Huāshēng Bǐng | 花生饼 | Chinese Peanut Cookies

Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! 新年快乐 ! Happy Chinese New Year!  Today marks the beginning of the Spring Festival as we welcome the rooster. What better way to celebrate than with these addictive Chinese Peanut Cookies.

These beauties are called Hua Sheng Bing, 花生饼 in Mandarin. It translates as peanut cake but clearly they are wonderful cookie bundles. One can find them in homes and markets in China during the Lunar New Year. If you love peanuts you will adore the texture and massive dose of peanut crumbs. In fact these Chinese Peanut Cookies take cookies to a whole new level of  peanut. They are just fabulous!

Chinese peanut cookies

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The Terminal: Food ‘n Flix Roundup

At the beginning of this month, I announced that I would be hosting Food ‘n Flix with my chosen movie The Terminal. I love all the groups I am part of but I have to say there is a level of exchange with this group I just don’t get with others. Not only do we cook from a same inspiration, we also discuss the movies. It creates a real virtual conversation.

The Terminal

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Roasted and Salted Peanuts in the Shell

It’s Food ‘n Flix time again! In this monthly group a ‘host’ picks a movie of their choice that pertains to food. Everyone watches the movie and then makes a recipe which the film inspired. It can be any recipe you want.

I’m so excited to be hosting this month again. It really is a fun group to get involved with and I love to see what the other participants come up with after we all see the same movie. I chose a very entertaining comedy drama that would require a little bit of mind flexing in choosing a recipe. The movie is not all about food but it plays a role. The movie in question is The Terminal and I decided to prepare Roasted and Salted Peanuts in the Shell.

salted and roasted peanuts pre macro

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Juju Cake from East Africa

This is my second time participating in the International Food Challenge group that was created to explore the cuisines of the world, as well as the heritage of those country. A monthly host picks a part of the world and shares with us a few of the local recipes to make on our own.

This month we take a look at the cuisine of East Africa and I prepared a Tanzanian biscotti called a Juju cake.

juju cake

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Coconut-Spiked Pork with Quinoa and Peanuts

When we were kids everyone could eat anything without any allergies or complications. Well maybe we were not aware of it as much back then – or we were too young to realize – but food intolerances are definitely on the rise. I do count my blessings that I have no need for restrictions. But I have friends who come over regularly for dinner who do so having a nice selection of delicious recipes everyone can enjoy is a plus.

Gluten is one of the big no-nos and I think people who need to suddenly eat gluten-free get very intimidated at first. But there are lots of wonderful recipes tempting to the palate, you just need to experiment. A great resource is the The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook.

GFWholeGrains2

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IIP Cracking for Nostalgia: Cracker Jack Popcorn

Nostalgia! Talk about a theme that made me panic at first for this month International Incident party brought to us by the FAB  Jeroxie. This is what I love about this challenge, you have to rack your brains before hitting the kitchen.

I remember reading it, panicking and purposefully forgetting about it for a while. Food that makes me nostalgic! You would think it could be easy but I got a blank page in my memory file.  The day came where I had to face my demons and pick a dish. So I thought what marked me food wise. I figured I would go with the very first thing that came to mind. And then it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I knew what I had to make. Cracker Jack Caramel Popcorn!

No it is not a recipe from my mother that came to me or a first special exotic meal, it was Cracker Jack. Why? It reminds me of a person I wish I had gotten to know much better in my life: my maternal grandfather. His name was Charlie and I did get to know him a bit but he passed away when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I remember him as a good nature happy but pretty quiet person. I can’t remember what he had but by the time I was born he was somewhat sick, and then he had a stroke. He spent if my memory is correct about 18months in the hospital paralized on the right side and unable to speak before passing away. So my memories of him are limited.

But once he did pass and I was older I always reveled in the stories my mother and grandmother would tell me about him. He was, before being sick the first time, a real ‘bon vivant’ as we say in French, someone who really enjoyed life, laughed, smiled…and he was a MAJOR trickster. You would not believe some of the stories I heard. Still in the brief time I had him in my life I have developed 2 very precise memories of him and both are from what is now my parent’s cottage.

Cracker Jacks Popcorn glass

My first memory is swimming. I love water and I cannot get enough of swimming. He had a habit of taking a quick dip in the lake every morning upon waking up before doing anything else in the summer. Of course I usually went swimming with him. The second memory is the food related one. Back then we had a small convenience store maybe 5-10 min by foot and when ever he had to go buy something, usually his newspaper, he would take me and he always bought me a candy. I almost always picked a box of Cracker Jack. Every time I see Cracker Jack I think of my grandfather. So this is my little piece of nostalgia I wanted to share with you. And here is  my version of this nostalgic treat…..a prize included as well!

Cracker Jack Popcorn

Ingredients:
1 bag microwave popcorn
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup peanuts

Directions:

1. Prepare popcorn as per package instructions in microwave. You should get about 4 cups of popcorn. Put popcorn on a baking sheet and add peanuts on top.

2. In heavy saucepan mix sugar, butter and corn syrup. Stir over medium heat until boiling and continue boiling for 5 minutes at medium heat without stirring. Remove from heat and add vanilla and baking soda.

3. Pour over popcorn and peanuts and stir to coat quickly.

4. Bake in preheated 250F oven for 1 hour stirring several times. Cool, break apart and store in tightly covered container. Makes 5 cups

Cracker Jacks Popcorn

A truly dangerous recipe to have lying around the house. I would only make it again for like a part where I know there would be no left overs because now I have to snack on some everytime I pass near the kitchen…not good for the waist line!

International Incident Nostalgia Party

 

Holiday Treats

Can you believe Christmas is 39 days away? I know we do not want to think about it yet but if we don’t the next thing we know is we will be scrambling with the masses in the shopping centers. Urgh.

But in the last decade holiday shopping has changed dramatically. There has been 2 movements getting stronger every year: the internet shoppers and the back to basics home made gifts.

If you know what you want to buy online NOW is the time to shop. Get a cup of coffee while in your jammies and keep your credit card in hand. I know of several people who do all their shopping online. That is good if you know what you want to buy. Then the opposite movement is those who choose to give simpler gifts (because a gift is about the thought…not the materialism, right?) that they made themselves: a knit sweater, a painting, baked goods, recipe mixes.

Now…let’s combine the two for the culinary challenged who want to give simple gifts? Perhaps a nice box of peanut brittle, truffles, toffee or maybe nuts as a hostess gift. A simple treat can be just as wonderful as a gift then an unnecessary 10th body lotion or scented candle!

What do you plan on giving this holiday?