Thursday, May 11, 2017

Marzipan Strawberry Pie

During the great flood of 2017, Bow and I felt very cooped up. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do, and we got a little tired of the same music and the same sights and sounds. But luckily we had at home the makings of marzipan strawberry pie. Miniature marzipan strawberry pie, that is.

The Finished Product
My mother and I had been talking about marzipan lately. It is one of my favorite sweets. During my childhood, when we didn't have  chocolate doled out as a special treat, we got marzipan. It is one of my favorites and evokes good memories. But here in the U.S., you can't find marzipan along with chocolate in the candy aisle at WalMart. "I haven't seen it in years," I said to my mother. "Maybe they call it something else."

And then one day I found it, in the baking section, on a very high shelf next to the poppy seed filling. Sure enough, it was not called marzipan. It was just plain old "almond paste."  That made it sound very unromantic, I must say. Can it possibly taste the same if you call it almond paste?

In addition to the almonds, sugar is the major ingredient, That's why when I was a little girl, it was doled out after a meal in very small doses, just like chocolate.

Americans, apparently, don't indulge in marzipan as a sweet, but they use almond paste -- which looks and tastes exactly the same -- in baking macaroons and other pastries . For Bow, during those rainy days, I decided to use ready made graham cracker pie crusts and strawberries to add more substance to the marzipan.

The marzipan can be made into any shape 
I always have fresh strawberries on hand.

I just cut them into small bits and added them on top of the marzipan. Marzipan is sticky, so they were firmly in place.

Now all I had to do was serve this confection to Bow. He was happy. He did not care at all whether it was called marzipan or almond paste. It was all the same to him.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Table 2016: Pumpkin Pie and Cranberry Sauce

This year, I baked the pumpkin pie and made the cranberry sauce.

I didn't have all the spices called for in the recipe, so I only added cinnamon, nutmeg and went very easy on the cloves.

As for the cranberry sauce, I prepared it just as suggested on the package of fresh cranberries, one cup water, one cup sugar per 12 ounce package of cranberries. Only this time, I prepared two packages worth of cranberries, because cranberry sauce is the thing that always runs out first. 

Cranberry sauce always goes fast!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Rice Balls with Black Sesame Filling

The first Chinese New Year that I spent in Taiwan, the head of our English department gifted each of the new professors in his department with a bowl of rice balls with black sesame filling inside. I loved them! I still had not identified the substance in the middle, nor did I realize it was related to my favorite breakfast food, but I knew it felt familiar and was a comfort food. It tasted and smelled like childhood and being safe and loved.

I have never made these, but this is a great video about how to make them. Someday, I will give it a try.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Black Sesame Milk

It's better than chocolate milk. Just add two spoons of black sesame powder to a glass of milk, together with a spoonful of sugar.

Bow certainly relished the drink, as did I. I only prepared about half a glass for each of us, so that we would not overindulge.

Bow started out drinking from the straw, like the civilized person that he is.

But when the strange slurpy sound let him know that the utility of the straw had come to its end, Bow took the the pink straw out of the glass and sucked up any excess liquid still left trapped inside it.

Then he set about drinking from the glass.

He lifted the glass high in the air to get every last drop. Then he looked carefully inside to see there was still sesame powder to be had within the glass.

Bow then used his very flexible tongue to mop up all the rest of the sesame powder.

I'd say that means the sesame milk was pretty good!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Health Benefits of Homemade Yogurt

I have been making a lot of yogurt lately. I make it from week-old raw milk, which has almost started to go sour, but after a thorough boiling, it smells fresh and very milky all over again. If you like the smell of warm milk, this will give you a feeling of nostalgia. At my house, Thursday night is yogurt making night, and Friday morning when I get up at six am, I can smell yogurt even before I get to the kitchen.

My homemade yogurt comes out creamy and thick

I explained my method of making yogurt in this earlier post, in which my mother appears and shows the process I learned from her.  I leave the yogurt in my oven in glass and porcelain containers on baking trays overnight with the oven set to "Bake" and the temperature set to "wm" --which means warm. It's a setting just to keep food warm, not to actually bake it. This makes the oven just warm enough for the yogurt bacteria to grow in.

The yogurt comes out so thick and creamy that I can hold the container upside down and nothing spills out. The very best containers I have are porcelain from Meito China, Japan that I inherited from my grandmother. They allow the water from the milk to condense and come out through the pores in the porcelain. That leaves the yogurt extra creamy,

Today, though, I do not want to focus on how to make the yogurt or even how absolutely wonderful it tastes. Instead, I want to talk about what making and eating your own yogurt can do to improve your ability to eat other foods.

I am not a health nut. I hate dietary restrictions. I want to be able to eat anything and everything that appeals to me. I don't want to live in some kind of apartheid world  or a protected bubble,  where everybody else is eating all sorts of foods, but I have to turn everything down because it's not on my diet. Eating yogurt on a weekly basis allows me to sample a wide range of foods that I could not eat if I were not eating this much yogurt.

In the past couple of decades, I gradually developed all sorts of food sensitivities. I suddenly could not eat bread and eggs or even avocados. These were foods I had liked, but I could not bear them any more, because they upset my stomach. But now that I spend half a week eating yogurt with every other meal, I can spend the other half of the week eating whatever I want.

As an example, this Tuesday I went out with my daughter and two of her friends for a trip to the mall. That day I ate beef Teriyaki with noodles -- not rice-- for an early lunch, cheesecake and iced coffee with cappuccino for a late lunch meal, and a hot dog with fries with a peanut butter shake for dinner. And my stomach did not get upset. Not at all!

I even find I can eat an occasional egg -- white and yolk and all -- now! But the trick is, you have to go back to yogurt for the other half of the week. And I don't mean meals consisting only of yogurt. I mean normal meals of which yogurt is a component.  Since I like my homemade yogurt, that is no sacrifice.

There is -- to me -- no joy in a restricted diet. I like to be able to join in a festive meal where nothing is off limits. But the best way to do that is to make sure my gut is in the best of shape to meet any challenge. My creamy, homemade yogurt helps me do that!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Black Sesame Ice Cream

I have never made black sesame ice cream or any ice cream for that matter, but I really enjoyed this video about how one can make black sesame ice cream at home.

I love the flavor of black sesame, and I do have plenty of that black sesame powder left from my last trip to Indiana. I also have fresh cream and all of the equipment described here. What I especially find charming in the video is the two methods described for making the ice cream without an ice cream maker, using simple things you already have in the kitchen.

I will be posting more on this after I try to follow the recipe. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pure Black Sesame Powder

This time when I visited my mother in Indiana, I got a new container of 100% pure black sesame seed powder at the local Chinese grocery store. I was used to getting black sesame porridge in small pouches, already mixed with sugar. I remember it fondly from my days in Taiwan when I first discovered Sesame Seeds and Joy.  A very important character in my novel, Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way, is even called Mr. Sesame or 芝麻老師.

The pure black sesame powder with sugar added on top
I asked the woman at the grocery store for the black sesame porridge in pouches, but she said: "This is better. This is pure ground sesame -- nothing else." Well, she didn't have it in any other form, so I bought it.

Now, many people add either rice or flour along with sugar to their black sesame seed powder to make porridge, but this time around I contented myself with just adding boiling water and sugar. The powdered black sesame seeds contain a lot of very healthful fat.

The idea of adding too many extra carbs besides the sugar to sweeten it did not appeal to me. So I kept it simple.

Bow loves sesame seed porridge, But this time I made it a bit watery, so it was more like a drink, and that's how Bow treated it.

Whether you drink it or eat it, black sesame porridge is always good.