Easy Steamed Buns, Two Ways (and Some Cookies!)


Do you ever see something or hear of something and immediately know that you’ll love it? That’s how I felt about the delicious looking Chinese steamed buns, or bao, that keep turning up everywhere I look lately. Everywhere, that is, except on menus here in Albany. It seemed as though if I wanted to taste these for myself, I would ether have to travel to NYC or make them myself. Making them seemed like it would be complicated, so I tucked the idea away in my every-expanding file of recipes to try on the weekend. But then I read this post from Carolyn Jung, who had a little truck up her sleeve to make steamed buns on a weeknight a very real possibility.

The trick? Don’t bother making your own dough. Instead, turn to a tube of refrigerated biscuits. Easy Peasy. When classic Pillsbury biscuits are steamed instead of baked, the texture undergoes a complete transformation. Instead of turning out buttery and flakey, they become pillowy-soft and slightly chewy. I don’t know how authentic the flavor or texture is, but it’s exactly how I imagined it would be. And every bit as delicious.


I was having trouble deciding what I wanted to fill my bins with, so I ended up doing two version: one fatty, porky version based on Momofuku’s popular buns, and another light version stuffed with tofu that I baked with my favorite generic “Asian” marinade. Bother versions were amazing, but I actually liked the tofu version the most! It was light and fresh in flavor and the combination of textures — the doughy bun, crispy-creamy tofu and crunchy vegetables — was so much more interesting than that of the chewy pork belly.

I’ve posted tofu very similar to this one before, but I’ve recently started to fry the whole block very quickly before baking it. This gives the outside of the tofu a crispy coating that tastes really good and also makes the texture of the tofu a lot more appealing.


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Ultimate Veggie Burgers

ultimate veggie burger

While I love a good beefy burger as much as the next person, every once in a while I find myself in the mood for something a little different. A little healthier. I love veggie burgers, but the frozen ones remind me too much of fast-food burgers: overly processed, eerily uniform in size, oddly lacking in color, and much, much too small. I like a burger that I can sink my teeth into. I’ve been toying with the idea of homemade veggie burgers for a while now, but never got around to playing around with recipes. A recent photo featured on The Kitchn has me headed straight for my kitchen though — shredded beets gave the veggie burger a brilliant red, meaty hue that I couldn’t resist.

Don’t be scared off by the beets though. While they provide a ton of color to the burger, I didn’t find that they tasted overly of beets. There’s enough other good stuff — brown rice, black beans, spices — to balance out the flavor. While you wouldn’t mistake these burgers for ones made from beef, they didn’t taste like vegetables either. They just tasted good. Really good. The flavor was amazing, the texture was better than any veggie burger than I’ve ever had, and they looked beautiful. Given the choice, I think 9 times out of 10 I would actually pick this burger over a more traditional meat one. And that’s not even considering the fact that they clock in at 150 calories and boast 7 grams of fiber. Not too shabby!!


A few notes about making these burgers: First off, the mixture will be fairly wet and it takes a little effort to get it to form patties. Don’t be afraid to really smoosh it — you don’t run the risk of overworking it like you do with beef. Once the patties have been formed, they will be very delicate and won’t hold their own on a grill (they’ll just fall through the grates). I grilled mine in the mesh wok that I usually use for vegetables. Alternately, you could cook them on the stove in a very hot cast iron pan.

The burgers also don’t reheat very well. They dry out. I crumbled a leftover, reheated burger over a salad and it was great, but I don’t think it would have been very god as a burger. So if you don’t plan to eat these all in one night, I’d recommend refrigerating the extra, uncooked patties and cooking them up to order.

When it came to toppings, I felt like these burgers were calling for a nice, spicy mustard. I also added some banana peppers, which I thought were the perfect touch – I liked the little bit of tang that they gave to it. Shawn had his with barbecue sauce and said it was ok, but I think my combination was way better. I’m not normally a mustard-on-burgers kind of girl, but I couldn’t imagine anything being better ion these. So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to dressing these!

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Daring Cooks: Mezze with Homemade Pitas and Hummus


I’m baaaaack!! I apologize for the severe lack of posts over the past few weeks. I was on an extended business trip and even though I had photos and recipes ready to go, I was just too tired to actually write up posts while I was away. But I’m home and rested now and life is slowly getting back to normal – which means I’m ready to resume my regular posting schedule! And what better way to jump right back in than with a Daring Cooks challenge?

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford, and Naomi Dugid. Mezze is a bunch of small dishes that are all served at once – sort of like a Middle Eastern tapas. The required parts of the challenge were to make pita bread and hummus. I also chose to make kafta (spiced meatballs) and taboule salad.

I’ve made pitas before, but I really loved this recipe and will definitely be making it again. Homemade pitas are so much better than what you can buy in the store – they’re soft, fluffy pillows of goodness. I found this recipe to be really easy to follow and the result was pure perfection. They tasted just like the pitas that I get at my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants! They were really cheap to make too, and I loved how they puffed up in the oven. Since I was planning to use them as a wrap, I flattened them while they were still warm. But if you want a pocket that you can fill, Leave them in the balloon shape to cool. The inside will be hollow, so you can cut them in half and fill just like a store bought pita pocket. As written, the recipe will yield 16 breads. I halved it and had no problems. [….]

Bourbon-Mustard Pulled Pork in a Crock Pot

pulled pork with mustard sauce
Pulled pork is a funny thing – it’s one of the first things I look to eat as the weather begins to warm up in the spring, but it’s also perfect for a chilly Fall evening spent at home watching football. Although I usually go for a more traditional barbecue sauce,or a fruiter smokey mango sauce, the mustard glazed ribs I made earlier this summer inspired me to mix things up this time and go with a Carolina-style pulled pork. Cooked all day in the crockpot, it made the house smell wonderful and only required a few minutes on hands-on time. The recipe also made a TON of pork, so that combined with the ease of preparation makes it a great dish for entertaining.[….]

Watermelon-Bacon Sandwiches, Homemade Chips and Dip

watermelon sandwich
I haven’t cooked much this week. I’m still not feeling great and summer finally decided to join us, so out of nowhere it’s become ridiculously hot. I really wanted real food tonight, even though I didn’t feel like cooking, and this meal was perfect. It was easy to make, required very little prep, and was refreshing and not too heavy.

I’ve been dreaming of this sandwich ever since I saw the idea in Newsday a few weeks ago – it’s basically your standard BLT, but with watermelon instead of the tomato. I know I’ve said that I hate watermelon, but those cocktails I made totally changed my mind on that one. I also don’t love raw tomatoes, so I thought this might be a nice alternate. I served the sandwiches with homemade potato chips and blue cheese dip. I also did a little experiment – I had heard of people making chips in the microwave, so I fried some and microwaved some and did a little taste test.

Onion Jam

Simply put, this onion jam was so good that I just can’t wait any longer to post it. Which means you’re all getting a special Sunday night post. 🙂 [….]