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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Mứt Vỏ Bưởi Bọc Chocolate (Candied Grapefruit Peels Dipped in Chocolate)

My older daughter insisted   that the candied orange peels  should be deeped in chocolate but I didn't have any chocolate chips in my pantry.  By the time she reminded me, all the candied orange peels were gone.  As you may have guessed she wasn't very happy.  So I made a trip to the grocery store and bought a grapefruit and chocolate chips to make Candied Grapefruit Peels Dipped in Chocolate for her instead.

I really like how the grapefruit peels look. It has a great brilliant yellow; its texture fine and somewhat gritty at the same time; its zesty citrus taste is refreshing.  And once covered with syrup and coated in superfine sugar, they're irresistable. 

My daughters and I had so much fun drizzling and dipping chocolate on each of the grapefruit peel.  We decorated these candied grapefruit peels with the frosted cranberries that we made last night.  This ensemble is almost too beautiful, but I couldn't resist . . . yum. 
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Frosted Cranberries

I love to look at  these sparkling and festive sugar coated frosted cranberries.  They bring to mind the magic of winter. And even though I live in California's Central Valley, I can envision snow flakes draping over the evergreens and children playing in the snow.

These cranberries are absolutely beautiful for use as a garnish and delightful to enjoy.   Sweet and sour, crisp and crunchy, and with a hint of natural saltiness, these flavors would burst into your mouth as you sink your teeth into them; my mouth is salivating just writing this sentence. Needless to say this treat is meant for the sour tooth. And for those who love berries but cringe at the mention of its tartness, the coated sugar really helps.  So try one . . . maybe two even.

these cranberries coated with superfine sugar
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RECIPE: Frosted Cranberries

2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 package fresh cranberries (12 ounce)
3/4 cup superfine granulated sugar or granulated sugar 
1 bag of vanilla sugar, optional

Rinse and drain craberries.
In a medium bowl, stir together the water and syrup until blended.
Coat cranberries with this mixture. 
Mix sugar and vanilla sugar in a bowl or spread it out on a baking sheet. 
Use a slotted spoon to transfer a few cranberries at a time to the baking sheet. 
Roll the cranberries to coat with sugar. 
Use a slotted spoon to scoop them out.   
Place coated cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet or a  rack.   
Dry at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

these cranberries coated with granulated sugar


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mứt Vỏ Cam (Candied Orange Peels)

One of my blog fans saw this Candied Orange Peels recipe online and thought of me; she sent me the link so I can check out all the holiday gift ideas.

These sweet and zesty candied orange peels not only sounds healthy but also looks beautiful and appetizing. It would add a nice touch to the holiday ambience. I decided to give it a try. I adjusted the original recipe and also created flowers using the tops and bottoms of the orange peels to make a beautiful garnish. As an aside, the orange syrup from cooking the orange peels can be used in with hot tea.  Add just a teaspoon of orange syrup into a cup of hot green tea to enhance its aroma.

These candied orange are completely dry with excess sugar frosting

Once done, my kids and husband could not stop munching on the candied orange. They're a great snack on long trips or for watching a movie. I think they pared well with a hot unsweetened tea. Since these are best when shared, I made a jar of the candied orange for my college roommate who traveled from southern California to visit us. I sent some to my family in Texas. At least they'll have something new to try this holiday season.

Merry Christmas to all !
* * *

12 thick-skinned Valencia or navel oranges
4 cups sugar, plus 1 cup for rolling
3 cups water

Cut the top and bottom of the orange then make them into flower shapes. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off pieces of the skin, cutting from top to bottom. If you want a longer length, peel all around the orange. Cut the peel into strips about 1/4-inch wide or leave in natural shaped pieces.

Place peels in a sauce pan and with water to cover. Bring to a boil with high heat and simmer for a couple minutes. Drain and repeat two more times depending on how much of the original scent you want to preserve.
Mix sugar with water. Bring to a boil. Add orange peels and turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer the orange peels gently for about 45 minutes over low heat.

Drain the peels. Keep the syrup to make lemonade hot tea or you can reuse it to make another batch of candied orange.

Place 1 cup of sugar in a deep plate. Dredge the peels in the sugar until they are coated, and place them on a cooling rack to dry for a 4-6 hours. You can also place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place the baking sheet in a warm oven at 200 degree and allow them to dry out. It should take about one hour. Make sure to check them often to prevent burning.

