New York Eats

(Breathtaking view from the apartment)

It was a great trip spent with my husband in New York. It was somewhat of a business trip but we turned it into a romantic get away. Not that we can't get romantic in our little country home with four children running around, BUT it was great to see different sites, taste different foods, and get a break from cooking.

Thanks to our dear friends, who generously offered their beautiful apartment in central Manhattan for three nights, we had the time of our lives.

What are these called? I have no idea but they sure looked beautiful!

Dragon Fruit, wonder what it tastes like?

Abundant and inexpensive seafood in China Town.

These ready-made dinners were so tasty; my husband loved the stuffed peppers he had for dinner.

Fresh Arugula salad with grilled peppers, zucchini, with fresh mozzarella cheese. All it needed was a splash of balsamic vinegar and oil! The perfect lunch.

Fresh pizza just out of wood burning oven!

One evening, we tried a Turkish restaurant on a roof top.

Warm, freshly baked bread served with olive oil.

Grape leaves stuffed with barley and beans.

Gyro platter with aromatic rice and veggies.

Yummy coconut pudding dessert.

We also had great Chinese food at Chin Chin's, delicious burgers from Good Burgers, fantastic bagels each morning, and wonderful tidbits sold by the numerous street vendors (Thankfully, we walked everywhere, or we would have gained more than a few pounds!)

Even after three days of no house to clean, dishes to wash, or children to chase after, I was ready to head back to Savannah. It was a refreshing break, but nothing beats sitting at the dinner table with the kids babbling on about their day (mouths full, mind you) utensils clinking, and doling out the second helpings. Oh, home sweet home.


Caramel Apple Dapple Cake

This apple cake recipe was posted last December, but I made some changes to improve it a bit. My church family loved the rich caramel taste. I knew it was a great hit when my dear husband who has a palate of a professional food critic, went for a second piece!

Canola oil is mixed well into melted butter and sugar mixture.

Granny Smith and Gala apples were used for varied texture and toasted pecans for added crunch.

Instead of butter and brown sugar topping in the previous recipe, I made rich, dark caramel sauce.

I have been itching to use vanilla bean paste in a recipe and this was a great time. I could see beautiful, tiny specks of beans, but as for flavor, I did not detect much difference from vanilla extract, may be less. Since the price of this 4-0z bottle is quite more than the extract, this is best used when seeing the beans is important, like vanilla ice cream, custard, or sauces.

Pour the caramel on top of cake as soon as it comes out of the oven, which yields pretty, shiny top. Drizzle extra sauce on top before serving.

Caramel Apple Cake

For Caramel Sauce
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, heated low in a sauce pan
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Heat 2 cup sugar in a dry 5-quart cast iron dutch oven over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber. Be careful, sugar can easily burn!

Add 2 1/2 cups of heated heavy cream slowly! Mixture will bubble violently, but hold tight! Stir until well blended. Take the pot off the heat carefully and stir in sea salt and vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. Cool to room temperature.

For cake:
3 Eggs
1 C of Canola Oil
1/2 C. of melted butter
3 C. Sugar (1 lb 5 oz)
3 C. dice apples (Granny Smith & Gala), peeled & Cored
3 C. All-purpose flour (15 0z)
1 1/2 C. toasted, chopped pecans
1 t. Salt
1 t. Baking Soda
2 t. Vanilla Extract

Using an electric hand mixer on a medium speed, mix sugar and melted butter well. Add eggs and vanilla extract to blend. Slowly add 1 cup of oil until well mixed. Gently fold all the dry ingredients. Add diced apples and nuts. Put into greased 9 inch tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Pour prepared caramel sauce on the cake while it is still hot in pan. Cool the cake to room temperature. Serve.

Note: You may notice that all my cakes are sheet cakes for the ease of cutting and serving a large crowd. If you make sheet cakes out of this recipe, decrease the time by 15 to 20 minutes.


Chef of the House - Ronald McDonald House Fundraiser

This is a second week of Ronald McDonald House of Savannah hosting its annual fund raiser, Chef of the House Challenge. This "iron chef" style competition features great local chefs, caterers, and home cook extraordinaires who all have the heart to contribute their gift of cooking to help raise the funds for this wonderful charity work.

The Ronald McDonald House exists to serve as a “Home away from home” for families with critically ill or injured children receiving treatment at area hospitals. When Amy Henderson, who is one of the board members of this organization asked me to judge this fund raiser competition, I was honored and immediately accepted.

Two master chefs were cooking off this evening. Chef Joe Martin and his team from Marshwood Club and Chef Andy Love of Plantation Club, both in The Landings on Skidaway Island. And their secret ingredient for the competition? Cabbage!

Chef Joe Martin and his team made these incredible three course offerings:

First Course: Chorizo and Cabbage Chowder. Wonderful, creamy and flavorful, with great texture!

