Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chocolate or Plain Sesame Seed Rice Balls

Happy Chinese New Year! This year, it falls on Friday, January 31st. And it's the year of a horse, when it is "time for all people to go forward confidently in the direction of their goals and dreams". What a great advice!

When I was living in the Bronx, my parents would go to Chinatown on a weekend before or after the Chinese New Year. They always came back with bags full of food: roasted ducks, lots of fruits, especially oranges, and some sweets that came in the red box. The candied lotus seeds were my favorite sweet, which I already add to my (future) candy making adventure.

My parents would honored my late grandparents (my dad's parents) with these food. They would light the incense, wishing my grandparents a happy new year. After the incense burnt out, it was time for everyone to share the foods that were offered to my grandparents. I also received a red envelop with lucky money from my parents. The amount usually depended on my age. As I got older, I would get more cash. Lucky me!
I told my friend this story, and she said that it reminded her of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). I found it very interesting that even though we are from different cultures, the traditions of honoring our love ones are very similar.

I started to celebrate the Chinese New Year a little earlier this year. I baked egg custard yesterday for my kids afternoon snack. Turned out to be overly sweet for me, but my kids devoured the little tarts. Today, I decided to venture into something deep fried, sesame seed rice balls.

I made these sesame rice balls many moons ago as part of my learning to cook dim sum. They didn't turn out well. I wasn't sure why, but it might have something to do with not fully understanding the recipe's instruction. This year, I researched different recipes and decided to come up with my own version.

With that said, the sesame seed rice balls turned out much better this time. They tasted lighter and crunchier, though they weren't golden brown. The techniques and ingredients are pretty simple. Plus, no eggs, no gluten, and no dairy. It's pretty friendly allergy free sweets.

These rice balls are usually filled with red bean paste. Since Camden cannot have legumes, I made the filling using chocolate chips and black sesame seeds. Afterward, he told me that he would like it plain. So I made another batch without the fillings, which was a done in a lightning speed. Taking it to the next level, I made palm sugar caramel and drizzled on top of the rice balls. Camden was right! Yummilicious!

Glutinous rice flour or sticky rice flour can be found at any Asian markets. Feel free to double or triple this recipe. I made enough just for my kids and me because (you know) fried food taste better when eaten right away. 

Chocolate Sesame Seed Rice Balls
makes 8 rice balls

1/2 cup (2 oz) glutinous rice flour
3 teaspoons powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons (1.5 oz) cold water
1 Tablespoon chocolate chips
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon white sesame seeds
Vegetable oil for deep frying
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar.
  2. Add the cold water.
  3. Knead the dough inside the bowl. NOTE: If the dough is too dry, add half of tablespoon of cold water. If the dough is too wet, add half tablespoon of flour.
  4. Once the dough comes together, knead it on the non stick mat.
  5. Roll the dough into a log and cut them into 8 equal parts. Set aside.
  6. In another bowl, mix together the chocolate chips and black sesame seeds. Set aside.
  7. Place white sesame seeds on a plate.
  8. Place a cooling rack over a sheet tray. Set aside.
  9. Heat the vegetable oil in a small pot. Bring the oil temperature to 350°F degrees.
  10. While the oil is heating up, take a dough ball and flat it with your fingers into a disk.
  11. Add the filling in the middle of the dough disk. Remember, a little bit of the filling goes a long way with this bite size dessert.
  12. Pinch the sides to seal. NOTE: If the filling pops out, add slightly less filling next time. You may need to reshape the dough. 
  13. Squeeze the dough then roll it inside your palm to form a ball.
  14. Continue with this method until all 8 rice balls are formed.
  15. Roll the rice balls in the white sesame seeds. Press the seeds into the dough, so they will stick to the rice balls.
  16. Drop the rice balls into the hot oil.
  17. Deep fried them for 3 minutes. Stand back as the rice balls may puff up causing the oil to splatter.
  18. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sesame seed rice balls on to a prepared cooling rack, allowing the oil to drain.
  19. Allow the sesame seed rice balls to cool a bit, about five minute, before serving. Remember the chocolate filling may be piping hot.
Plain Sesame Seed Rice Balls
make 10 small bit rice balls