Once the peels are completely dry, scrape off any excess sugar clumps. Store them in jars and they can be kept for weeks.

Candied peels can be dipped in melted chocolate, enjoyed plain, or used them to decorate cake or cookies.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bánh Khoai Mì Nướng (Cassava Cake)

While a friend and I were shopping, she suddenly had a "craving" for Bánh Khoai Mì Nướng which is a simple and delicious cake made from fresh cassava root. So the very next day, I went and bought 4 bags of grated cassava root. I used 2 bags to make one cake to satisfy her "craving".  The other 2 bags I planned to have her take home and try it out on her own. But as soon as the cake hits the table, it was gone. A few other friends were interested in learning how to make it as well so we used the other 2 bags.

Bánh khoai mì nướng has a great aroma filled with sweet and buttery tones from the cassava and coconut mix; it has a chewy consistency and the brown crust is to die for.

Cassava root is very rich in starch. Similar to sweet potatoes, it contains significant amounts of calcium, dietary fiber, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. Dietary fiber has been associated with lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, and helping control diabetes. A recent study conducted in the Philippines showed that cassava significantly decreased total cholesterol levels, decreased low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (considered as “bad” cholesterol), and may help lower triglyceride levels due to its high total dietary fiber content. Other studies show that cassava may help support the nervous system and help alleviate stress, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome. It's been reported that cassava leaves can be used to treat many ailments such as headaches, fever, diarrhea, and help increase stamina. 

After researching the health benefits of cassava, I think it makes me want to feed my family cassava root and sweet potato everyday :-). 

Frozen grated cassava is availabe at most Asian supermarkets. If you want to make it right away after you bring it home from the store, just soak the package in water for about 15 minutes and it should be thawed and ready to use. Make sure to place the package in a big ziploc bag before soaking in water. This will prevent water gets inside the cassava bags since most of the frozen cassava bags have tiny holes on them and they're hard to see. 
RECIPE: Bánh Khoai Mì Nướng


2 bags frozen grated cassava
1/2 can condensed milk 
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups coconut milk 
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon oil, for greasing the baking pan

Preheat the oven to 375oF. Put oven rack on the 2nd lowest level of oven. Grease a baking pan well. Put it in the oven to keep it hot.
Preparing Cassava
Squeezed out the liquid if any.  If using fresh cassava, remove skin and grate it or cut into small thinly pieces then process it in a food processor until fine. Squeeze the juice out of the grated cassava. Discard the juice. 
Mixing Cassava
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together.  Remove a baking pan from oven and pour the mixture into it.  Give it a shake to even the top out. 

Put it back into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes.  Turn up the temperature to 400 F and bake for another 5 minutes or until the top turns golden. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.


Enjoy a slice of Bánh Khoai Mì Nướng with a cup of your favorite hot tea or coffee!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Khoai Lang Chiên Ngào Đường (Caramelized Ginger Drizzle Fried Sweet Potato Chips)

Khoai Lang (Sweet Potatoes or Yams) are one of those things that we generally keep in our kitchen because they provide many surpising health benefits: they're a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and folic acid which is important for fetal development; they help regulate blood sugar level in diabetics and decrease stress; they are beneficial to your lungs, heart, and digestive system. In addition they're also abundant and versatile; you can boil them, bake them, roast them on an open fire, fry them, and make soup out of them; We even grow them in our garden. The young leaves and vine tips of sweet potato are also edible; in fact, they contain more nutrients and dietary fiber than some green leafy vegetables like spinach. You can stir-fry or boil the leaves to be served as a vegetable dish.

My mother-in-law and two daughters love the starchy, sweet taste of Khoai Lang, especially the purple yams and the Japanese yams. Most of the time, my mother-in-law would steam or microwave them for breakfast and my daughters out of curiosity have acquired a liking to them.

Sweet Potato vine in our vegetable garden

The other day, a friend invited us over for dinner. It's customary that I would bring a side dish to share; it was late when I learned of the invitation, but decided to look around the kitchen to see if I can put together something at the last minute. Lo and behold, I found a few sweet potatoes sitting in the basket. Perfect! I have always want to make something other than the usual Vietnamese Potato Pudding or chè. 

