-simple blog I’ve tested and glug-glugged many times! 
We have a juice maker. ’Nuff said, but that’s never stopped my torrent of words. 
Our juice maker wasn’t expensive. It’s not one of those models that require so much storage that you may as well offer it your spot in the garage. Nor does it have so many moving parts that it requires intricate cleaning. Having said all of that, I’m not going to tout this or that company, so you’re on your own at finding the make and model that suits you best. 
I will say that Ron does the juicing in this household, buzzing stemmed, washed, unpeeled carrots (how hard is that?through the machine, sometimes adding celery, beet, turnips, apple, and other wonderful things. In this way, we get a faceful of antioxidants and I manage to hold steady at 525 pounds instead of the 550 pounds my sumo wrestler genes crave.

Todays “recipe” is simple: Buy a juicer. If you want to invest in good health, it’s money well spent. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a weekend movie to watch! Pass the popcorn, Dollink!

xox   Nicole

Ignore the brand name on this and all other small appliances
in my kitchen! What's right for me, may not be right for you!

BRRRT! In go the carrots, out comes the juice! Simple, wot?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pat’s Bok Choy Salad

Terrific recipe! Ate far too much! This salad - for which I have to thank my dear friend Pat - has no taste of soy sauce and no “Chinese” taste. We gobbled masses of it down with Ron’s Barbecued Ribs (blogged Nov. 29, 2011). While the two dishes were a perfect pairing, the salads calcium- and protein-rich almonds, the starch from its noodles, and the vitamins and minerals of the bok choy and green onions, could easily have made it our main course!
Pat: The fickle finger of fate
 pointed us to a nudist beach
Pat and I go back many years, linked by our non-existent sense of direction. A few years ago, when Pat and I decided to take a beach walk, we had no idea we’d strayed onto a nudist beach until we belatedly noticed that everyone was wearing their birthday suits. The odds that it was actually all their birthdays being quite low, we couldn't have been more shocked. 
Realizing we were lost by the deer-in-the-headlights look in our eyes, a man bearing a map pointed to the direction we should exit the beach. When Pat and I simultaneously saw that he wasn’t pointing with his finger, we shrieked in panic, making a run for the crumbling cliff that towers above the beach. Hauling ourselves up like rockets, we clung to roots, scrabbled over logs, dislodged stones, and screamed without pause. We emerged at the top with twigs in our hair and with our primly-clothed bodies covered in dirt and mud. The bemused man with the map is probably still telling the story.
Pat’s Bok Choy Salad:
To Prepare the Salad:
5 baby bok choy, washed, blotted dry, root-end removed 
2-to-3 green onions, finely chopped
1-½ tbsp. butter or margarine
One 3-oz. (85 g) pkg ramen-style instant noodles (discard seasoning packet)
One 3-½ oz. (100 g) pkg natural flaked or sliced almonds
Coarsely chop cleaned baby bok choy into bite-sized pieces. Place in salad bowl, sprinkling with green onions. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. While butter melts, break ramen noodles into bite-sized pieces. Add noodles to skillet, tossing frequently until they begin to brown, about 5 min. Add almonds in final minute, quickly stirring until they start to brown. Add to bok choy and green onions, tossing well. 
To Prepare the Soy Dressing:
In a small lidded jar, combine 6 tbsp. olive oil, 3 tbsp. soy sauce, and 1-½ tsp. granulated sugar. Shake together well, pouring about half the dressing over salad in bowl. Toss salad until leaves glisten. Taste mixed salad, adding slightly more dressing, if needed. In the quantities given, this recipe serves 4-to-6.
Pat says the crispy noodles and nuts remain so the next day, so that nothing goes to waste. I wouldn’t know … we ate every morsel. Once you’ve got the basic dressing on hand, you can adjust this wonderful salad for a buffet - or for just one. Bon appétit!

Use 2 or 3 chopped green onions

Use 5 or 6 baby bok choy

Toss both greens together

These are ramen noodles! The package I bought cost 49 cents

Break up ramen noodles, browning with flaked almonds

With its glistening leaves, this salad looks and tastes great! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chinese Lettuce Wraps