1/2 cup (2 oz) glutinous rice flour
3 teaspoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
3 Tablespoons (1.5 oz) cold water
1 Tablespoon white sesame seeds
2 Tablespoons palm sugar
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon water
  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a small pot. Bring the oil temperature to 350°F degrees.
  2. Place a cooling rack on top of the baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and spices.
  4. Add the cold water.
  5. Knead the dough inside the bowl.
  6. Once the dough comes together, knead it on the non stick mat.
  7. Roll the dough into a log, about an inch in diameter and five inches in length.
  8. Sprinkle the white sesame seeds on to a non stick mat.
  9. Roll the dough log on to the sesame seeds, making sure that the log stays the same size.
  10. Cut the log into ten equal pieces. There is no need to shape them into balls. These are bite size shapes.
  11. Drop the dough into a hot oil and deep fry them for 3 minutes.
  12. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sesame seed rice balls on to a prepared cooling rack, allowing the oil to drain.
  13. In another pot, heat the palm sugar and water until the mixture is bubbling.
  14. Drizzle the palm sugar caramel onto the sesame rice balls. Enjoy!!!
Allergy Info: These sesame seed rice balls are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, wheat, and fish. If you don't have legume allergy, you can fill the rice balls with red bean paste, which are sold at any Asian markets. You can also make your own by grinding cooked red beans with sugar into paste.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Endless Possibility of Oatmeal

So this morning, it just dawned on me that it's been awhile since my kids and I had oatmeal for breakfast. I had to ask, "How about oatmeal for breakfast?" YES... with raisins!!!

I've made oatmeal many times with just rice milk and rolled oats. This morning, I realized that oatmeal is like a blank canvas. I can pretty much add what I am craving for and voila... breakfast!!!

So ask yourself this, what are you craving for? For a caffeine fixed, add chocolate chips to the oatmeal. For tropical flavor, add toasted coconut flakes, dried mango, and dried pineapple. For a healthier version, sprinkle chia seeds and ground flax seeds. Camden prefers his oatmeal naked... yup, just plain oatmeal with no sweetener. Brek prefers his with raisins. Me? I don't have any favorite add-in, but I do love anything with chocolate.

Keep in mind that oatmeal is also great for a healthy snack. For today, I made maple raisin oatmeal. Change it up by substitute raisins with your favorite toppings. I don't usually add maple syrup or sugar in the oatmeal because I find oatmeal taste better without any sweetener. I added just enough maple syrup to test out this recipe. Feel free to double or triple my maple raisin recipe. I only made enough for my kids and me.

Maple Raisin Oatmeal
serve 2

3/4 cup (6 oz) preferred milk
1/2 cup (2 oz) rolled oats
1 Tablespoon raisins
dash of ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
Maple syrup to taste
  1. Pour the milk into a small sauce pan.
  2. Add the rolled oats and raisins.
  3. Whisk to combine and heat the oatmeal until the mixture is bubbling.
  4. Turn off the stove and add the spices and maple syrup.
  5. Whisk until combine and spoon into the serving bowls.
Allergy Info: This maple raisin oatmeal is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat (if using gluten free rolled oats), nuts and fish.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Baked Sweet Plantains

Last year, I noticed that my legs were really sored. The muscles just felt tight that I felt like a good message would help. But it didn't.

One night, I was clicking through Netflix instant played movies and came across a documentary called Forks Over Knives. While I was watching it, I noticed many peopled in the movie who changed their diet to plant based were saying how their arthritis just disappeared.

When I grocery shopped after watching that movie, I decided to start buying more vegetables and more fruits, including bananas. I stated to eat a banana at least one per day. Well, my legs felt better... felt normal. I realized that I was lacking potassium.

