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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips

If you've lived here in Shanghai awhile chances are that you have heard of the Avocado Lady. She is a Chinese lady that has a little "no frills" shop in the Former French Concession where, among other imported things, she sells avocados and corn and flour tortillas.

When I was preparing to come to Shanghai I heard from a friend(who had lived here close to ten years ago) that you couldn't get corn chips or corn tortillas here, so I actually packed a bag of masa de harina in one of my suitcases so I could make corn tortillas and corn tortilla chips. And while I quickly discovered that times had changed since that friend lived here and that I could buy corn tortilla chips(albeit for a small fortune), I did in fact put that masa to good use and laboriously made fresh corn tortillas and tortilla chips.

Needless to say I was seriously grateful the day my husband came home from a little trip to the Avocado Lady with a huge bag of about 50 corn tortillas for only 28RMB. I'm not sure what the going rate is here for a bag of tortilla chips but I can tell you that you will get a whole lot more than a bag with half of one of these bags of corn tortillas cut into wedges.

This is one DIY secret that is too good to keep to myself, even if it does mean that the next time I go to buy corn tortillas the Avocado Lady will be out of them! This is so easy to do and you will be surprised at how quickly you can turn out fresh corn tortilla chips!

Corn Tortillas
Corn Oil


*Here is the bag of corn tortillas so you can see what it looks like- I usually use 1/4- 1/3 of a bag at a time. Make sure you refrigerate or freeze the remaining tortillas or they will go moldy after they have been opened.
Using a sharp chef's knife, cut stack of tortillas into six wedges.

Add about 1 inch of oil to your wok. Heat oil over medium heat until hot.

Add corn tortilla wedges and fry until they are crisp and inflexible. You want to cook them just until they get firm, but not too toasted.

Stir with a slotted spoon, so that they cook evenly.

Using a slotted metal spoon or strainer, remove chips from oil and drain on paper towels.
Place in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt to taste. (Careful not to add too much salt- amount depends on how many tortilla chips you decide to make that day!)
Yum! (Not many left at this point!) Serve all the ones that you didn't consume for a taste test with guacamole and fresh salsa.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies (without molasses)

I adore gingerbread cookies. It's a nostalgia thing for me. I have this mental image of a cookie jar kept on the top shelf of the cabinet in our living room that was filled with miniature gingerbread boys and girls for the whole month of December.
 Every time I eat a gingerbread cookie I remember that Christmas excitement of being a little kid. To me Christmas is not complete without gingerbread cookies.

So my first Christmas in Shanghai I really wanted to make gingerbread cookies, but I didn't want to pay a fortune for a bottle of molasses at City Shop, just so I could use 1/4 cup of it. I couldn't find any Chinese molasses which I thought was odd given how dark and molassesy tasting the brown sugar is here. I realized that I just needed to create a recipe that used the Chinese brown sugar in place of molasses.
So here is my recipe with Chinese brown sugar.
* Chinese brown sugar tends to be really lumpy. Try to avoid big lumps when you measure as they do not break up very well.


1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Chinese dark brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 - 2 cups flour

Directions:  Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Blend into butter mixture. Chill dough for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 (175 C) Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out shapes. Bake for 6-8 minutes.

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar until smooth.

Add honey,
and egg and mix well.
Add salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.
Add 1 1/2 cups flour. Mix well. Add more flour as needed until dough comes together and is just a little bit sticky to the touch.

Cover in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hr. (Yes, you do have to do this step- the butter in the dough needs to chill otherwise it will get too hot when you are working with it)
After one hour, preheat oven to 175 C. Divide dough in half and roll out to 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thickness.
Cut out shapes. (My gingerbread boy cookie cutter is sadly lost- I think my kids made off with it to use with their playdoh :(
Place on a greased or parchment covered cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes each batch.

*Notice that my dough still had some brown sugar lumps in it which show when you bake. I don't mind this- I think it gives them a rustic- old fashioned kind of look.
If desired you can add a glaze or frosting.

*I just made an easy glaze by mixing about 1 tbsp milk with powdered sugar until it was a really thick consistency.  Like almost a dough consistency.
Then I put the glaze in a plastic bag and cut off one corner and used it as a piping bag.
I took these to a party and they were gone within minutes. I got one. Writing this recipe up is making me want to go bake them again!

Friday, December 14, 2012


My basil plant is on it way out due to my lack of attention (what can I say-three kids, new business, etc). Before it completely dies I decided to use the last few leaves to make bruchetta.

Sometimes the best foods are the simplest ones.Take bruschetta, for example. Bread, oil, tomatoes garlic, basil and a little salt. But with anything, it's a lot on how you cook it.
I've made bruschetta by toasting the bread in the oven. Still good, but dry. This way of toasting it by pan-frying the baguette slices is awesome! It toasts the bread so that it is a little crispy, while still keeping it soft inside.

I seriously can eat just this for a quick meal on a Saturday night and be completely happy. But it also makes a great party dish or an appetizer when friends come to dinner.
With all the Christmas parties coming around, you may just want to make this sooner rather later. You'll be color coordinated for Christmas! Make sure to top the bread with the tomatoes at the last minute so that the baguette slices don't get soggy.

1 baguette cut into 1/2 inch slices
olive oil
3 tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
15-20 basil leaves
salt to taste


Gather ingredients

Chop basil.
Dice tomatoes and place in bowl.
Add chopped basil,
Add garlic,
and salt
Mix well and set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium/high heat. Add a few tablespoons of oil.
When oil is hot, place baguette slices in the skillet. Cook for 30-60 seconds until golden brown.
Turn over and cook on the other side until golden.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Cornbread Dressing

My husband and his friends have this tradition which has been running close on to fifteen years. It's called the Martha Stewart Christmas Dinner. Basically the idea is that everyone is supposed to dress in their cheesiest Christmas-y outfits, pull out the most scrumptious holiday food recipes they have and for one night gorge themselves on Christmas cheer.
This is the night where the wives all try to outdo themselves in what they bring. Until we moved to China, this cornbread stuffing/dressing was my signature dish.
It is beyond delicious! It is so light and fluffy that it tastes more like a souffle than a dressing. The cornbread is the secret. If gives a slightly sweet, but not too sweet, taste to the stuffing. My husband actually dislikes dressing and this is the only stuffing recipe he will eat. He loves it! And it is very appealing to the eye as well as the taste buds. I've seen some pretty gray looking dressings before. This looks gorgeous!

4 cups prepared corn bread, torn into pieces, and staled
6 cups French bread, cubed and staled
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups celery,
2 cups onion,
3 tbsp. minced fresh sage (if you can't find fresh sage- or are too lazy to go to City Shop to buy it like I was- use 1 tbsp dried sage)
3 eggs, beaten
1⁄2 cup minced fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°coat a 3-quart baking dish with nonstick spray.

Cut up french bread/baguette and corn bread into cubes and stale.

*Stale the bread the night before by placing them in a 200°oven for an hour. Then turn the oven off and allow the bread to cool inside for at least another hour before proceeding.
Combine both types of bread.
Add milk,
Set aside.

Saute celery and onion in butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, 3 minutes.
Add sage and cook for 1 minute.

Let stand about 3 minutes.  Add celery mixture,
beaten eggs and salt (about 1/2 tsp)
Mix well, then spoon dressing into the prepared baking dish. (This makes a ton- I usually split it into two dishes) Bake 45 - 60 minutes, or until lightly browned.