Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

By popular demand, we offer you our recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins! Often when we’ve had weekend events, we’ll make up huge batches of muffins that we serve for breakfasts along with boiled eggs, fruit, and yogurts. We can carry these to any location and save our friends the cost of buying breakfast out. We’ve tried a large number of muffin recipes that can be made cheaply with ingredients we can purchase locally which are not imported. One staple of our preferred muffins is that the recipes use oil rather than butter or shortening, both of which are expensive since they are imported and not commonly used in China. We also try to make less sweet varieties, since we have often heard, “Too sweet! Too sweet!” since most Chinese have not grown up eating desserts or sugary foods.

This recipe departs from our normal criteria as it contains chocolate chips, which are NOT inexpensively procured in China. A 12 oz. bag (imported) costs about $6 or $7, so we try to bring ours from America when we come or ask our friends who come over to bring us a bag or two. However, this recipe doesn’t call for many, and to be honest we often skimp on the half cup called for when making them for events frequented by mostly Chinese people, and add a few more when we are making them for “foreigners”(like us). Even though these are sweeter than most that we make, they are very popular with both Chinese and Westerners. Who can resist the combination of peanut butter and chocolate whether they’ve grown up with it or not? We have tried several online recipes for peanut butter chocolate chip muffins and never found one that we loved. So we have “tweaked” this recipe until we think it’s about right. We hope you enjoy it!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 and 1/2 cups sugar (I use white but I think light brown would add depth)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy both work)

2 large eggs or 3 small ones

1 and 1/4 cups milk

1/4 cup oil plus 1 Tablespoon

1/2 chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Dump all of the ingredients except chocolate chips into a bowl and mix well. Stir the chocolate chips in by hand. Prepare muffin cups by either spraying with non-stick spray or inserting muffin papers. Fill 3/4 full. (I use my handy dandy ice cream type scoop with spring handles that I bought last time I was in America! It rocks and rolls, baby!) Bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick stuck in comes out clean (except for melted chocolate). This makes about a dozen and a half standard sized muffins.

Take a look at this moist bundle of deliciousness up close! They smell great and taste best right out of the oven. But my girls find that if they microwave them for 15 seconds they can recreate that warm melty yumminess!

There are few jobs that Grace and Hope can do in China to make pocket money- no yards to mow, no babies to sit! Handcrafts pay little since labor costs are so low. They, however, have hit on a niche business by making muffins and selling them. Many of our friends place special orders for the varieties of their choice- banana, cinnamon nut, poppy seed, zucchini, apple, pumpkin (made with fresh pumpkin that they cook and puree themselves since canned pumpkin is rarely available), and the above peanut butter chocolate chip muffins. Sometimes folks that come to our home for study request that the girls make large batches that they divvy up into bags of ten for purchase by individuals in the groups. We don’t have a recent photo or a good one, but here is one taken last year with a mobile phone on the first day of their “business” giving out samples of their wares! Grace is about a foot taller now and both girls have become more young ladies and less little girls. But it does give you an idea of the beginning of their Guangzhou muffin dynasty!

Chinese Dumplings

Making dumplings is a lot of work, but well worth it for special occasions. The ones you buy at Chinese restaurants may be good, but those you make at home are GREAT! Since we have two very special guests, we deemed this enough of an event to warrant our twice or thrice yearly jiao zi making day! Usually we try to have a full crew on deck when we make pot stickers, but today Joy, Faith, Lacy, and Alyssa were at the orphanage, so Grace, Hope, and I were the “team” for this marathon.

When you order dumplings here, usually they have pork plus one vegetable- cabbage, mushroom, or jiu cai, an onion/garlic sort of green stringy herb that I have never seen outside China, because they are less trouble to make that way. But when you make them at home, you can make them to your own tastes. They can be all vegetable, all meat (really not very good as it is too dense and dry!), or a combination. We like ours with a mixture of roughly equal portions pork and veg. In making the recipe below, you can leave out whatever you don’t like and add things you do. The most important point is to make sure that your filling is not wet. Even if you change the recipe, the method of mixing, draining, folding, and cooking will be the same. So adapt this to your family and have fun!

Ingredients:

3 pounds ground pork (don’t buy extremely lean pork or your pot stickers will be like sawdust!)

1 football sized Chinese cabbage

1 pound fresh water chestnuts

1 small bunch celery

1 small bunch green onion

6 cloves garlic

1 thumb sized piece fresh ginger

1 carrot (for color)

3 ears of corn (only because we have them left over in the fridge and we don’t want to waste, do we? “Bu yao lan fei!”)

2 eggs

1/4 cup corn starch

Salt and pepper to taste

Soy sauce to taste

3 pounds of wrappers

First, chop everything into very tiny pieces.

If we had a food processor, this would probably be easy, but we first rough cut with a knife, then chop into small pieces with the chopper. This is the da bai cai or Chinese cabbage. We did the same thing with all the other vegetables!

After chopping the veg, we add salt to “sweat” them, removing excess water which will ruin the dumplings. The round white things above the bowl are fresh water chestnuts. You haven’t lived unless you’ve tried these! They are crunchy and slightly sweet. Yum!

