Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Bun in the Oven Dinner Date!

I first conceived of this idea a few months ago. I have been anticipating the day when I could post this. This meal was a lot of work, but it was a labor of love.

Celeste is having a baby!! I could not be more thrilled for her and her family (or for me, I can't wait to cuddle a tiny little newborn without the inconvenience of night wakings! hee hee). Celeste is an awesome mom, and she is gestating one lucky baby!

What better way to celebrate Celeste's "bun in the oven", then by baking up some literal buns in my gas-fired oven?

Steamed Chicken Buns

I love Chinese steamed pork buns (Char Siu Bao), and wanted to try something like that. I did my chicken filling in the crock pot because, well, it's so much easier than bbq'ing or slow-roasting or what have you!

Chicken Filling:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cooking sherry
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Chinese 5-Spice
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker; cook on low for 6-8 hours, until chicken is easily shredded apart.


1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 tsp bread machine flour

Add ingredients to bread machine; set on "dough" setting.

When bread machine is done, remove dough (gently!) onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Divide dough into two pieces. With your hands, roll each piece of dough into a 2-inch wide rope. Cut each rope into 12 pieces.

With your hand, flatted the pieces into small circles. Scoop some chicken filling into the middle. Pinch up the edges, forming a little packet. Let buns rest for about 30 minutes.

Set a steamer pan over a pot of briskly boiling water. Lay each bun on the steamer for about 10 minutes, covering the pot, until the bun is puffed and the dough is slightly firm to the touch. Serve.

Pain au Chocolat

These are fantastic for morning playgroups - the dough should be prepared the night before, and the rolls don't take long to roll out, fill, and bake in the morning. And then the other mommies will adore you.

2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast

8 ounces chocolate (semi-sweet, dark, milk all work well - heck, even toffee bits and peanut butter chips work well!)

Place all ingredients except chocolate in the bread machine. Set on the "dough" cycle.

When dough is finished, turn the dough into a deep, greased bowl. Cover with 2 layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Turn the dough onto a work surface dusted with flour. Divide the dough into 16 portions. Roll each portion into a (rough) square. Place 1/2 ounce of chocolate in the middle. Fold up each corner to form a packet. Place seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350F. Bake the buns for 15-18 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Let them cool a little, but they are best eaten warm!

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So now you have some idea of what's been going on here! I have moving trucks pulling up to my house tomorrow (eep!), and Celeste is baking a baby. We are both preparing to send our first babies off to preschool in a few weeks (sob!). Once we are back in the swing, we hope to be much better about cooking new things for our kids and updating!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Neko's Birthday Dinner Date!!

Amazingly my little girl (who seemed to be 2 FOREVER) has turned 3!! In honor of the special occasion I planned a dinner date that was sure to make her happy.

Even though Neko will happily eat things like sushi, calamari, tofu, sardine nuggets and spinach smoothies (honest to god she will) she is still a kid and if I ask her "What would you like for dinner?" almost always her response is "macaroni and cheese". I've tried many different variations of mac and cheese and thankfully there are even hundreds more I haven't tried. This help keep this kid favorite fresh.

I decided to try a version featured on Kara's friend Ana's blog: Our Veggie Family because it looked so yummy. It was super easy to make and WAS very yummy indeed! The butternut squash blended right into the cheesy goodness and the dish tasted like mac and cheese should.
I also served steamed and buttered green beans which I don't have a picture of or a recipe for since they are pretty self explanatory. The only thing I will add is that I let Neko and Abby snap off the ends of the beans before I cooked them which they both really loved doing. Kara said she had not previously gotten Abby to eat green beans but she scarfed them all down at dinner date. I'm guessing she liked them better after having had a part in making them. :o)

We have too many birthdays in July/August in our house and we are caked out (which I didn't think was possible). So for dessert I decided to do build-your-own-sundaes instead! For toppings we had: sundrops, blueberries, sliced strawberries, Funky Monkey Bananamon chips, whipped cream and homemade agave butterscotch.
Agave Butterscotch

1/2 c. agave nectar
3/4 c. brown sugar
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla

1. In a med. saucepan combine agave, brown sugar and butter over medium heat, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil and cook for another minute.
2. Remove from heat and stir in cream and vanilla.
3. Serve warm or keep in fridge until ready to serve. Yum!

Happy Birthday Neko!!