Asian Nachos

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Preparing for New Year's Eve parties, my mind quickly turns to appetizers and finger foods. Last year my daughter made some incredible Chinese dumplings {they since have been routinely made for gatherings of any kinds}; another favorite family finger food is spring rolls. With so many of our favorite foods of oriental decent, I was inspired to change yet another family favorite, nachos, into an Asian dish for a festive appetizer this New Year's Eve. The base of nachos are tortilla chips. For the base of the Asian nachos wonton wrappers are baked until crisp. They then are topped with what you might normally find within a spring roll, like an inside-out spring roll.

When working with wonton wrappers, you must keep them covered with a towel to avoid drying them out. They are not difficult to use unless they become dry; basically they are trash then. The Shanghai style wrappers which I find at the local Asian market in the freezer section have a great texture and are simple to work with. You can also look for wonton or Chinese dumpling wrappers in the produce section of your grocery where you might find bean sprouts.

It only takes a few steps to make the wonton chips. First cut the wonton wrappers in half. Next, dip each half in a mixture of sesame oil and soy sauce. Finally, place them on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes at 375F.

Once the chips are ready, place them on a serving plate.

Then top the chips with a few handfuls of finely shredded cabbage. A quick trick is to buy the angel hair coleslaw found in the prepackaged salad section in the grocery store.

Next, add stirfried chicken, top with a bit more cabbage and some sliced green onions. Finally drizzle with thinned plum sauce and enjoy!

Asian Nachos
an Alice Creation
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into thin strips
1/3 c soy sauce {recommend reduced sodium}
3 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
2-4 stalks fresh cilantro, rinsed and dried
2 c finely shredded cabbage
2 green onions, thinly sliced
plum sauce
2 tbsp water

For Wonton Chips
50 wonton wrappers {highly recommend Shanghai style}
1/4 c sesame oil
1/4 c soy sauce

Place chicken strips in a dish for marinating. Mix 1/3 cup soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of sesame oil, rice vinegar and ground ginger with a wire whisk; pour over chicken strips. Place stalks of cilantro on top of chicken and marinade. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 1-4 hours.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add marinated chicken and stir fry for about 10 minutes until chicken is completely cooked. Mix 1/4 cup plum sauce and 2 tablespoons of water to combine well. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix 1/4 cup sesame oil and 1/4 cup soy sauce. Cut wonton wrappers in half. Drag each wonton piece through the sesame oil and soy sauce mixture. Scrape excess mixture off by dragging across the side of the bowl. Alternatively you could brush the mixture onto the wonton pieces. Place on a foil lined cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes until golden and crispy.

Cover serving platter with wonton chips. Top with half of the shredded cabbage. Add cooked chicken. Top with remaining cabbage and sliced green onions. Drizzle thinned plum sauce over nachos. Serve with additional plum sauce.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

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Cupcakes are great fun for adults and children alike. They can be tailored to any taste and level of maturity. This latest cupcake endeavor was inspired by a few things. First, wintry weather immediately brings about thoughts of penguins in my mind. Thoughts of penguins were also inspired by my toddler who has been watching Madagascar everyday for the last two weeks. In this movie penguins are portrayed as mischievous little escape artists. Leading me to thoughts of penguins portrayed with cupcakes. Finally, my two year old spoke up at the dinner table one night and said, "Penguins can talk, right?" That was it. I knew I had to make some penguin cupcakes.

Recently I made another winter themed cupcake, Snowman Cupcakes, but this was mostly a decorating idea. I wanted to make the penguin cupcakes more of an entire cupcake treat beginning with the batter and following through all the way to the top of the beautiful cupcake. Unfortunately after decorating, the penguins were not beautiful. But thankfully the cupcakes were delicious. With a few decorating changes, I was left with a delectable and delightful Cookies and Cream Cupcake. I based the recipe on one I found for boxed cake mix batter.

