Sunday, December 17, 2017

Healthful Herbal Chicken Soup

A healthy delicious chicken soup, made with Chinese herbal ingredients, which can easily be found at any Chinese herbal shops. The Chinese herbs used are Chines yam (shan yao or huai shan), astragalus (huang qi), goji berries (gou qi zi), and Chinese red dates (hong Zao). According to the recipe, the herbs are to be tied in a cheesecloth (except for the goji berries and red dates), then add to the pot and simmer, so that they can be easily removed before serving the soup. I have however, did not use any cheesecloth and simply placed the herbs in the pot.

I have omitted the soy sauce since I have used a small pinch of salt. The herbs are not meant to be eaten, though the goji berries and red dates can be consumed, they contribute the sweetness to the soup. Use free range chicken if possible, it makes a whole lot of difference to soups like this. 

This is a tasty soup with healthful properties from the herbs. 

The dried herbs

Healthful Herbal Chicken Soup 
(Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen by Yuan Wang, Warren Sheir and Mika Ono)
2 to 3 pounds chicken pieces (drumsticks, thighs, etc.. or chopped from 1/2 chicken)
8 cups water
a pinch of salt
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, slivered into 1/16-inch slices
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 to 8 medium-size pieces (20 grams) dried Chinese yam (shan yao or huai shan)
6 medium-size pieces (about 20 grams) astragalus (huang qi)
1 rounded tablespoon (10 grams) goji berries (gou qi zi)
6 to 8 (10 grams) Chinese red dates (hong zao), seeded
2 tablespoons rice wine
2 green onions, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces, roots and tough tips discarded
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste (omitted)

  1. In a large soup pot, combine the chicken, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Skim off any excess oil or fat.
  2. Tie the ginger, garlic, Chinese yam, and astragalus together in a piece of cheesecloth (just place the herbs in the center and tie the ends). This will make it easy to remove the herbs later.
  3. Add the cheesecloth bag of herbs and the goji berries, Chinese red dates, and wine to the pot. Bring it back to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered with the lid slightly ajar, for 45 to 60 minutes. Skim off any excess oil or fat.
  4. When the soup is done, remove and discard the bag of herbs.
  5. Add soy sauce to taste and garnish with the green onions.

I'm linking this post with Cookbook Countdown #24 hosted by 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

French Chocolate Bark

It's time for Chocolate and Vanilla, over at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC). Having missed last week's theme, I am not about to miss this week's too.  I've made Ina Garten's, French Chocolate Bark.

This is super easy, and I have all the ingredients in my pantry. Well, almost, with some subs of ingredients. Ina uses salted roasted cashews, which I have replaced with almonds. I did not have any dried cherries (they are very expensive!), so I have used dried cranberries. And also did not have semi sweet chocolate, so I have used milk chocolate instead, which is melted together with bittersweet chocolate. 

Melt both chocolates, spread on parchment paper, then scatter the rest of the ingredients over the chocolate spread. Ina has given the instruction on which ingredient to be scattered first. I was tempted to mix the ingredients in a bowl and then simply scatter them over the chocolate spread. But on second thoughts, decided to follow Ina's instructions instead.

The melted chocolate is spread in a 9x10-inch rectangle. The rest of the ingredients ; toasted almonds, chopped dried apricots, dried cranberries, golden raisins and chopped crystallized ginger.

 I did not use all of the almonds, and there's some balance of the dried cranberries and golden raisins. The chocolate spread is already full!  I am glad that I did not mix all the almonds and the dried fruits together in a bowl.

 Ina says to set aside for 1 to 2 hours until firm, then cut to serving pieces. Well, mine did not set at all, so I pop the bark in the fridge to set.

The chocolate bark sets nicely in the fridge. But they started to melt within minutes after cutting. Our hot and humid weather does that to chocolates, that is why we can never keep our chocolate at room temperature, they are always kept in the fridge. So the cut pieces were kept in an airtight container and store in the fridge. These barks are yummy and addictive! Not that kind of addictive snack that you would be eating pieces of it at one sitting, but rather addictive in a way that you would think of having another piece after half an hour and still think about it another hour later! They would not last long in the fridge, that's for sure!

French Chocolate Bark
(source from
1 cup whole salted, roasted cashews (almonds)
6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (milk chocolate)
6 to 7 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried crystallized ginger, 1/2-inch diced
1/2 cup dried cherries (dried cranberries)
1/2 cup dried apricots, 1/2-inch diced
1/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a pencil, draw a 9x10-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper placed on a sheet pan, then turn the parchment paper over.
Spread the cashews in one layer on another sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Place the semisweet chocolate and half the bittersweet chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 20 to 30 seconds. (Don't trust your microwave timer; time it with your watch). Stir with a rubber spatula. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the  chocolate is just melted. Immediately add the remaining bittersweet chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it lightly into the drawn rectangle. Sprinkle the top evenly in the following order; first the ginger, then the cooled whole cashews, the cherries, apricots, and raisins. Set aside for 1 to 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark in 18 to 20 pieces and serve at room temperature.

I'm linking this post with I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC), theme for this week 
Chocolate & Vanilla

Sunday, December 3, 2017

American Sandwich Bread

This simple white bread from Bread Illustrated by America's Test Kitchen is a lovely bread. It has nice crust and soft airy crumb.

Very easy bread to make and bakes up to a lovely loaf. I did reduce the salt though, using only half the amount called for, 3/4 teaspoon instead of 1-1/2 teaspoons. 

I like it's beautiful soft crumbs. Great as a sandwich bread, or spread with your favourite jam and salty butter. It is lovely toasted, spread with a generous dollop of cold salty butter, which will melt onto the hot crispy toast, perfect with a cup of hot steaming coffee!  

American Sandwich Bread
(Bread Illustrated by America's Test Kitchen)
2-1/2 cups (13-3/4 ounce) bread flour
2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (6 ounces) whole milk, room temperature
1/3 cup (2-2/3 ounces) water, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey

  1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk milk, water, melted butter, and honey in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until honey has dissolved.
  2. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, about 8 minutes.
  3. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. Grease 8-1/2 by 4-1/2-inch loaf pan. Press down on dough to deflate. Turn dough out onto lightly floured counter (side of dough taht was against bowl should now be facing up). Press and stretch dough into 8 by 6-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to counter edge.
  5. Roll dough away from you into firm cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Pinch seam closed and place loaf seam side down in prepared pan, pressing dough gently into corners.
  6. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until loaf reaches 1 inch above lip of pan and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
  7. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mist loaf with water and bake until deep golden brown and loaf registers 205 to 230 degrees, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking,
  8. Let loaf cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours, before serving.

I'm linking this post with Cookbook Countdown #24 hosted by