Honestly, I just don't like bananas, unless they are in a cake or a muffin. I started to look for other alternatives for potassium. I spotted some banana chips and ripped plantains. I hadn't baked plantains in ages, so I decided to buy a few to bake them for a side dish. While I was slicing them, I thought "wonder what they will taste like if they are coated with sugar." Gave that a test drive. Wow!!! Super addictive!!! My kids loved them too.

Once in a while, I'd bake the plantains as an afternoon snack but usually as a side dish. Make sure the plantains are really ripen. They keep well in the closed container in the refrigerator for up to five days. Warm them up in a microwave for 30 seconds. They are tas-tee!!!

Baked Sweet Plantains
serve 4-6 people

3-4 ripped large plantains
1/2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1-2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F degrees. Line the (17 inch) baking sheet with nonstick mat or parchment paper.
  2. Peel and slice the plantains, making sure they are the same size. So they will bake at the same time.
  3. Place the sliced plantains in a large bowl.
  4. Add the vegetable oil.
  5. Using your hand, coat the sliced plantains in oil.
  6. Sprinkle the sugar over the sliced plantains.
  7. Using your hand, coat the sliced plantains in sugar.
  8. Place the sliced plantains on to the prepared baking sheet.
  9. Bake the plantains for 15 minutes.
  10. Turn each slice over and bake another 15 minutes more.
  11. Take out the tray and place it on top of the wire rack to cool. As the plantains cool down, the sugar should caramelize them. Enjoy them as snack or as a side dish.
Allergy Info: These baked sweet plantains are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts and fish.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Brek's Better Brownies (2014 New Year's Resolution)

I never liked New Year's resolutions. It was like setting up for a failure for me. Then I realized that if I really wanted to accomplish something and took a whole year to do... then why not.

For this year, I decided to focus on eating healthier. I need to eat more veggies and fruits. Last year, I was always achy, and it had nothing to do with old age. Well, maybe just a little bit. My mom and my husband kept telling me that I needed to exercise. Seriously, my workout is still doing chores and walking up and down stairs.

Anyway, this year, my blog will be full of recipes that include veggies and fruits. I want to go vegan but that would set me up as a failure. I will stick with a (semi) vegetarian diet. Veggies will be my main dish and some sort of meat on the side. I hope for great success and lose a few pounds too.

While I searched and played with the healthier version of something sweeter recipes, I gave Brek's Better Brownies a try. I helped Brek with making a healthier version of a regular brownies for his school project. He told me that his friends loved them and couldn't understand why it was called Better Brownies. They were surprised when Brek told them the secret ingredients were banana and spinach.

Take it the next level and make Mississippi mud brownies by topping the brownies with my homemade marshmallow fluff and melted chocolate. Now ask yourself this, does anybody care that there is banana, spinach, flax seeds, or cranberries in the brownies? Nah!!!

Brek's Better Brownies
modified from William Sonoma's Brownies
make 8 inch square pan

3 oz. (1/2 cup) non-dairy chocolate chips
3 Tablespoons (1.5 oz) coconut oil, divided
1/3 cup (3 oz.) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
half of 1 large banana (1.5 - 2 oz), mashed
3 - 4 Tablespoons (0.6 oz) raw baby spinach leaves, minced
3/4 cup (3 oz) all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon (0.3 oz) grounded flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (1.5 oz) non-dairy chocolate chunks
1/8 cup (1 oz) dried cranberries, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees.
  2. Spray the 8-inch square pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
  3. Place chocolate chips in a large microwavable bowl with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. 
  4. Microwave for 30 seconds.
  5. Stir and microwave in 9 seconds interval until chocolate chips are melted.
  6. Add the rest of coconut oil, sugar and eggs.
  7. Whisk until the batter is fluffy, about 30 seconds.
  8. Add the mashed banana and minced spinach into the batter.
  9. Whisk until just combine.
  10. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, flax seeds, baking powder, and baking soda.
  11. Add the flour mixture into the batter.
  12. Whisk until just combine. Do not over mix.
  13. Fold in chocolate chips and cranberries.
  14. Bake in the preheated oven until the toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes.
  15. Cool the brownies in the pan. Then cut into desired slices. Enjoy!