Jujubes and Sweet Rice cakes

This snack was crazily popular about a decade ago in main China.  Jujubes and sweet rice are among Chinese favorite dessert ingredients.  When you combine both of them together, magic happens.  They taste so good with each other.  The jujubes have a unique sweetness.  The mini sweet rice cakes are soft and slightly chewy.  They are also thinly coated with rock sugar syrup which complements the sweetness from jujubes, bringing the whole snack to a new level.

Ingredients:

14 to 16 big dried jujubes
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
4 to 5 tablespoons whole milk / water
2 to 3 tablespoon rock crystal white sugar
3 to 4 tbalespoons water
water for soaking and steaming

Directions:

Soack the jujubes in warm water for 2 to 4 hours to rehydrate the jujubes.  Change the water twice in between to keep it warm.

Drain the jujubes.  With a small sharp knife, cut each of them open and remove the cores.  Be careful not to cut the date in halves or cut yourself. O(∩_∩)O~

In a bowl, combie sweet rice flour and milk / water.  Whisk and then knead with hands unitl it forms a smooth dough ball.  Sweet rice has no gluten.  So it is normal that the dough might fall apart during kneading process.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.  Roll each of them into a small log and cut each of them into 4 pieces.  So we should have 16 pieces, each for a jujube.

Stuff each jujube with a piece of sweet rice cake.

Place them on a steaming rack.

 Steam on medium high heat for 20 minutes.

When the jujubes are be steaming, I make rock candy / sugar syrup.  Rock candy is made from cane sugar.  It is further exacted and processed so that it is crystalized and has a better sweet flavor.  That is why it is called rock candy / sugar.  It is also a stable and important ingredient in Asian desserts.

In a small pot, combine rock candy / sugar, heat on medium heat until it can thinly coat the back of a spoon.  Stir from time to time to prevent burning. 

Toss the steamed jujubes in rock sugar syrup so that they are evenly coated.

You can serve the jujubes hot or cold.  I personally prefer cold ones.  The sweet rice cakes in the middle develop become more chewy when cooled to room temperature.  I just love to enjoy them that way.

They go well with eithertea or coffee.

Roasted Sweet Rice Cakes

中文: 烤韩式年糕

I posted how to make Korean style sweet rice cakes at home before: ….. You can refrigerate any extra rice cakes in a sealed Ziploc bag for up to a week.  They can also turn into a simple sweet tasty snack in no time!

Ingredients:

15 pieces of mini sweet rice cakes
1/3 to 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (use more if you have a sweet tooth)
2 to 3 tablespoons water

Directions:

Add brown sugar and water to a small stock pot.  Heat over medium heat and stir constantly until it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat.

Skew every three pieces of mini sweet rice cakes together. 

Roast them over charcoal fire or electric burner until the rice cakes are golden brown.  O, it is too cold to go out to use the grill on the deck.  So I DIY a quick and simple BBQ rack over an electric burner in my kitchen. O(∩_∩)O~

Stack the rice cakes together in a big plate or basket.  Sprinkle with brown sugar sauce.

Top the rice cakes with brown sugar sauce and serve them immediately.  They taste the best when hot.

Apple Fruit Rolls

Fruit rolls were so popular in China when I was still a kid. They were like the potato chips today.  No matter where you go or where you shop, they are just everywhere.  The fruit rolls I used to enjoy were made from hawthorn (thornapple) fruits.  They are almost as tart as cranberry.  Once you add a lot of sugar, they become addictively sweet and sour flavor.

Actually, a lot of fruits high in pectin can be used to make fruit rolls.  I made them before using prunes.

And I find out you can make fruit rolls with apples too!  I made one batch a couple days ago.  They were gone in minutes!  O(∩_∩)O~

Ingredients

8 to 10 apples
6 to 8 tablespoon packed brown sugar (use more if you have a sweet tooth)
1 to 2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Directions

Clean and core the apples.  No need to peel them because most natural pectin is in apple skins.

Cut the apples into chucks.  Add them to a medium pot, along with brown sugar, lemon juice, ground cinnamon and water.  Heat over high heat until it boils.  Reduce the heat to medium high.  Stir the apples occasionally to prevent them getting burnt at the bottom.

 Cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat and let it cool down to room temperature.

Sometimes I make larger batch and seal them tightly in mason jars.  Steam them for about 30 minutes; remove from heat; and place them upside down until they cool down.  Yea, it is just like how you can tomato at home.  The apples can be stored at room temperature for a long time.  And they go really great with pancakes and crepes.

Add apple chunks and it sauce to a food processor.  Puree the apples.

Divide the apple puree into halves or three equal pieces.  Spread each of them evenly on a dehydrator tray.

Run the food dehydrator at vegetable/fruits 135F/ 57° C for about 10 to 12 hours, or until the puree is totally dried out.

Peel it off the tray and roll it up. 

Now you have beautiful homemade apple fruit rolls!

The apple fruit rolls go really well with a cup of freshly brewed green tea!

Sweet Rice Porridge with Beans, Nuts and Dried Fruits

中文: 八宝粥

Sweet rice porridge with beans, nuts and dried fruits is a traditional dish to have on the 8th day of the last lunar month of the year in China.  It is made with sweet rice, different kinds of beans and dried fruits to celebrate the end of the year and also a prayer for a better, more prosperous new year.  

The reason I like it is simple and strait forward: it tastes very good! O(∩_∩)O~    The porridge is usually simmered for a really long time before serving.  So everything is smooth and well blended.  The different sweet flavors and fragrances from dried fruits give the porridge a deep and rich flavor. 

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What people put into the porridge differs from area to area.  The usual ingredients are but not limited to sweet rice, peanuts, lotus seeds, dried jujubes, dried goji berries, dried longan fruits, red beans, pearl barley, crushed corns, dried chestnuts and some other nuts. 

You know it has to be tasty just by looking at all the amazing ingredients, right?

I live in a small Michigan town where it is very hard to find all the usual ingredients needed for the porridge.  So I improvise a little bit when making this traditional porridge dish.  It turns out fantastic! 

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons sweet rice
1 tablespoon pearl barley
1 tablespoon brown rice
1 teaspoon red beans
1 teaspoon split green pea
1 teaspoon buckle wheat
2 tablespoons lima beans
1 teaspoon quinoa
1 teaspoon lentils
1 tablespoon chickpeas
1 teaspoon millet
1 tablespoon peanuts
3 tablespoons dried longan fruits
6 to 8 dried jujubes
1 small piece white wood fungus
6 to 8 tablespoons rock candy/sugar (use more if you have a sweet tooth)
6 to 7 cups of water

It is feeds 2 to 3 persons.  I usually mix a large batch and store in the refrigerator.  So I can save a lot of time measuring and mixing all the ingredients. 

Lotus seeds are a very widely used and important ingredient in Asian dessert.  When cooked, they have a very mild nutty flavor and a similar texture to cooked lima beans.

Rock candy/sugar is made from cane sugar.  It is also widely used in Asian desserts and cooking.  It tastes pretty much just like the regular cane sugar.

Dried jujubes and white wood fugus.  Don’t be intimidated by the names.  They both are actually quite tasty.  Dried jujubes have a mild nutty flavor.  They are sweet, nutritious and high in fiber.  They are added to soups and porridge for colors and flavors.

White wood fugus can make the soup or porridge silky and more smooth. It is very mild flavor.  It is usually added to soup or porridge to improve the texture.  It is said that wood fugus contains high value in nutrition. 

Dried longan fruits.  They are pretty much only available in Asian grocery stores.  Fresh longan fruits are white, juicy and sweet.  Dried longan fruits have a mild nutty fruity sweet flavor.  They become yellow or light brown when dried.

Ok, ingredients are complicated; but the cooking process is quite simple.  Or should I say I make it very simple? O(∩_∩)O~

I usually make the porridge for breakfast.  The night before, I rinse all the ingredients once or twice.   In a small Crockpot/ slow cooker, add all the ingredients but dried jujubes, dried longan fruits and rock candy/ sugar; and then add water.  Set the slow cooker to high; stir everything together with a wooden spoon.  Cover and then go to bed.

The next morning, add dried jujubes, dried longan fruits and rock candy/ sugar.  Stir again with a wooden spoon.  Cover and cook for another hour.

Now it is time to enjoy!   I like to serve it immediately.  The hot porridge will definitely warm up your stomach and the whole body. 

purple sweet potato and taro cakes

I never understand why purple sweet potatoes haven’t been widely popular in America like potatoes do.  They are sweet, nutritious, and so pretty to look at. And there are so many ways to enjoy them.  You can steam them, deep fry them, and bake them like any regular sweet potatoes. They are sweeter and have a tenser texture.  I load up with purple sweet potatoes whenever I go shopping in an Asian grocery store. 

A lot of Asian dessert involves purple sweet potatoes too.  What I am making today is a really simple and fast snack. 

Ingredients:

2 small / or 1 medium size sweet purple potatoes
1 large piece of taro root (about 1 cup when cut into cubes)
5 to 6 tablespoon whole milk / heavy cream
4 to 5 tablespoons honey (use more if you have a sweet tooth)
water for steaming

Directions:

Steam the purple sweet potatoes until a fork can easily piece through them.  Peel and puree in a food processor with whole milk or heavy cream.

Peel the taro root and cut into half inch cubes.  Steam them over medium high heat for about 10 minutes.  Puree in a food processor with milk, honey, and a little water.  Taro root is very starchy after steamed.  Water will help to make it smooth.  But don’t add too much water.  We need taro paste here, not soup. O(∩_∩)O~

Spray a mooncake mold with oil.  Add 2 tablespoons purple sweet potato paste to the bottom, 1 to 2 tablespoons taro paste in the middle and then top with another 2 tablespoons purple sweet potato paste. 

Flip the mold; press it tightly for a couple seconds and then release.

If you have a mooncake mold handy, a mousse ring will do the work just fine. 

Top with honey and serve immediately.

Enjoy!