Nian Gao (Chinese New Year Cake)


1 /3/4 C dark brown sugar (if using light brown sugar, add 2 T molasses)
1 1/2 C water, divided
1 lb sweet rice powder
2 T canola oil
1-2 t vanilla or almond extract, or 1 t of each


Line 2  6-inch cake pans with parchment paper
Add 2″ of water to a pot fitted  with steamer racks, and bring water to a boil.
Combine 3/4 C of water and the brown sugar, stir and microwave for 1 min.
Stir, and if sugar is not dissolved, microwave 30 sec more. Repeat till sugar all dissolved.
Add the other 3/4 C water, extract(s) and molasses if required, stir to mix.
Put sweet rice flour into a med-large bowl,
Add the liquid mix, stir to combine and until mixture is smooth and free of lumps.
Pour into the cake pans.
Put pans on the steamer racks and steam for 1 1/2 hours.

Check the water periodically, and add hot water as needed.
* Try to avoid letting the condensation from the lid drip on the cake, when lifting the lid. But if such water is laying on top of either cake, just take a paper towel, fold it a few times and siphon up the water by touching the edges of the paper to the water.

While warm, you can cut or spoon off pieces of the cake and roll it in fresh coconut flakes (adding some sugar and salt to the coconut is optional and, I think, adds a lot to the taste) and serve, Malaysian style.

Allow the cakes to cool completely, then cover. In a few hours, when completely cool, you can slice and serve. Or you can slice, dip it in beaten egg and pan fry with a little oil. Yummy!

Eating Nian Gao is supposed to bring GOOD LUCK, because “Nian Gao”, which means “sticky cake” is also a homonym for “higher year”.

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Sour Dough Starter

Potato Flake Sourdough Starter and Bread Recipe Potato flakes make an easy starter for sourdough bread. This is a variation of friendship starter for breads. With attention, you can keep this starter going for a very long time. It will continue to gather wild yeast from the air and just get better. As with most yeast breads, you will need to plan ahead for rising time when you use the starter to bake bread.


Starter (first time):

1 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) dry yeast
3 level Tablespoons instant potato flakes

Starter Feeder (subsequent times):

1 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar
2 level Tablespoons instant potato flakes

To Make Bread:

6 cups bread flour (Pillsbury Brand)
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1-1/4 cups warm water
1 cup starter (See notes below)


First Time Starter Directions:

Mix water, sugar, yeast, and potato flakes.
Let ferment on counter for two days.
Then feed with starter feeder (below).
If you get starter from someone else, you can omit this step.

Starter Feeder:

Combine water, sugar, and potato flakes.
Add to starter.
Let stand on countertop eight hours.
Refrigerate 3 to 5 days, then make bread.

After using 1 cup of the starter for dough, pour one cup back into container and refrigerate.
Discard any other starter.
Store starter in refrigerator.

When you are ready to make more bread or every 3 to 5 days add starter feeder mix again. Stir well and leave on the counter overnight or all day (about 12 hours).

To Make Bread:

Add flour, salt, sugar, oil, and water to starter. Mix well.
Knead on a floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes.
Put dough into a greased bowl. Cover with a wet dish towel and let it rise in a warm place overnight or all day (about 12 hours).
Punch down. Knead on a floured surface to get any air bubbles out.
Spray 3 loaf pans with cooking spray and divide dough approximately equal into the 3 pans (shaping into loaf form).
Let rise 6 to 8 hours, covered loosely.
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes

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Soy Sauce Cucumber Pickles


4 large English cucumbers
1 t kosher salt
1 t sugar

3/4 C water
3/4 C soy sauce
3/4 C rice vinegar
1/2 C sugar


Cut the cucumbers crosswise into 4 pieces – they should be 3-4″ long, each.

Cut each piece in half, lengthwise.

Lay each piece, cut side down on a cutting board.

With the flat part of a large knife, smash down on the cucumber piece – the piece will        crack down the middle lengthwise.

