Archive for February, 2012

I do love a bar cookie.  Almost always baked up with a buttery rich crust and decadent, sugary toppings, there are few bars I would deny.  This is a lightened version of a fruit favorite. Caramel optional.

Lightened Apple Cheesecake Bars, adapted from Closet Cooking


For the crust:
    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the cheesecake:
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 8 ounces reduced fat, neufatchel cream cheese, room temperature
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the apples:
    • 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into bite sized pieces
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
For the streusel topping:
    • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • Pinch ground nutmeg
For the crust:
    1. Cut the butter into the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon until combined and crumbly. Add oil.
    2. Press the mixture into the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking dish lined with foil.
    3. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until lightly golden brown, about 8-12 minutes, set aside and let cool.
For the cheesecake:
    1. Beat the sugar into the cream cheese until smooth.
    2. Beat in the egg followed by the vanilla extract.
    3. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.
For the apples:
    1. Mix the apples, cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg.
    2. Sprinkle the apples on top of the cream cheese layer.
For the streusel topping:
  1. Mix oil and butter into the flour, sugar, cinnamon and rolled oats until combined and crumbly.
  2. Sprinkle the crumbs on top of the apples.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the cheesecake has set, about 25-35 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting.  (Otherwise it will fall apart.)

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Balsamic Rosemary Salmon

The last month or two of my pregnancy with Rice Kernel was, well, spoiled.  For starters, there was no toddler to run after.  I was home at that point and enjoyed leisurely mornings at the gym, followed by a little work and time to prepare whatever my belly desired that evening.  There was likely also a nap on the couch somewhere in the middle of the day.

This time around, there is a little Rice Kernel.  He’s busy with activities and, when home, in need of a playmate.  I’m happy to oblige, truthfully – the (rarely) sentimental one in me is going to miss our time “alone.”  But this leaves little energy – and desire – to think about dinner.  We’ve been subsisting on leftovers a few nights a week (not that this is a problem, but it is rare given that I usually have the time and inclination to cook) and, on some nights, my Dad is eager to bring food or FHE suggests we head out “before we can’t for a little while.”  Good excuse, hun. 

After a few days of sushi, leftover ribs and pasta, I decided fish at home would be a good idea.  It’s quick and Rice Kernel always enjoys it.  Baked in the oven, it’s flavorful, healthful and ready in about 20 minutes. 

Balsamic Rosemary Salmon



4 (4 ounce) salmon fillets
sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced

  1. Season salmon fillets to taste with sea salt, and place into a shallow, glass dish. Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and rosemary; pour over salmon fillets. Cover, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat grill for medium-high heat, and lightly oil grate.  Remove salmon from marinade, and shake off excess. Discard remaining marinade. Cook on preheated grill until fish is opaque in the center and flakes easily with a fork, about 4 minutes per side.
  3. Bake: In a preheated oven at 425 F for 12-15 minutes (Depending on your preference for doneness.)

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Black Bottom Cupcakes

Black bottom cupcakes are a delicious combination of a chocolate cake and a creamy cheesecake filling.  The chocolate cake is an unusual recipe for me, in the sense that it does not contain eggs, butter, or milk.  It is moist and simple to make but I felt it lacked cocoa flavor.  Some of the filling sank, as you can tell from the photos.  Not sure why the two trays of cupcakes came out differently. 
For the complete recipe, visit Joy of Baking.

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I don’t think I ever had a taquito until college.  The version I first sampled was chewy and greasy, with blended, undiscernable ingredients.  FHE loves a taquito, but it is rare we find a quality, deep fried (but not too greasy) snack.  When I came across this recipe, I thought it was worth a try.

This lighter version bakes up nice and crisp.  They are simple to make and, if you make the filling ahead of time, they can come together quickly for a crowd as well.  Any shredded meat would work well.  And the filling is delicious on its own – or on a cracker / crostini.