Second Course: Cajun Shrimp over Boursin Cheese Coleslaw with Cabbage: Boursin cheese in slaw? Wow, never had boursin in slaw before!

Third course: Smoked Bacon & Fontina Cheese and Baked Pork Chops over Sweet Peppers and yes, Braised Cabbage. Crispy, smoked bacon just made the whole dish fragrant and delicious!

Chef Andy Love and his team provided these fantastic three courses:

Vegetable Spring Roll with Mango Chili Glaze:
Mango chili glaze had a wonderful kick that it enhanced the simple carrot and cabbage filling.

Shrimp Escabiche with Pineapple, Jicama Slaw (with cabbage). Never had better shrimp with wonderfully sweetened slaw!

Roasted Pork Loin with Braised Cabbaged and Caramelized Sweet fingerling potatoes. Pork loin had the crispiest exterior packed with flavor. Sweet potatoes were perfect accompaniment!

It was so difficult to grade these incredible dishes but the winning chef was chosen. Chef Love!
However, the real winner was the Ronald McDonald House to have people like Chef Love and Chef Martin who care and support this organization. And to have numerous volunteers and staff who pour out their love and energy to make this charity thrive. Thank you, Ronald McDonald House, it was a privilege for me to be a part of your wonderful work.

Chef Andy Love with his cabbage trophy. Congratulations, Chef Love!


Orange-Cranberry Scones

It has been a very busy week for me in the church kitchen. Today was the kick-off to Independent Presbyterian Church's annual Enrichment Services. A very special speaker was invited for this special weekend and we are honored to have Dr. Joel Beeke, president and professor of systematic theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.

The services began with a full breakfast and followed by two teaching sessions. He will be with us on Sunday speaking in both morning and evening services and during Sunday school hour.

Here was the breakfast menu for 110 person for this morning:
Oven baked bacons and sausages
Buttermilk Biscuits
Fresh Fruit
Orange-Cranberry Scones with clotted cream
Coffee, Tea, and Orange Juice

On top of Wednesday noon service lunch prep a few days ago, we got very busy getting the baked goods ready for the weekend. For blueberry muffins, we pre-measure dry and wet ingredients, label and store until the day of baking. This eliminates any errors and keeps sanity when we are working under time pressure. Especially at five in the morning!

For scones, make the scones, cut, and wrapped in plastic wrap before freezing.

When ready to bake, brush the tops of frozen scones with buttermilk and sprinkle raw or granulated sugar and pop them in heated oven.
Out of the oven emerges fragrant and flavorful scones you will love. Edges are crisp but inside is moist and tender. Serve with clotted cream and your favorite jam.

Orange-Cranberry Scones
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 18 small triangular wedges

3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 cup chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into large bowl. Mix in orange peel.

In a food processor with a blade attachment, process half of flour mixture and half of chilled butter, pulsing until mixture resembles coarse meal. Put the processed mixture in a large bowl. Repeat with remaining butter and flour mixture.

Mix in dried cranberries. Gradually add buttermilk, folding with a rubber spatula until moist clumps form. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead just enough to bind dough, about 4 turns. DO NOT over work the dough.

Divide dough into three dough balls. Flatten each dough ball into a 5-inch disc. Cut into 6 wedges each, yielding 18 total. For larger scones, divide dough ball into half and cut into 8 wedges.

Transfer wedges to prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Brush tops with buttermilk and sprinkle raw or granulated sugar. Bake until edges of scones are light brown, about 20 minutes. Let stand on baking sheet 10 minutes. Serve scones warm or at room temperature.

Note: To freeze, after shaping the discs and cutting into six wedges, wrap each disc with plastic wrap and then in a freezer bag. Proceed with buttermilk and sugar topping and bake. Do not thaw scones but add few more minutes to baking time.


Chinese Chicken Salad

This past Sunday, our Sunday fellowship meal menu was very simple:
Shrimp Fried Rice (click here for recipe)
Chinese Chicken Salad
Garden Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
Watermelon Slices
Lime Cheesecake

I don't need to go too far to get the most honest opinions whenever I try something new on my church family. My four children can give me the best critique on the newest dish with no hesitation whatsoever! My two older teens in particular have such developed palates that they can pick out certain spices or flavors by name. I am guilty of that.

Every Sunday night, driving home, my standard question is "How was the dinner for you and your friends tonight?" And they will give me the run down of every dish I served.

When it came to Chinese chicken salad, my first child was somewhat cautious and said, "It had a strange taste like cinnamon and I don't think kids liked it". Chinese five spice powder contains cinnamon and clove.

Even though many adults told me how much they loved this salad, I realize that it wasn't the favorite for the children! Oh well, I'll try something else next time, but I am glad the church children got to try something new!

