Easy holiday treats

One of my favorite things about the holidays is baking holiday treats. This is the first installment of a blog series dedicated to holiday treat making.

First up, Cherry Pistachio Fudge. This recipe is simple, doesn’t require any special equipment, the ingredients should be available at any grocery store, and can be made by a novice baker.

Cherry Pistachio Fudge

Cherry ‘n Pistachio Fudge

1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
12 oz / 1 1/2 cups white chocolate (NOT CHIPS) chopped
-most chips are not actually made with cocoa butter, so I don’t suggest using them EVER-
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup chopped chopped pistachios
1 cup chopped dried cherries

In a heavy bottomed 3qt sauce pot, bring cream, sugar, and butter to a boil over medium heat. Stirring constantly. Once it starts to boil heavily stop stirring and let boil for 5 minutes. DO NOT LEAVE THIS UNATTENDED!!!! IT CAN BOIL OVER.

Remove from heat then add vanilla extract and stir. Add chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Add fruit and nuts and stir until they area evenly distributed.

Pour into a 9×9 square baking dish that has been lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and store in a cool place until it sets up. About 4 hours.

Roasted Pork Belly Bao with Cucumber Kimchee and Carrot Slaw

Roasted Pork Belly Bao with Carrot Slaw and Cucumber Kimchee

Roasted Pork Belly Bao with Carrot Slaw and Cucumber Kimchee

This sandwich may take first place from the Banh Mi in my Top 10 Best Sandwiches post. There’s a few steps involved in making the bao. But they aren’t particularly complicated and the pay off is worth it. Bao buns are available in the freezer section in most Asian Markets. You can substitute Chili paste like sambal oleek or use red serranos if gochu jang isn’t available in your area.

Quick Cucumber Kimchee
2 to 3 small pickling cucumbers sliced thinly
1 TBS salt
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS fish sauce
1 head of garlic crushed into paste
1 small bunch of scallions chopped
3 TBS Red Pepper Paste (gochu jang)
or Korean Chili Powder (gochu galu)
1 red Chinese Long Pepper or Thai chili

In a large bowl, place the sliced cucumbers and add the salt. Toss the cucumbers so that the salt and sugar is dispersed throughout the cucumber slices and let set for about 30 minutes. In a food processor, add the garlic, scallions, pepper paste, chili and blend into a paste. Set aside a couple tablespoons of the paste to use for the sauce for the pork belly and dressing for the slaw. Drain the liquid from the cucumbers and rinse several times in clean water to rinse off the excess salt and sugar. Add the fish sauce, sugar and chili/garlic mixture. Toss the cucumbers with the chili paste and fish sauce. Put into a container and refrigerate at for at least 2 hours before serving. This hasn’t had an opportunity to ferment like other kimchees, so is probably good for a week max.

Pork Belly
1 LB Pork Belly
1 TBS Five Spice Powder
3 TBS salt
1 tsp white pepper ½ tsp salt
1 Head of garlic split in half
1 cinnamon stick
2 Inch of fresh ginger crushed

Cut the pork belly into 2 inch sections and score the skin. Add the pork belly, cinnamon stick, garlic, ginger and salt to a large stock pot. Fill with water until the pork belly is completely covered. Bring to a boil and let boil for 15 minutes. Drain the pork belly into a colander and allow to dry.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Mix the five spice powder with the white pepper and ½ tsp of salt. Arrange the pork belly in a single layer on a foil line baking sheet (one with sides otherwise you’ll have pork fat all over your oven) and dust with the five spice mixture. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes. Brush the pork belly with the glaze and turn the oven down to 250ºF, cook for 15 minutes and glaze again.

Glaze for the Pork Belly
2 TBS of the garlic chili paste from above
1 TBS Rice Wine Vinegar
2 TBS honey
1 TBS Soy Sauce
¼ cup brown sugar

Mix all the ingredients together and set aside 1 TBS to use for the slaw dressing.