Baked Taquitos, from Our Best Bites

Yield: about 12 taquitos

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ cup salsa
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1-2 green onions, chopped
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (or beef, pork)
1 cup shredded cheddar, pepper jack, or mexican cheese
10-12 6-inch flour tortillas (or use spinach, red pepper)
Cooking spray
Kosher salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, spices, cilantro, green onions, chicken and shredded cheese.  Mix thoroughly until well combined.
  3. Briefly heat the tortillas in the microwave to make them soft enough to roll easily, about 20-3o seconds.  Place a tortilla on a work surface.  Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the filling mixture down the middle of the tortilla.  Roll the tortilla up tightly around the filling.  Place seam-side down on a baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling, spacing the assembled taquitos evenly on the baking sheet. 
  4. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt.
  5. (To freeze before baking, transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and chill the assembled taquitos 30-60 minutes.  Transfer to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag.  To bake from the freezer, simply add a few additional minutes to the original baking time, until the filling is warmed through.)
  6. Bake 15-20 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.   Serve with sour cream and salsa, if desired.

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Steamed Scallion Rolls (Hua Juan)

In my family (particularly for my Dad), there can never be too many scallions. The mild onion flavor is one that we enjoy in everything from sauces to cream cheese to fried rice.  Recently, I experimented with pan-fried scallion pancakes.  This is a steamed version, using a basic yeast dough recipe.  While they don’t come together as quickly as scallion pancakes (because of two rises), they are incredibly simple to prepare and the dough will keep in the refrigerator for days. 

With specks of oniony, salty goodness, these pillows of dough melt in your mouth.  They are addictively delicious and light.  And perfect for a snack, accompaniment to soup, or a tender sandwich bread.  Throw in some pieces of cubed ham or bacon… FHE might consider it the ideal fusion bread.

To complete the scallion rolls (called “hua juan” or “flower twist” in Mandarin, I just discovered), this site provides a video tutorial.

Basic Yeast Dough Recipe, from Flavor Explosions

This is a recipe for the dough of the fluffy white skins of the char siu bao and the shanghai cabbage buns. It’s truly versatile — you can use the same dough and fill it with sweetened mashed red beans or lotus seeds for a dessert treat. Or just steam it by itself to turn it into “man tou” essentially steamed white bread that is used to soak up the wonderful sauce of Sichuanese or Hunanese dishes. If you shape the bun into a flat disc, it becomes the base for peking duck.

The dough can be allowed to rise slowly, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before using. If you are not using the dough straight away, punch it down and wrap tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.

3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
1  1/4 cup  water – half hot, half cold

3 cups unbleached “00” or high protein bread flour plus additional for kneading
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 cup canola oil

2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted

Part 1: Making and proofing the dough.
1. Proofing the yeast: Dissolve sugar in hot water. Add cold water to make a warm solution (105 – 115°F). Dissolve the yeast in the sugar solution. Stir lightly, and let stand in a warm place until mixture develops a creamy foam, about 7 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
2. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, and add yeast mixture and oil and stir to incorporate the flour until dough holds together and just come away from side of bowl. Add a little more water if needed.
3. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead. Lightly flour your hands if necessary. Knead (by using the heels of your hands and your body weight to push away from you, pull it back and fold in the sides of the dough towards the center. Turn the dough right angle every few kneads) until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form into a ball.
4. Very lightly oil a large bowl, put the dough into the bowl and turn the dough so that all sides are coated. Cover the bowl tightly with a plastic wrap/damp tea cloth and let dough rise in a warm (75-80°F), draft-free place until doubled in bulk, 1-3 hours. The dough is ready when it does not spring back when poked with a finger.

Part 2: Finishing the dough – Using the dough
1. Uncover the dough, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
2. Flatten it and make a well in the center. Sprinkle baking powder in the well, gather up the sides and fold to the center to incorporate the baking powder. Knead lightly for a few minutes till it becomes a ball again.
3. Divide the dough into 8-10 pieces.

Note: This basic dough can be used for char siu bau steamed pork bun recipes, plain steamed man tou recipes, shanghai cabbage steamed buns, chicken steamed bun recipes.

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