Then we sweep up the mess, which, as you can see, is considerable!

While we’re working we’re watching “Pride and Prejudice”- the six hour BBC version with Colin Frith! It’s a good way to pass the time while we do all of this chopping!

After an hour or so, we drain the veg pressing down well to get the water out, then press between layers of a clean towel to make sure it is as dry as possible. All of those pics were too blurry to use! Oh well.

Mix in the meat.

Break your eggs into a separate bowl first in case they’re spoiled, like this one. One out of every three eggs we open in the summer is bad so we are very careful about this!

Add the two eggs.

Pour in the soy sauce- probably around 3 Tablespoons, but we didn’t measure.

Salt to taste.

Add enough corn starch so that the mixture is not watery. Wet filling disintegrates the wrappers. At this stage, we make a little patty of the filling and quick fry it in a dry skillet to make sure we have the flavorings right. We really don’t want to go to all the trouble to make these, then wrap them up only to discover later that we left out the salt!

Prepare trays by flouring lightly. Have small bowls of water so that you can moisten the outside edge of the wrapper to make it seal better. We buy our dumpling wrappers at the wet market. You can buy yours at an Asian food store in the freezer section.

Insert about a teaspoon of filling into each small sized wrapper. Leave room around the outside to seal well.

Seal firmly into a crescent shape. Then you’ll “pleat” the edges. Sorry, our photos of the pleating process are blurry so you’ll have to look at the pics of the completed dumplings and “wing it”!

Grace is intent on her jiao zi making!

Nice little work crew we have here, huh?

Observe the “pleating”.

Here are the trays of wrapped dumplings. Yes, we got carried away in our proportions and have enough for an army! Take note how many we made and adjust the recipe accordingly!

The chopping and wrapping procedures took us all the way to the proposal segment of “Pride and Prejudice”.

If you are steaming your potstickers in a bamboo steamer, be sure to grease it well. Otherwise, you will understand very thoroughly how they got their American name.

Arrange your dumplings in the steamer in such a way that they don’t overlap.

Put your steamer in a wok and add water until it shows around the bottom edge.

The second method, and the one my family prefers, is a combination of steaming and pan frying. Start with a skillet with enough oil to barely cover the bottom.

Add dumplings to hot oil and begin to fry.

When they have begun to brown lightly, pour water into the hot pan- about 1/3 of an inch.

Immediately, put the cover on so that you catch all that nice steam.

Halfway through the cooking process, we like to turn them over to make sure they get brown on two sides. My Chinese friends don’t turn them- they just brown the bottoms.

We feel very blessed to have a three burner stove. The burner on the left is made especially to hold a wok. The front burner on the right is perfect for a frying pan; and the back burner is for a soup pot. Most Chinese stoves have only two burners, so we have the luxury variety. Isn’t this a nice shovelful of dumplings cooking? 😀

Sometimes the wrappers break, and we wouldn’t want to put those on the table, would we? Oh, here’s a volunteer to take care of that for me. Thank you, Grace! You have a servant’s heart.

You know they are done in either cooking method when the wrapper becomes translucent  and you can see the outline of all the nice veggies inside. We let them stay warm on the stove and cover them with saran wrap because they dry out so quickly.

Then we pour a mixture of half soy sauce and half Chinese brown vinegar into our bowls and enjoy this feast! We would have taken photos of the girls eating them but they had been at the orphanage all day and felt pretty bedraggled and worn out. But we can assure you that  more than a few “Mmmm’s” were heard around our dinner table. And, yes, we do have leftovers! But that’s ok. Typically, Chinese people might take cold dumplings in a baggie with them for travel, for a quick lunch, or even for breakfast. We won’t have to cook tomorrow, and that’s a very good thing!

Dumplings really aren’t hard to make, but they do take time. If you want to make them for a group, it’s fun to have a “party” so that the guests can help chop and wrap their dinner. They’ll love learning how to make these for themselves, and the process gives lots of time for fellowship around the table! Or, if you don’t want to have a party, just break out the six hour of “Pride and Prejudice” and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Layer Chinese, a.k.a. Hawaiian Haystack


Since our food blog is called “Our Daily Rice,” I thought it only fitting that we post something that actually has rice in it. Depending on who you ask, this dish is called Seven Layer Chinese, or Hawaiian Haystack. Our pastor’s wife in Texas used to make it, and we’ve adopted it as something that almost everyone likes to eat. Each component is in a separate bowl, so people can add or not, as they like. Even the pickiest eaters are pleased.

Much to my chagrin, I realized that if I was going to write for a food blog, I needed to have recipes! While that is no problem with baking, I fear it will tax my usual “throw in some of this and some of that until it looks about right, mix together, then cook until done” method of preparing old standbys. I am also accustomed to cooking for a large family, and confess to not having fully adjusted to our smaller group of only six. What I’m saying here is, if you fix it, I hope you indeed like it, because you might be eating it a while! :)

Assembling Seven Layer Chinese requires great skill. Start with a scoop of rice. Beware, too much rice at the beginning, and the serving will quickly mount to monumental proportions.