You will need Hoisin sauce, Mung beans or threads, and Chinese Five Spice powder which can be purchased from Asian food section of your grocery store or the Asian market.

Mung beans are deep fried just for a few seconds. Do you see the utensil I am using? It's called an Asian Spider Skimmer and it is one of the most useful tool for frying. Click here for more info.
I mixed the fried mung bean threads and chicken mixture together when serving for the sake of convenience for a large crowd, but at home, you can serve it like the photo above on a bed of fried beans for a spectacular presentation.

Chinese Chicken Salad
Serves 10-12

3 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 Tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

1 whole cooked rotisserie chicken (2 1/2 pound), regular seasoning (not bbq or lemon pepper),
dark and white meat hand shredded into 2" shreds
1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder
1 package 5 oz Chinese mung beans
(also called Chinese vermicelli, rice threads, or bean threads)
3 Cups of vegetable oil for frying mung beans
1 medium head of iceberg lettuce, julienne fine
4 green onions, cut into 1 1/2" pieces and julienne lengthwise
2 cups cilantro, leaves only, washed and dried
3 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, black or white

optional: Colored bell peppers julienne to add color

Take all dressing ingredients and mix well, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Gently toss shredded chicken meat with 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder. Set aside.

Remove mung beans from package and break up or pull apart into manageable pieces. Do this over a large bowl or dried sink or you will have pieces of brittle mung beans all over the kitchen floor!

Heat 3 cups of oil in wok or large cast iron fryer to 375 degrees F. Place a handful of mung beans into oil, when they puff, turn over immediately and fry the other side, all in 3 seconds! They will puff up 5 times the original size of dried beans so be careful not to put too much in the oil at one time. Drain on wire rack and fry the remaining.

About 10 minutes before serving, in a large bowl, to dressing over shredded chicken and greens and mix well. Add sesame seeds. Then gently fold in fried mung beans. Reserve some to make a nest over a large platter and put mixed salad on top.

Serve immediately. This salad is best when fried beans are crispy and crunchy.


Shrimp Fried Rice

Fried rice is a wonderful and inexpensive dish to feed my church family. By adding shrimp, I can make this a main meal by adding a simple salad and a great dessert. This was well liked by both adults and children tonight at our fellowship dinner.

Making shrimp fried rice enough for 250 takes a little pre-planning. 20 pounds of long grain rice and bacon were cooked two days ahead, bagged in ziplock storage bags and refrigerated. Carrots were diced and stored and green onions cleaned and trimmed ready for dicing.

Then on the day of serving, Sunday, I stir fry all the ingredients separately on the large cast iron griddle. If you were doing this at home, you can use one largest non-stick frying pan or wok to combine all the ingredients.

Use frozen peas and do not thaw before stir frying.

All the ingredients are ready for mixing and heated in the oven. Again for the home cooks, everything can be cooked in one pan.

Garnish with finely minced green onions, and voila! You have a great dish that everyone in your family will enjoy. My church family sure did!

Shrimp Fried Rice
Serves 8

2 Eggs, soft scrambled (Click here for the best scrambled eggs)
4 Tablespoon of vegetable oil or bacon fat
5 cups cooked rice, chilled
3 Tablespoon soy sauce mixed with 3 Tablespoon of chicken broth
3 pieces of cooked bacon, finely chopped,
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup carrots, diced small
1/2 cup green onions, finely diced
1/2 pound of cooked small shrimp

Optional Veggies: 1/2 cups of bok choy, Nappa cabbage, sliced mushrooms
Optional Meats: Diced ham, chicken, or pork

Cook eggs and set aside.

Heat wok or large non-stick frying pan to smoking point. Add 2 tablespoon of oil or bacon fat if using, roll it around cooking surface to coat. Add rice and stir-fry until rice is hot through out and free from clumps. Add soy sauce and broth mixture, combining it well. Add bacon and remove rice from wok or pan and set aside in a large bowl.

Add remaining oil/bacon fat to wok/pan, when oil is hot, add carrots first, frozen peas, then shrimp until ingredients are hot. Add rice back into wok/pan and mix well. Fold in scrambled eggs and diced green onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately.


Red Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) are technically seeds in the herb category but classified as grains. They were an important source of food for the ancient Incas, and have been wildly popularized here in US for their beautiful color and wonderful texture.

Over one-third of my church family consists of youth and children under 18 years of age (a sign of healthy, vibrant church!), and sometimes I am somewhat hesitant to introduce foods too unfamiliar to this younger group. But, I sighed a short prayer and gave this a try for our Sunday evening fellowship meal, which was well attended by 300-some people.

My heart was so glad to see children coming back for seconds! Children can be the best food critics, and I think you will enjoy this beautiful salad, too!

There are white and red Quinoa available at local health food stores. I chose red for its vibrant color!