The cupcake was light, but not too fluffy. And the taste was not sugary sweet like many cake batters can be, but instead was more like a muffin. The buttercream frosting complimented not only the light taste and texture of the cupcake, but the pure white of the frosting contrasted perfectly with the black Oreo cookie half that topped each cupcake. Truly the taste of these cupcakes are not for children alone. Trust me on this. Make these cupcakes. Try one.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
2 1/2 c sifted all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c vegetable oil
3 egg whites, whipped till fluffy
1 c whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 batch Best Buttercream Frosting
24 Oreo cookies

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 21 cupcake tins. Take 12 Oreo cookies and break into chunks. Don't complete crush, just break into a few pieces and keep the white cream. Set aside. Split the remaining Oreo cookies apart and scrape the cream from the inside; discard the cream. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Whisk together. Add milk, oil and vanilla extract. Mix on medium high for 2 minutes. Fold in egg white and stir gently. Fold in Oreo cookie chunks. Fill the prepared 21 cupcake tins. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Ice cupcakes with buttercream frosting. Pile the frosting on, it doesn't have to be neat. Top each cupcake with an Oreo cookie half.

Here are some other great cookie cupcake ideas you might enjoy:

Big Red Kitchen Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Scweet 'n' Savory Cookies and Cream Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Kitchen Klique Mint Chocolate "Cupcake"
Peanut Shell Samoa Cookie Cupcakes
Good Things Catered Cookie Monster Cupcakes

Snowman Cupcakes With the Best Buttercream Frosting

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Cupcakes can be incredibly fun to decorate but may also easily be a huge hassle. If using icing alone, I do not produce an attractive product, much less a photo worthy one. Nevertheless, cupcakes are pleasing to decorate because one does not have to use icing alone to decorate with.

Here is an example~
The Snowman Cupcake

Is he not completely adorable, so much so that you could just gobble him up. . . literally? And what is even more wonderful about this little guy is how easy he is to create. My nine year old daughter had a fantastic time icing and decorating these cupcakes to share with her friends.

To help you get started, here is the best frosting recipe in case you need one or haven't seen it when I used it for this Bird's Nest Cake. It is just the right sweetness, not overly sugary sweet. And the perfect texture for holding its shape after it has been smoothed on or piped. It gets just a little bit stiff after setting but not crunchy and really holds onto any added garnishes.

Best Buttercream Frosting

1 c butter, room temperature
1 c vegetable shortening
6 c powder sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz heavy whipping cream

Place butter and shortening in mixer. Beginning on low speed and gradually increasing to a high speed, whip for 10 minutes until light and fluffy. Lower speed to lowest setting and mix in powder sugar one cup at a time until well blended. Add vanilla. Increase speed to medium and slowly add whipping cream. Increase speed to medium-high and whip for 8-10 minutes until light but stiff. This makes an ample amount of icing for at least 24 cupcakes.

Snowman Cupcakes

Twizzler Rope
Life Saver Hard Candies
Chocolate Chips
Mini Chocolate Chips
Orange Slice Gummy Candies
raw sugar {for dipping}

After you have given each cupcake {any flavor you care to make} a good layer of frosting, roll them in raw sugar to give each a snowy effect. Set to the side.

Pull the Twizzler rope apart and cut each rope into thirds. This will be used to connect the Life Saver ear muffs. Also, slice the orange slice gummy candies into wedges then each wedge into halves; these will become little 'carrot' noses.

Place a third Twizzler rope segment at the edge of an iced, sugared cupcake and gently press into the icing to hold. Add a Life Saver hard candy to each end of the rope at the sides of the cupcake to create a pair of ear muffs.

Use two chocolate chips to form eyes for your snowman and five mini chocolate chips to make the mouth. Place the chocolate chips upside down, so that the tip of the chip is in the frosting.

Lastly, place an orange wedge piece in the center of the snowman's face for his nose. You could stick this straight up or lay it on its side, whatever suits your fancy.

Now you have an adorable snowman cupcake to give away or enjoy yourself. I immediately wrapped two up for our neighbor's little boys. I have found that the easiest way to package cupcakes neatly is to place them in a small clear plastic cup, the sort you use for punch. Then the cupcake in a cup can be placed in a bag and tied closed for gift giving.

Hoping you have a happy holiday season!