My daughters love potato chips, especially sweet and crunchy fried potato chips with a drizzle of caramelized ginger coating. Khoai Lang Chiên Ngào Đường was a instant hit; they kept coming down the kitchen to ask for more during the frying process. I particularly like the orange flesh sweet potatoes for this recipe which you can find at any of supermarket as they are sweeter than the purple, yellow or white flesh. 
This Khoai Lang Chiên Ngào Đường is simple to make; it's a delicious and addicting snack. 
* * * 
RECIPE: Khoai Lang Chiên Ngào Đường


3 large sweet potatoes
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger, optional
1/8 lime
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon salt
Preparing Sweet Potatoes

Using a slicer to remove potatoes skin. Soak potatoes in a large bowl of cold water and salt mixture to prevent them from turning brown. Using the slicer slice the potatoes thinly. Rinse and dry with paper towels or air dry them in the sun. The drier the potato slices are, the faster they will fry.  
Frying Potatoes

Bring a pot of oil to boil (add a slice of potato into the hot oil pot to test it. You should see the oil bubbling), then reduce the heat to medium. Fry a handful of potato slices at once at medium high tempeture until they turn golden. Since the potato slices are real thin, it turns color very fast, so make sure to keep an eye on it at all time. Use a strainer to scoop them up. Let the oil drips down the oil pot a little bit before transfering them to a tray with paper towel on the bottom. Continue frying the remaining potatoe slices. Transfer potato chips into a bowl. Sprinkle roasted sesame seeds. Set it aside.

Caramelized Sugar

Melt sugar and ginger in a small pan. As soon as the sugar melts and turns a golden caramel color, squeeze lime into the sugar and stir it up. Remove from heat and drizzle evenly on the potato chips.

Toss it up as you're drizzling the melting sugar. Immediately sprinkle a little more of roasted sesame seeds alll over the caramelized potato chips. Now these are ready for your enjoyment!

Click here for more info about Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tương Ớt Tỏi (Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce)

When fall arrives, our garden looks so luscious with many variety of tomatoes, bell peppers, chayote (xu), bitter melons, eggplants, and much more...But what stand out the most are the beautiful chili pepper plants. 

We usually start harvesting our chili peppers in October and throughout the November month. In the past we used to freeze them and cook them whole in dishes such as cá kho (fish clay pot), thịt kho (caramelized braised pork), or when we make fish soups to reduce the fishy smell and spice up the flavor. We also stored some in the fridge to enjoy with each meal. We dried them and make chili powder. We packaged the remainder in ziploc bags and shared them with our families, friends and our neighbors. 

This season I decided to try my hands at making chili garlic sauce. It was so much fun and easier than I expected; it was spicy indeed, just the way we love it!

It's part of our culture, and a meal without some sort of spicy chili sauce would just be too bland. My chili sauce is super hot, but its tone is gentle and not sharp. This is achieved through the use of tomato paste and vinegar to reduce the spiciness. If you can't tolerate super hot chili sauce, you can use the combination of Thai chili with tomato or habanero or serrano peppers or jalapeno to reduce the spiciness. 

The beautiful vivid orange and red colors of the chili peppers remind me of this season's colors. So my husband and I made a basket of jarred chili garlic sauce to give thanks to our family members and friends during this holiday season. My husband added a nice touch to the jars with those nice straw bows which I tried but can never make it look nice enough.

RECIPE: Tương Ớt Tỏi


1 pound fresh Thai chilies, washed and removed stems
6 cloves garlic 
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar 
1 teaspoon salt 
3 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup fresh ripe Tomato Paste (about 3 Roma tomatoes, peeled and seeded)

Making Tomato Paste 

Place a pot with water over high heat and bring it to a boil.  Lower the tomatoes into the water gently and leave them there for 1 minute. 

Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water.  Set the tomatoes aside until they're cool down.  Peel the skin off then cut the peeled tomatoes in half.  Gently squeeze tomato to remove the seeds. Discard the seeds.

Put these peeled tomatoes in a food processor or blender and process until coarsely pureed. Set it aside.

Making Chili Paste

Place chilies, garlic, vinegar, salt and sugar in a food processor or blender and process to a coarse pureed.

Transfer chili paste and tomato paste to a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator.