Sep
18
2014

How to Make Your Own Chinese Mooncakes!

Last week, China celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival! One traditional way to take part in the celebration is to enjoy delicious pastries called mooncakes. Our friend Jennifer Che from Tiny Urban Kitchen has shared her recipe with us – give it a try!

The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the two largest annual festivals celebrated in China. It’s a time for people to celebrate the bountiful harvests of summer, appreciate their loved ones, and gaze at the moon at its biggest and brightest.

It always happens on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar, which jumps around on the solar calendar (the one most of us use). This year the holiday landed last week, on September 8th. Typically, people celebrate by feasting, visiting family, and giving each other mooncakes. What’s a mooncake? It’s a disc-sized pastry (shaped a bit like a hockey puck) that is filled with lotus seed paste and one salted egg yolk which is meant to represent the moon. In more recent times, people have gotten pretty creative with mooncakes, and all different flavors and shapes have popped up, such as green tea (matcha), snow-skin “mochi”, and even chocolate ice cream!

Today, we will make Snow Skin Mooncakes, which derive their name from the fact that they can be snow white on the outside. These mooncakes are eaten cold and can be made without baking.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients
1 cup roasted glutinous rice flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of shortening

50 mL cold water (optionally colored with food coloring)
filling of your choice (store bought lotus seed paste, red bean paste)

Tools
Mooncake molds

Mooncake molds are a bit tricky to find in a typical U.S. store. A traditional mooncake mold is carved out of wood. Plastic ones are also available, and are a bit easier to use, especially for a beginner, because it’s easier to remove the mooncakes from the mold since you can push it out like a push pop!

The filling choice is up to you. At Asian supermarkets it’s not too hard to find pre-packaged mooncake fillings, such as lotus seed paste or red bean paste. If you’re really up for a challenge, you can try something like ice cream! Ice cream is tricky because it melts fast. To counter this, scoop individual balls of ice cream and freeze separately on a tray until they are frozen solid. This may take several hours, or even overnight. Use the densest, most premium ice cream you can find, since those tend to be harder.

First we need to make the roasted glutinous rice flour. Although this type of flour is easy to find in Asia, I could not find it in my local Asian grocery store in Boston. Never fear! It is really easy to make. In a saucepan over medium low heat, without any oil, heat the glutinous rice flour for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until it turns a bit tan, starts to smoke, and is fragrant.

The difference is pretty subtle: can you tell?

Next, sift together the powdered sugar and the roasted glutinous rice flour. You want to make sure that all the lumps are out! Once everything is mixed, use your hands to rub in the shortening or butter until you get a bread-crumb like consistency.

At this point, you may add food coloring to your cold water. Then, one tablespoon at a time, slowly mix in water until the dough is smooth and kneadable.


Like this! Cover any portion you are not using with plastic wrap, because it can dry out quickly. If you’re working with a normal, non-melting center, you can roll out the outer dough, wrap it around the inner ball of filling (e.g., lotus seed paste, red bean paste, etc), stuff the ball into the mooncake mold, and push it out!


If your ice cream is super rock solid, the above method may work for you. Otherwise, you can try stuffing the skin into the mold first, adding the ice cream, closing up the bottom, and then punching it out.

Voila! Freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

Enjoy!

 - Jenny Che, tinyurbankitchen.com

Sep
16
2014

Celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day!

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day, also known as Grito de Dolores.  Whip up a delicious mole sauce following our recipe below and get in the spirit.  ¡Viva México!”

Chocolate Mole Sauce

What You Will Need

  • 10 red chilies
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp. flaked almonds
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • sugar, to taste
  • 5fl oz. chicken stock
  • 3 1/2 oz. dark 70% cocoa-solids chocolate, grated

Instructions

  1. Crush the chilies, coriander seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, peppercorns and cloves in a mortar and pestle. Pour into a frying pan and dry-fry for a minute or so, until lightly browned and fragrant.
  2. In a separate pan, fry the onion, garlic and cocoa powder in a little vegetable oil for two minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and bring to the boil, then add all the dry-fried spices, the cinnamon, sugar and stock and cook for 25 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Turn out and fold in the chocolate.

Sep
15
2014

Turkish Treat

During their trip to Turkey, Sam and Sofia tried Turkish bread, called “ekmek.” People in Turkey eat it with soups and stews. Sam and Sofia learned a recipe for Turkish bread “pizza.” Pick up some Turkish bread from the grocery store and follow the recipe below for a tasty Turkish treat!

Turkish Pizza Bread

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Serving Size: 4

What You Will Need

  • 2 loaves Turkish bread, medium thickness
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups feta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pitted olives, kalamata or black
  • 8 fresh basil leaves

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut each loaf in half (lengthwise) so you have 4 flat pieces. Drizzle the bread with olive oil.
  3. Evenly crumble the feta cheese over the bread.
  4. Slice the grape tomatoes and olives in half and place on top of cheese.
  5. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted.
  6. Remove from the oven and sprinkle fresh basil leaves on top. Enjoy!

Sep
10
2014

Raising Global Citizens in Paris!

What’s it like to be an American raising a family in France? We asked guest blogger Mary Winston Nicklin, a travel writer based in Paris, and mom to 4-year old Jane and 1-year old Cecilia.

Little Passports:  What’s it like to be an American raising kids in Paris?

Mary Nicklin:  There’s been a lot of buzz about the book Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, which explores a lot of the French-American cultural differences in parenting. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Paris is a fantastic place to raise kids. The cafes are children-friendly, and there are so many attractions! One favorite of ours is the ice skating rink set up in front of the Hotel de Ville, which is free (skate rental costs 5 euros). We can also walk to the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes, which has got to be one of the most charming zoos on the planet. The original animals were Marie Antoinette’s at Versailles, and the focus is on biodiversity with exhibits featuring protected species from all over the world.

LP:  As a travel writer, what’s the most interesting place you’ve written about?

MN:  What a question! I feel idealistically about travel and consider it critical for cultural understanding. The places I’m drawn to are the ones with authenticity, where sites haven’t been trampled, local cultural traditions thrive, and there are opportunities for meaningful exchange. It doesn’t have to be “exotic” – I’ve been affected by trips to rural Virginia (my home state) and also the villages in “la France profonde.” I feel lucky to have lived for awhile in El Salvador, the tiniest country in Central America which also has the biggest heart. Now I’m obsessed with the Maghreb, and Tunisia specifically. From the oases in the Sahara to the whitewashed coastal towns on the Mediterranean, Tunisia is one of the finest places I’ve ever traveled, and I’m inspired by their newly ratified Constitution, which is a model for democracy in the Arab world.

LP:  As a mom, how do you encourage your kids to learn about the world and other cultures?

MN:  Travel is eye-opening, but there is so much for us to discover right in our own backyards. I think the key is to look at your hometown with the eyes of a traveler, completely open to discovery. I find myself marveling, alongside my daughter Jane, about certain French customs. For example: The other day after school (yep, school! The French start ‘em young- at 3 years old!) Jane got really excited about some music she heard on the street. We kept walking, and as we rounded the corner we stumbled upon a veritable orchestra making their way down the street. French horns, trumpet players, all tipping a hat towards the tall apartment buildings for residents to toss down coins. We ran after them and danced along and dropped a few coins in the hat, bien sûr. I’ve seen this several times around the Paris streets and I think it’s marvelous.

Paris is a cosmopolitan city, so we like to get out and explore other cultural celebrations. They have a fabulous Chinese New Year fete in the 13th arrondissement, complete with booming firecrackers and a parade with dragon floats. We’re also learning some Arabic words from moms whose kids go to school with Jane. (It’s really multicultural.) Some of the moms are from Mali but they’ve given up on me; the sounds are so different and I’m hopeless!

LP:  Thanks for sharing!

Mary Winston Nicklin is a writer based in Paris, where she is raising her two daughters. She has been published in many top media outlets, such as Condé Nast Traveler, Afar, USAToday.com, Jetsetter.com, and France Today. You can learn more about Mary on her website.

Sep
10
2014

Florida Fun Facts

Get to know Florida, with fun facts and a printable activity sheet!

5 Fun Florida Facts

 1. The Everglades is a huge subtropical park in the south of Florida. There you will find plants and animals that don’t live anywhere else in the USA.

2. More than 60 animal species from the Everglades are endangered animals.

3. Florida was under Spanish rule for about 300 years. Many Floridians speak Spanish because of its history and location.

4. The Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral has been the home of America’s space exploration for decades!

5. In 1971 cartoon and fairy tale characters came alive when Disney World opened in Orlando.

Florida’s waters are filled with fascinating sea creatures! Download our Dot 2 Dot and see which marine mammal pops up to say hello.

 

Learn much more about Florida with with Sam & Sofia! Subscribe to our USA Edition today.