Carrot Scallion Slaw
1 Large Carrot grated
1 scallions shredded
2 TBS Toasted and crushed peanuts
3 or 4 julienned mint leaves
3 or 4 julienned thai basil leaves
Mix together in a bowl and dress.

Dressing
1 TBS of the Pork Belly Glaze
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp lime juice

Whisk together until well incorporated and toss with the slaw.

Turkey….schmurkey….

I’ve worked countless retail jobs over the years and often find myself having to work the day before and the day after Thanksgiving and the same goes for Christmas. So I tend to be a bit of a Grinch when it comes to the Holidays.

Thanksgiving isn’t a big deal in my family. Its not part of either one of my parent’s cultural heritage. My Mom is Hawaiian and my Pop is Puerto Rican. Thanksgiving has been celebrated in Hawaii and Puerto Rico only for the past 50 years or so as more Mainlanders move there or winter there.

Growing up, we usually spent Thanksgiving with extended family and it was done as sort of a potluck. One might think as passionate as I am about food that I would be crazy for Thanksgiving or any holiday that food plays such a significant role. But I’m just not. Part of it may be the fact that I usually have to work crazy hours during Thanksgiving or that I’m just not thrilled with the food.

I find Thanksgiving food to be well frankly bland and boring. Or rather many of the Thanksgivng meals I’ve had have been bland and boring. I’m not a huge turkey fan, it just tastes like a big flavorless chicken. Yeah, yeah I’ve heard it, I just haven’t had turkey the right way… I’ve been trying it for 40+ years and it still sucks.

Many of the dishes served for Thanksgiving are well frankly crimes against food and these odd hybrids of sweet and savory. I don’t get the sweet potatoes/yams with the brown sugar and marshmallows. Conceptually, I fail to understand it. Is it a dessert? Is it a vegetable? Why do people feel compelled to hide them under a blanket of toasted marshmallows? What about cranberry salad? Which isn’t really salad but some odd jell-o thing. What about that green bean casserole? I remember watching my aunt make it. Everything came from a can, canned green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup and canned french fried onion rings then it was baked. This makes me wonder if the origin of these dishes was someone’s need to clean out their pantry before stuff expired.

6 Second Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream

Me and dairy don’t get along too well so I’ve been looking for alternatives to using milk and cream in recipes. This recipe evolved as part of my effort to reduce the amount of dairy that I consume yet still be able to enjoy the occasional bowl of ice cream.

Ice cream has a very specific texture and mouth feel. The challenge with milk alternatives like soy milk, rice milk and almond milk is that they have too much water by volume. This causes large ice crystals to form during the churning and chilling process which makes gritty ice cream.

I’ve found that coconut milk is a good compromise that doesn’t sacrifice the texture of the ice cream. When coupled with flavorful ingredients like caramel and salt the slight coconut taste becomes more subtle.

Coconut milk isn’t particularly more healthful than heavy cream, it has only slightly less fat than heavy cream and double the carbs. So this substitution is strictly to reduce the total amount of dairy used in an ice cream recipe.

This recipe is a good base for other ice cream recipes. If you substitute sweetened condensed milk for the dulce de leche, you’ve got a sweet cream base. The sweet cream base can be used to start just about any flavor of ice cream simply by adding your favorite fruits and candies.

4 Heath Bars crumbled or
¼ cup heath toffee bits from the baking aisle
1 13.5oz. can coconut milk
1 can of dulce de leche (usually found on the ethnic food aisle)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
½ & ½ enough so the total liquid for the recipe is 1 qt

In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut milk, dulce de leche, salt, vanilla and ½ & ½. Stir until the all the ingredients are well incorporated. Pour into ice cream maker and churn according to the instructions of your particular make and model ice cream machine. Add the candy bits toward the end of the churning process. This will keep them from getting broken up too much and get them integrated in to the ice cream before it hardens too much. If you like softer ice cream, you can eat it right away, but its better when its had a chance to ripen in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Makes 1 Qt.

Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream with crumbled toffee and Twix

Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream with crumbled toffee and Twix