Sunday, December 30, 2007


Even in today's world of easy and inexpensive communication, it's difficult to really show how much you love someone. Some people exhibit their love through letters, and some through sending gifts in the mail; some people even send telegrams.

Lillian Cairns spends a lot of her time in Colorado baking cookies and mailing them countrywide to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. By sending something homemade, she spreads the message that she is spending time and effort to get something off in the mail that her relatives will really enjoy and will remember her every time they take a bite of one of her delicious treats. Since Ms. Cairns cannot be there in person, sending cookies is her way of being present in the lives of her dear ones.

I've gotten to sample a few of Ms. Cairns cookies and her Snickerdoodles are my favorite (so far). They are not too sweet, which is one of the things I like so much since I do not have much of a sweet-tooth.

Makes 5-6 dozen cookies

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs until smooth. In a separate bowl, blend the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. In 3 or 4 additions, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until well mixed.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon. Roll the cookie dough into one inch balls and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Place two inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. If you like cookies soft and chewy, make sure the cookies are removed from the oven before the bottom of the cookies brown. If you prefer crunchy cookies, leave them in the oven until the bottom is golden brown.

Let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes before removing the cookies to a baking rack until they are completely cool.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Beef Fried Rice

I found this recipe in a Chinese cookbook. I changed the recipe a little because I did not use minced beef, instead, I thinly sliced it against the grain into thin strips.

The recipe is lovely; it's very mild with many subtle flavors coming through. My parents particularly like the ginger flavor that they could taste in the dish.

Serve this recipe with a simple stir fried green vegetable and I think you'd have a very tasty meal.

Beef Fried Rice
Serves 2 for lunch, or 3 with an additional dish

8 ounces of beef, (I used sirloin) finely sliced into 1/8-1/4 inch width strips against the grain
3 cups boiled rice, cooked in advance and fluffed with a fork to separate the grains
1 egg, beaten lightly
4 cloves garlic, minced finely
1/4 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced finely
4 scallions, cut into small rounds and whites separated from greens
4 leaves of iceberg lettuce, thinly shredded
4 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp thin soy sauce
2 tsp thick soy sauce
3 tsp Shaohsing wine or medium-dry sherry
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp cornstarch or potato flour

Prep all of the ingredients and the rice. Add the sugar, soy sauces, 1 tsp of the wine or sherry, the pepper and the cornstarch or potato flour to the beef. Stir vigorously and marinade for 30 minutes. Blend 1 tbsp of the oil into the beef.

Heat the wok until it is very hot and add 2 tbsp of oil. Add the garlic, ginger and white part of the scallions and stir until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds.

Next add the beef. Stir continuously for about 30 seconds, and splash in the remaining 2 tsp of wine or sherry.

Finally pour in the egg and rice, and continue to stir for about 2 more minutes until everything is blended and heated through. It is important to stir gently so that the rice does not get broken up.

Remove the wok from the heat, and add the lettuce and green scallions, incorporating them carefully. Serve hot!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pot Stickers

My family really likes dumplings, pot stickers, gyoza... anything of that sort. So when we had some leftover meat after making wonton soup, my Mom suggested that we try making pot stickers.

I was a little nervous about trying to make pot stickers with the wonton skins because they are so thin, but it worked beautifully. Follow my Wonton Soup recipe up until the step where you fold the wonton wrappers in half to form a triangle, and then follow the easy instructions below. Keep in mind that for pot stickers, no stock is necessary!

Pot Stickers
Makes 80-90 pot stickers

1 Wonton Soup recipe up until the point when you fold the wontons in half to a triangle shape
3/4 cup water (per batch of pot stickers that will fit into the pan)
1 tbsp of canola oil
1 large heavy bottomed pan, at least 2 inches deep and with a lid

This is very simple to do. First, heat the oil in the pan. Place the pot stickers into the pan. They can be very close together. Brown for 3-4 minutes.

Next, add the water into the pan. Bring to a boil, cover with the lid, and simmer for 5-7 minutes. This steams the pot stickers and ensures that the meat inside is cooked.

Uncover the lid and let the water evaporate. Continue to brown until golden and crunchy on the underside. Remove the pot stickers from the pan carefully so as not to break them apart. Serve immediately. I used Kikkoman Ponzu sauce as the dipping sauce.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone soup makes a nice comforting meal when it's cold outside. It's also got all kinds of good veggies in it, making it a healthy choice as well. To make it vegan, just change the chicken stock for vegetable stock, and use a substitute for the parmesan cheese. Don't be scared to use some creative license with your soup; if you have some extra veggies begging to be used, try adding them in. The overall taste of your soup will change slightly, but minestrone soup is all about taking what's leftover in the house and making a delicious meal.

Minestrone Soup
Feeds 4 for dinner

3 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1-2 medium-large potatoes, cubed
1 green zucchini, cut into small pieces
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 cup uncooked tube pasta
1 can of navy beans, drained and rinsed
8 cups of chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
Parmesan cheese to garnish
1 bunch of broccoli rabe (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add garlic, onion, celery, carrot and potato and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes, and stock. Bring to a boil. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes.

Add the zucchini and the beans, and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Take off the heat, and add the broccoli rabe. Let sit for a further 5 minutes.

Serve hot and garnish with a nice helping of parmesan cheese.