Spoon chicken gravy over the bed of rice.

Layer three is key, and I believe it makes the whole dish. Add a dollop of crushed pineapple, including some of the juice.

Then sprinkle on celery…

…green onion…

…almonds…

…and fried wonton strips (you can also use chow mein noodles).

Drizzle soy sauce over the top, and enjoy the savory, sweet, tangy, crunchy, satisfying combination. Make it tonight, and add a new family favorite to your repertoire. Bonus- use the crockpot and avoid heating up your kitchen!

Here’s the recipe-

Seven Layer Chinese

3 cups steamed rice

4 pieces of chicken (I recommend using bone-in thighs for flavor, but boneless thighs or breasts are easier)

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 can chicken broth

1 large can crushed pineapple (or you can use fresh, and chop it finely)

2 stalks celery

Small bunch green onion

1 cup almonds (I recommend slivered, but chopped or sliced will do)

Fried wonton strips (or you could use chow mein, but fried wontons are so yummy!)

Directions: Place chicken, cream of chicken soup, and chicken stock in crock pot, and cook for 3-4 hours, shredding chicken once it is cooked through and returning to sauce. If necessary, add a bit more chicken broth (or water and chicken bullion) at the end.

Steam rice using any method you like. We use a rice cooker, since the sticky rice it produces is perfect with chopsticks.

Chop pineapple (unless you’re using canned), celery, green onion and almonds. Cut wonton wrappers into thin strips and fry them in hot oil until crispy. Put out bowls of each ingredient, and allow your family to assemble their own. Use chopsticks to make it feel more “authentic.” :)

Serves four.

P.S. Two young ladies who are staying with us, Alyssa and Lacy, specifically requested that I post this recipe and tell their parents to make it a.s.a.p. I think they liked it!

 

 

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

This recipe comes with a couple of fun family stories!

When I was pregnant with Jason, I was on bed rest for a number of weeks so friends at our church brought our family meals. One dear lady not only brought dinner once a week, but she brought jars of homemade soups to use for lunches along with homemade pimento cheese and the most wonderful loaves or rolls of whole wheat bread. Week after week for months she came, with her bounty to keep us fed during this difficult time. What a precious gift from the Lord it was to have a sister in Christ who showed His love to us in such practical ways. This recipe is from that friend in Austin, Texas, whose kindness has provided a wonderful memory for our family of the continuing grace of God in our lives! I’ve lost track of Donna Wilson, but God has not. I pray that He is continually rewarding her for her kindness to us and to others in the Body of Christ!

The second story regarding this recipe happened in 1990- the year our family took a 3 week, 5000 mile trip hauling a pop-up camper to see all the major national parks out west. (When we got home, I said I was going to write a horror story called Three Weeks in a Pop-Up, but that’s  a story for another day!) As I remember, our entire trip cost about $1000, so you can tell that we traveled very frugally, even for 1990! Participants on this trip included Stacy and me, plus our five oldest children ages 11-1, and my mother-in-law. (And she is NOT the reason the trip was a horror story. She was a lovely lady and I loved her very much.)

This was an exciting trip for our children, as you can imagine. What kids would not be thrilled to see Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, or the big trees at Sequoia? We knew that they would want to have souvenirs of the trip, but souvenirs just weren’t in the budget. So for months before we left, our four older kids made loaves and loaves of this bread and sold it, hot out of the oven, to friends and neighbors to earn their own souvenir money. Joy was 11; Chad was 10; Jeremy was 8; and Jason was 6; but they could all make this bread by themselves from scratch, which should show you how easy it is! They pooled all the money they made from baking/selling bread, then split it equally and used that money to purchase mementos of that monumental journey. Most of their purchases have gone the way of the tee shirts of yesteryear, but memories of mixing and kneading the dough, pulling fragrant hot loaves of bread from the oven, and carrying them around the neighborhood in their little red wagon live on!

Enjoy this healthy, delicious treat! And don’t forget to make precious memories with your children as they grow!

Ingredients: 

2 cups hot tap water

3 packages or scant 3 tablespoons yeast

½ cup honey

2 teaspoons salt

1 lightly beaten egg

½ cup oil

6-8 cups whole-wheat flour

Mix the honey and salt into the hot water; then add yeast; stir; let sit until foamy. Stir in the egg and oil. Add 2 cups of flour and stir until all lumps are out.  Add another 2 cups and stir well. Then add one cup at a time until you have a light but not-sticky dough. Flour the shelf lightly (or use your dough hook on your mixer); knead dough for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Add more flour to the shelf if the dough is sticking.

Put dough into a greased bowl; flip it over so the top is oily; cover with a clean towel and let sit about an hour until doubled.

Grease bread pans. Don’t use oil but rather use shortening or butter. Shape the bread into loaves and put into the pans. Let rise about another hour until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375. When loaves have risen, put them in the oven for about 35 minutes. To see if they are done, thump the top with your flat hand. If it sounds hollow, it’s probably cooked through. When done, remove from oven; butter tops; and remove from pans. Let it cool- or eat it right away while it’s hot- it’s up to you!