Cheddar Cheese Crisps


Cheese Crisps

These cheese crisps are great as an alternative when you are craving chips.  I always bought the cheddar crisps at the farmer’s market for my little kids or for parties/playdates since they are so popular, but are quite pricey.

If you search online, you will notice parmesan cheese or any other hard cheeses will turn out crunchy while cheddar is more chewy (this is not what you want).   After doing a little experiment myself, I finally got the trick!  I’m sharing the method as to how to make the cheddar cheese crisps today – It’s all about the baking time!

Ingredient:

1          8oz medium cheddar cheese block (grated)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees ◦F.
  • Place little lumps of  grated cheese about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet (make sure you use parchment paper).

Cheese Crisps

  • Bake at 300 degrees ◦F for 10-15 minutes, cheese will start bubbling, remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  • Return the cheese to oven and bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Use a spatula to flip the cheese,
  • Return the cheese to oven and bake for another 10 minutes.  Cool on a rack.
  • They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Cheese Crisps

Note:

  1. I adjusted the temperature to 300 ◦F (instead of 350 ◦F which is what most other recipes listed).  High temperature will brown the edges while the middle part is still chewy.  For other hard cheeses, you can probably stick with 350 ◦F  and just bake in the oven without removing and returning the cheese from/back to the oven.
  2. Since each oven is different, if the cheese crisps are not hard enough after baking, you can bake it for another 5 minutes.
  3. These can be spiced up with any spice you want before baking.
  4. Medium cheddar has a better flavor, sharp cheddar may be a little too strong.
  5. When placing little lumps of the grated cheese on the pan, make sure it’s not too thick.  Try to spread a thin layer so that the middle part won’t take too long to get crispy.
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Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura


Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura

Father’s day celebration, we had shrimp and vegetable tempura, Japanese salad and chicken teriyaki on the menu.  These are my husband’s favorite Japanese dishes.  Our favorite Japanese retaurant is Sushi Komasa in Little Tokyo, but we sometimes go to a place called Gin Sushi in Pasadena.  Tonight my kids told me we didn’t need to go to Gin Sushi anymore as we had Gin’s Kitchen!  🙂

I learnt how to make a good tempura batter – You must add very cold water to the batter.  Placing cold batter into hot oil is the trick that makes for fluffy and tasty tempura.  The salad dressing is amazing too, please refer to my “Japanese Salad Dressing” for the recipe.  It’s a keeper!

Ingredients:

1
1
1
8 slices
8
8
Yam
Zucchini
Eggplant
Kabocha (Japanese pumpkin)
String bean
Shrimp

Ingredients for Batter:

100g
2 Tablespoons
1 teaspoon
1
1 Cup
All purpose flour
Cornstarch
Baking soda
Egg
very cold water

Directions:

  1. Thinly cut the vegetables.  Set aside.
  2. Take off the head and shell of the shrimp but keep the tail and devein.  Set aside.
  3. Mix and sift all purpose flour, baking soda and cornstarch.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat an egg and then add the cold water and mix.
  5. Pour ½ of the mixed flour into egg mixture and gently mix.  Then add the remaining flour and mix.  A few lumps in the batter are fine, do not overmix.
  6. Put oil into a frying pan.  When oil has preheated, dip a wooden chopstick into the oil. If the oil starts steadily bubbling, then the oil is hot enough for frying.
  7. Dip vegetable into the tempura batter bowl to coat them with tempura batter then carefully put them to the oil.  Fry one side and then turn over and fry the other side.  Make sure you won’t overcrowd the frying pan as the temperature may drop.
  8. It should take about 2-3 minutes to cook the vegetables, shrimp will take about 30 seconds.

Japanese Salad


Japanese Salad

I found this salad dressing recipe from Allrecipes.com.   It tasted exactly like the one we ate at the sushi restaurant.  The only change I made was to substitute olive oil for peanut oil.  I guarantee this will be a hit.

Ingredients:

3 head
1
Romaine Lettuce
Carrot

Ingredients for dressing:

1/2 Cup          Minced white onion

1/2 Cup          Olive oil

1/3 Cup          Rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp           Water

2 Tbsp           Minced fresh ginger

2 Tbsp           Minced celery

2 Tbsp           Ketchup

4 tsp              Light soy sauce

2 tsp              Granulated sugar

2 tsp              Fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp           Minced garlic

1/2 tsp           Salt

1/4 tsp           Black pepper

Directions:

  1. Wash, peel and julienne carrot; wash and cut lettuce.  Combine both vegetables and set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine all ingredients for the dressing and blend on high speed for about 30 seconds or until all of the ingredients are well-pureed.
  3. Serve the salad with a few tablespoons of dressing.

Crème Brûlée


Creme Brulee

I have absolutely no self control at a buffet, especially when I approach the dessert bar.  I believe most people cannot resist Creme Brulee  – it is rich and creamy which melts in your mouth with a little caramel crunch.  I bought a torch a year ago just to make this dessert.  I had tried caramelizing sugar by putting it under a broiler but the sugar melted the next day.  If you use the torch method, the caramelized sugar top will stay crunchy.