This dish is a great break from the usual potatoes or rice. Vary what you put inside these Chinese Lettuce Wraps by what’s in the kitchen cupboard - but don’t forget the “crunch” the water chestnuts and the vermicelli provide! It’s exactly that “crunch”that makes these wraps so interesting. If you’ve never worked with vermicelli, the photos and the method for this recipe will walk you through it. 
For another delicious dish based on this versatile noodle, see the Sunomono Salad recipe I posted Oct. 25, 2011. That recipe is so easy and delicious that it’s held steady for many months as the second most-popular dish I’ve ever posted. I plan to use the uncooked vermicelli left over from this dish to make this excellent Japanese salad, again. 
Chinese Lettuce Wraps:
16-to-20 iceberg lettuce leaves, rinsed, blotted dry, well-chilled
1 tbsp. cooking oil
1 lb. lean ground pork
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice seasoning
2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
¼ tsp. Asian hot sauce (optional)
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
One 8 oz. (227 mL) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
1-½ c. peanut oil (or other quality oil able to withstand high heat)
Approximately ¼ of a bundle of vermicelli noodles (also called mung bean or glass noodles), slightly separated
Slice large iceberg lettuce leaves in half, trimming off vein, and leave smaller, inner leaves whole (see Note). Wrap leaves in paper toweling, placing in produce crisper. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in deep skillet over medium heat. Add ground pork (see Penny-Pinching Note), browning until no pink remains. Remove pork with slotted spoon; set aside. Drain most of fat from pan, stir-frying onion and garlic in remaining fat. Return cooked meat to pan, stirring in soy sauce, sesame oil, Chinese five-spice seasoning, hoisin sauce, rice wine vinegar, and Asian hot sauce, cooking just until onion becomes translucent. Stir in water chestnuts and green onions. Transfer to platter or bowl. Keep warm in oven set to low heat.
Let skillet cool slightly before wiping with paper towel. Heat 1-½ c. peanut oil over medium high, until oil is almost at smoking point. Drop uncooked vermicelli noodles into hot oil. Noodles will expand and explode within three seconds. Do not allow vermicelli to brown. Immediately remove from skillet with slotted spoon, blotting excess fat with paper towel (When oil in skillet cools, strain and add to lidded jar for future use). Lightly combine deep-fried vermicelli with meat mixture; serve at once. 
To serve, arrange lettuce leaves on large serving platter, spooning meat mixture onto lettuce leaves, one at a time. Fold leaves as a “wrap” to enjoy this messy, but delicious, treat. Serves 3 or 4.
Note: I recently came across a new product called “Lettuce Wraps” - essentially, pre-washed Romaine leaves smaller than regular Romaine. I bought it, but found their use in this recipe quite disappointing. These smaller-than-average Romaine leaves certainly have the desired elongated shape. Unfortunately, Romaine also has tough leaves and strong and sturdy center stalks. It is these stalks that - despite their name and in my opinion - make this product unsuitable for Lettuce Wraps. The product comes from Gonzales, CA. Although I wouldn’t use them as Lettuce Wraps again, I think they’d work very well for Chinese Fried Lettuce (see my recipe posted below this one). 
Penny-Pinching Note: I ground the pork myself, using some of the meat I sectioned for my post titled Miss Piggy Goes to Market (April 25, 2012). I’m pointing this out to reinforce how very economical buying a larger cut of meat can be. I’ve made many, many dishes from that 23-lb. slab of pork (even after slicing away its 10-lb. sheath of fat), and still have more pork in the freezer. When I finally use it all up, I wont be buying any more for awhile. We’ve had so much of it lately that, gee, at our house, pork is a four-letter word.

Use freshly ground pork

Here's what a pound of it looks like

Fry it until no pink remains

Drain meat by placing it in a sieve so excess fat drips off

Use about a quarter of dry vermicelli noodles

Add to heated oil

Stir them a second or two, ensuring they're soaked in hot oil

BOOM! Watch as they explode

Remove from heat; blot off fat; add to meat mixture

Work quickly, so noodles remain crisp

Chilled lettuce leaves on platter, meat mixture nearby

Spoon onto leaf, top with more hoisin sauce, and ...


Chinese Fried Lettuce

This is a very simple dish, as quick to make as it is tasty. You could use a prepackaged lettuce product to make this, but ordinary iceberg lettuce is far cheaper. Caution: Don’t overdo it on the oil or salt - less is best!
Chinese Fried Lettuce:
1 large, whole head of iceberg lettuce
2-to-3 tsp. oil
1 clove garlic, minced fine
Dash of salt
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
Wash lettuce, spinning or blotting dry. Cut into quarters. Heat oil in wok, frying lettuce 1 min. Add minced garlic, salt, and sesame seeds, combining well. Cook 1 min. longer. Serve at once.

While I’m thinking of Asian foods, my friend Pat recently gave me her terrific recipe for Bok Choy Salad. I’ll share it with you, tomorrow.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quick ’n’ Easy Dip Mix

This veggie dip is so easy. “How easy is it?” you cry in unison. It’s so easy that I’m not even going to bother asking Ron to take photos of a hand (mine, Dollinks!) shaking ingredients in a lidded jar. I think, my dears, that you will be able to figure this out sans photos. Oh, did I tell you? It’s a lovely, lovely recipe! 
Quick ’n’ Easy Dip Mix:
¼ c. commercially grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp. salt 
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. celery seed 
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. finely ground black pepper
Shake all ingredients together in a lidded jar. Label and store in refrigerator. To use, stir 1 tbsp. of mix into ½ c. sour cream combined with ½ c. mayonnaise. Refrigerate at least 30 min. before serving with dipping crackers, chips, or trimmed, fresh vegetables. This makes enough mix for 5 cups of dip. Olé!