To achieve a fluffy texture, Quinoa must be boiled in salted water first and then steamed. Put boiled Quinoa in a cheese cloth and steam in colander placed over a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. See how the red color is retained after cooking?

Rinse and drain black beans, fresh corn kernels, green onions, cilantro, tri-colored peppers, jalanpenos, and red Quinoa to make this colorful dish!

This salad was served with beef tacos, guacamole, and all the taco fixin's . Elvis Cream Pie (will post later) completed the meal, and everyone went home with their spirits well nourished from good preaching and their tummies satisfied. What a great way to end the Lord's Day!

Print This Recipe

Red Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups red quinoa
1 Tablespoon salt, add when boiling quinoa
1 can black beans, 14 oz, rinsed, and drained
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 2 large ears)
1 cup finely chopped colored sweet peppers, red or orange or any combination
1 jalapeño chilies, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions

For dressing
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove of garlic, grated
1 teaspoons ground cumin, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste

In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, salt, minced garlic, chopped cilantro, and cumin and add oil in a stream, whisking. Add pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a large bowl wash quinoa in at least 5 changes cold water, rubbing grains and letting them settle before pouring off most of water, until water runs clear and drain in a large fine sieve.

In a medium size pot, add 1 tablespoon of salt to 1-1/2 quarts of boiling water and cook quinoa 10 minutes. Prepare colander with cheese cloth over and drain quinoa into cheese cloth.
Add 2 inches of water into the pot and bring water to boil. Cover cooked quinoa with the edges of cheesecloth and cover with a lid , steam for additional 10 minutes. Do not let quinoa touch water. Fluff quinoa with a fork and cool.

Combine in a large mixing bowl, beans, and remaining vegetables, herbs, and cooled quinoa. Toss gently with dressing. Can be prepared a day ahead for flavors to combine. Serve room temperature.


Savannah Spring Rolls

Living in Savannah, Barbecue is very much a part of the southern lifestyle and cooking culture. So, I decided to give the Vietnamese Spring Roll a southern makeover. Smoky, pulled pork and local Georgia shrimp is paired with a ginger infused BBQ sauce to create a unique Savannah style roll.

Prepare your ingredients: Pulled pork, deveined and cooked shrimp, shredded red leaf lettuce, cilantro, finely julienne green onions, and carrots finely julienne for color. You can also use sprouts or any other veggies you like.

In lukewarm water, dip spring roll wrapper for 2 to 3 seconds. Yes, I mean it! Only few seconds. If you soak the wrapper too long, it will be very limp and very hard to roll. The wrapper should be stiff but completely wet.

Fold in the wrapper into thirds, with both sides over lapping. The wrapper will be stiff, which is good!
Starting from the bottom of the wrap, line your ingredients and place shrimp about an inch below where you will finish wrapping (hey, I see a face!)

At this point, your wrapper will be softer and pliable. Begin the roll, making sure the fillings stay together and roll is nice and snug. Finish rolling, ensuring two shrimp are tucked in with tails hanging out on both open ends. Cover the the rolls with damp paper towel while rolling several more.

Right before serving cut the rolls in half. These rolls are tastiest right after they are rolled. Invite your guests in your kitchen and have a rolling party!

Place cut side down so the rolls are standing up with shrimp beautifully exposed.

Serve with your favorite sauce or here is a very simple barbecue sauce with fresh ginger.

Savannah Spring Rolls
Makes about 20 whole rolls (40 appetizers pieces when cut)

1/2 pound Pulled Pork, shredded not chopped
1 pound medium shrimp, deveined, cooked and peeled (31-40 count shrimp)
2 cups red leaf lettuce, finely sliced
3 Green Onions, cut into thirds and julienne thinly lengthwise
2 carrots, peeled, julienne very thinly (if you own a Japanese Mandolin Slicer, this is a great time to use it)
1 cup cilantro leaves, washed
25 Basil leaves, washed
Mint leaves if desired

1 package of Rice Paper, 12 oz package contains about 35 rice papers, purchased at Asian Market

Luke warm water in a shallow dish big enough to soak rice papers

Dip the rice paper in lukewarm water for 2-3 seconds. Place the wet rice paper on the cutting board and fold them in thirds, overlapping two sides. Place your meat and prepared veggies on the third bottom of the paper and begin rolling. Before finishing the roll, place two shrimp with tails out of the edges, finish rolling, carefully tucking the thick half of the shrimp. Cover the roll with damp paper towel.

Roll several more. When ready to serve, cut the roll in half. Place the cut side on the plate. Garnish with mint, basil, or cilantro leaves. Serve immediately with your favorite sauce.

Ginger Barbecue Sauce
1/2 Cup Cattleman's Gold BBQ Sauce (this is mustard based sauce, if not available use regular bbq sauce)
1 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Mix well. Serve room temperature.