Posts tagged ‘roll’

November 14, 2011

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Ok, I waited long enough.  It’s now officially holiday season with Thanksgiving only 10 days away!  I’ll continue to post some healthy alternatives to get you through the cookie season, but this is not one of them.  This is melt-in-your-mouth, buttery, sugary heaven, and a perfect way to begin the festivities.

These quick, easy powdered sugar-covered shortbread cookies are known as Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies.  Either way they’re delicious, and dead easy to make.  They’re very similar to a shortbread cookie, but have the added flavor and texture of pecans and the silkiness of powdered sugar.

The secret to great tasting Mexican Wedding cookies is to use a high quality butter and pure vanilla extract.   Yep, it’s that simple.  The distinctive quality of these cookies that make it stand out from others is the smooth, velvety texture, light as air yet buttery flavor, and the surprising hint of crunchy nut which elevates this from simple cookie to a grown-up confection. I remember being horribly disappointed by these cookies as a kid because they aren’t overly sweet.  Now I appreciate that subtle sweetness and complex nutty flavor.

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract or fresh vanilla bean
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hands
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped into very small pieces

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.*
  • Line cookies sheets with parchment paper.
  • Take one tray and line with chopped pecans.  Toast nuts for about 10 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant.  Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the rest of the batter
  • Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer at low-speed until it’s smooth and light in color.
  • Beat in vanilla, almond extract and nutmeg at low-speed.
  • Keep mixer on low and gradually add the flour.
  • Once you add all the flour, remove mixer from stand and mix in the pecans with a spatula.
  • With floured hands, take out about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a crescent.
  • Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies.
  • Place crescent shapes prepared cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 40 minutes.
  • Before the cookies are ready to come out, prepare a shallow bowl with confectioners sugar
  • Remove cookies from oven and when cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in additional confectioners sugar
  • Cool on wire racks

* QUICK TIP: If you’re short on time, you can raise the oven temperature to 350 and cook for 12-14 minutes per batch.  I prefer the slow cooking method, it keeps them evenly cooked and you have less chance of overcooking them, but the hotter oven also works.

Buying vanilla extract can be a challenge as there are so many choices. The first thing to do is to make sure that it’s labeled “pure” and not “imitation”. The best I have found, although it is quite expensive, is Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract that can be found in specialty food stores and online.

 

 

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September 13, 2011

Aka Sushi, Best Sushi in Houston

Salt and vinegar potato chips, molten dark chocolate cake, fish and chips, bacon, and stick to your ribs homemade macaroni and cheese.  We all give into our cravings. Lucky for me, one of mine happens to be healthy.  There aren’t many places that make me as happy as a trip to my favorite sushi place in Houston, Aka Sushi.

You will not find better sushi for such a good price anywhere in Houston, let along anywhere in Texas.  I grew up in San Francisco, a mecca for fresh fish and great produce, so I think I can say with conviction I’ve tried my fair share of sushi.  Through all my travels, Aka is still at the top of my list.

Upon my first visit, I was eager to try about 20 different rolls on Aka’s enormous menu. They’re certainly on top of some of the better Japanese fusion trends.  I took some recommendations from the welcoming and very informative waiters, and was extremely pleased with all my selections.  Ask for Tony and Jay (they are my two pals and know me too well), they will steer you in the right direction.  Whether you’re the adventurous type, or a beginner sushi lover, they’ll be able to help you navigate the multitude of choices.

Here is my number one tip.  If there is anything you remember from this post, it has to be this.  Ask for a side of their creamy ginger dressing to go along with your sushi.  This is essential to enjoying the ultimate sushi experience.  It has a smooth, rich consistency and the combination of spicy ginger and tangy vinegar makes a perfect addition to any roll.  It’s heavenly, pure bliss!

I’ve tried most of their sushi rolls, and here are my top picks for both the adventurous and timid:

  • Tony’s roll a.k.a. flamin’: spicy salmon, tempura crunch, pepper tuna, avocado, tobiko, sesame seeds, eel sauce, honey wasabi To die for…probably the best roll I’ve ever had.)
  • Ninja roll: spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado; topped with blackened tuna, crumbled goat cheese, honey wasabi, balsamic soy (ask for it “Tony style” and they’ll add some fresh apple slices)
  • Crazy: spicy tuna, shrimp temp., cucumber, jalapeño, masago, sesame, spicy mayo
  • Spicy crunchy salmon: spicy salmon with tempura crunch
  • Spicy crunchy tuna:  spicy tuna with tempura crunch

Aka’s lunch and happy hour deals are unbeatable.   If you get a chance to visit please let me know how you like it and your favorite roll, I’m always looking to try something new!

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