Cut the piece into 2, lengthwise, along the crack, remove the seeds, then slice each              piece into 3 pieces. Repeat with all the pieces.

Place all the pieces into a large strainer sitting on top of a bowl, and toss with the 1 tsp      of salt and 1 tsp of sugar.

Fill a 1 gal ziploc bag full but  loosely with ice cubes and drape the ice bag on top  of          the cucumbers.

Let drain 1/2 – 2 hours on the counter.

Mix the ingredients of the marinade.

Place 12 half-pint canning jars in the dishwasher and wash.

When washing cycle is almost done, put the marinade into a medium pot and                      bring to a boil on high.

Add the cucumbers and when the marinade begins to boil, remove pot from the                  heat.

Using a slotted spoon, ladle cucumber pieces into jars till they come up to within 1/2          inch of the top of the jars.

Then ladle the hot liquid to 1/4 inch from the top of the jars.

Seal and place in water bath. Process for 15 min, then turn off the heat and open the          canner lid and allow to sit for 5 mins, then remove the jars from the water bath.

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Boiled Kong Xing Cai (hollow stem greens) with sauce

Kong Xing Cai

Ingredients for sauce:
2T soy sauce
1T water
2t sesame oil
1T rice vinegar
1/2 – 1 t sugar
Pepper to taste

5 or more garlic cloves, chopped, sauteed in canola oil and drained
Boil the Kong Xing Cai, drain, and cut into 2 inch lengths. Place on serving platter.
Mix all sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Sprinkle sauteed garlic over the greens.
Spoon sauce over the greens and serve.

This dish can be served cold or warm.


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How To Roast And Peel Chestnuts


Raw chestnuts


Stand each chestnut on its base and grasp firmly with your left thumb and forefinger.

With a small pointed paring knife, stab and make a slit down, preferably, the flat side (if there is a flat side) of the chestnut. Be careful! The slit should cut all the way through the shell.

When all the chestnuts have been cut, put them in a saucepan and cover with water, turn on high heat.

Preheat oven to 425 deg (400 if convection oven).

When the water begins to simmer, drain the chestnuts and transfer to cookie sheet(s).

Roast for 15-20 mins, depending on the size of the chestnuts.

When tender enough, remove from oven and pour chestnuts into a bowl and cover with a thick or double layer kitchen towel for 15 minutes. This allows the chestnuts to steam a bit and makes them easier to peel.

When nuts are cool enough to handle, pull the shell apart and the nuts should fall right out, leaving the shell and the brown skin behind.


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Nuts and Seeds Health Bars


1/4 C quinoa, uncooked
3/4 C pecans  (or sliced almonds, pistachios, walnuts)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 chia seeds
1/4 C  hemp hearts (or other seeds)
2T coconut sugar  (or dark brown sugar)
1/4 t salt  (1/2 t if course salt)
2T canola or avocado oil or melted butter
1/2 C maple syrup (can be 1-2 T  less)


Heat oven to 325 deg F (300 for conv oven).

Line a 11″x17″ baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients

Pour mixture into the lined pan and level it out into an even sheet about 1/4″ thick or less. It won’t cover corner to corner, can be irregular, but will cover most of the pan.

Bake for 15 min, turn the pan 180 degrees, and bake 5-10 more mins; check for  even browning. If the corners are starting to get too brown, remove pan and allow to cool. If the corners and edges still look the same as the center, bake 5 more mins.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan on rack. When cool enough to handle, break into pieces. Sometimes, if the pieces are not crispy enough,  I turn them over and bake at 275 deg for another 5 mins. When cool, store in airtight container.

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Portobella Mushroom Marinade


3 portobella mushrooms or container of baby bellas
1/4 C canola oil
3 T chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 T balsamic vinegar


Mix all ingredients and pour over mushrooms.
Stir to coat thoroughly.
Marinade 1 hr prior to grilling.


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