Ingredients:

2 Cups
5
½ Cup
1 Tablespoon
½ Cup
Heavy cream
Egg yolks
Granulated Sugar
Vanilla extract
Turbinado Sugar or Light brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 ◦F.
  2. In a mixer bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract together until well blended. Add heavy cream, mix well until it gets nice and creamy. Pour the mixture through the sifter into ramekins (those little ceramic dishes).  Place the ramekins in a baking pan.  Fill the baking pan with hot water, about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 45 minutes or so (each oven is different).  The custard should be trembling in the center..  Remove the ramekins from the baking pan, let them cool and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  3. Sprinkle a thin layer of the turbinado sugar on the top of each. Make sure it completely covers the custard and it’s a thin layer.  Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top.  Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Creme Brulee

Chinese Tamales (Zongzi 咸肉粽)


Chinese Tamales

One of the famous festivals in China is Dragon Boat festival (端午節).  This festival commemorates the patriotic poet Qu Yuan (屈原) who died on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese lunar calendar.  Like other Chinese festivals, there is also a legend behind it.  You can read the long story online and learn why Dragon boat racing and eating Zongzi have become the central customs of the festival.

This year, the festival falls on June 12 and I can see a lot of Chinese people at the market getting ingredients to make Zongzi.  Zongzi (also called Zong) has different shapes and various fillings and the main ingredients are sticky rice,  green beans, fresh meat and salted duck egg yolk.  People also added red beans, dried shrimp, peanuts, chestnuts, Chinese sausages, shiitake mushrooms etc.   I have made these Zongzi for many years (only once a year though) and I’m sharing my mom’s secret recipe today.  Every year she makes a lot and gives them to friends, relatives and neighbours.  Her Zongzi were fabulous and never disappointed anyone!

Ingredients (makes 20 Zongzi):

5 lbs
2 bags  (14oz each)
10
2 pounds
11 oz
7 oz
1 bag (14oz)
20
3 ½ Tbsp
6 Tbsp
Sticky rice (Glutinous rice) (糯米)
Peeled split mung bean (去皮開邊綠豆)
Salted Duck Egg Yolks (halved) (咸蛋黃)
Pork belly
Peanuts
Miniature dried shrimp
Bamboo leaves (荷葉)
Long strings
Salt
Vegetable oil

Marinate for Meat:

1 teaspoon
2-3
1 Tbsp
1 Tbsp
4 Tbsp
Salt
Red fermented beancurd (南乳)
Light soy sauce
Water
Five spice powder (五香粉)

Directions:

  1. Cut pork belly into approx. 1.5” cubes and marinate with 1 teaspoon of salt for 20 minutes.  In a small bowl, mash the red fermented beancurd and add light soy sauce and water, mix well.
  2. Heat the wok with 1 tablespoon of oil and stir in the beancurd mixture, add pork belly and stir fry until the meat gets a nice coat of the sauce  – about 5 minutes (the meat is not completely cooked).  When the meat is cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. After the meat is marinated overnight, take it out from the fridge, roughly rinse off the beancurd mixture and pad dry.  Sprinkle about 4 tablespoons of five spice powder and mix well.  The pork pieces should have a nice coat of powder, add more if necessary.  Set aside.
  4. Soak rice in water for 4 hours, drain.
  5. Add 3 ½ tablespoons of salt and 6 tablespoons of oil to the rice, mix well (taste the rice, add more salt if necessary).  Set aside.
  6. Soak Green mung beans in water for 2 hours, drain and set aside.
  7. Wash dried shrimp, pad dry and set aside.
  8. Boil a pot of hot water and put the bamboo leaves in, soak for 20 minutes.  Wash each one with a brush.
  9. Wrap ingredients with bamboo leaves (see instructions below).  Boil Zongzi for 4 hours.

These are all the ingredients you will need:

Zongzi ingredients

If leaves are very dirty, you may want to use a clean brush to brush each leaf.  After washing and boiling the bamboo leaves, choose two large ones, make a small cross with the leaves.   Bend and twist the leaves in the center to make a funnel shape (see pictures below).

How to wrap Zongzi

Fill the funnel shape with a few tablespoons of sticky rice, top with a sprinkling of mung beans.  Add meat, egg yolk, peanuts, dried shrimp, etc.  Now the ingredients are heavy enough to hold the funnel shape, add one leaf to each side and top with more sticky rice, mung beans, peanuts and dried shrimp (the meat and the egg yolk should be in the middle part of the Zongzi).   The mound should be generous but not overflowing.  Carefully fold the sides in over the mixture (folding both sides first), then fold the bottom over.  (see pictures below)

How to wrap Zongzi

Now you fold the top leaf flap downwards to make a package.  Take a long string and wrap the Zongzi firmly.

Zongzi

Place Zongzi in a large pot and fill the pot with water (water should cover all Zongzi), cover and bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for four hours.  You will need to check the water level, add water as necessary.

Note:

  • The pork belly should have some fat, do not trim the fat.  The meat will be too dry if it’s all lean.
  • I left one ingredient out (紅絲線 aka 紅藍) which is Chinese herb.  I just couldn’t find it in the States, probably sold in Asia only.