Tag Archives: pumpkin seeds

ABC Mooncakes (less sugar, vegan, and close to being organic)

Moon festival is my favorite cultural holiday.  My mom and dad call it Chinese Valentine’s Day.  Every year we get to play with lanterns, drink tea, eat mooncakes, and listen to my parents tell us these amazing stories.  There’s a love story behind this holiday, but I can write an entire essay on this so here’s a link if you’re interested.  It’s such a powerful story to my parents that they decided to get married on this holiday, so every year we are also celebrating their anniversary.  The best part about this festival is eating mooncakes.  These delights are sold once a year in decorative tin boxes and they can range anywhere from $20-$50 for a box of four.  The reason why these are so expensive is the fact that it’s hard to make.  Also, there is an ingredient that needs to be prepared a year in advance.  Don’t fret!  I found another method around this.  For this year’s anniversary, I decided to surprise my parents with homemade mooncakes but with a classy and fit twist.  Mooncakes are not healthy.  Think donuts or heavy pastries.  What I did in my recipe was cut the sugar and oil significantly, made it vegan, and I tried to keep majority of my ingredients organic.  Also, I wanted to bring a Filipino flare to my recipe, so I made an ube (aka purple yam) mooncake.  Since the process was long I thought if it doesn’t work out I don’t want to make them again.  Mama Chiang never made mooncakes, so I had to put this to the ultimate test by sending it to Pao Pao (grandma).  I was nervous.  If anyone’s been around longer to know supreme Chinese mooncakes it’s my Pao Pao.  Guess what?  Looks like I’ll be making more of these.  It was a perfect anniversary gift.  My parents loved it!  They were surprised how an ABC (yes, my parents often stereotype me as “American Born Chinese”) is able to make this.  I experimented to make a healthier recipe, so here I present my masterful ABC Mooncakes.

By Shelly Chiang, Makes about 8 mooncakes (considering one serving of the outer dough)

Tools

Mooncake mold – I got this from Brown Cookie

Outer Cake Ingredients

(Note: I made the outer dough 3 times to use up the lotus and ube paste below.  It’s better to make it in small portions because it will make it easier for you to knead the dough.  The outer dough is what makes the mooncake.)

  • 1 cup sifted unbleached cake flour
  • 1/3 cup of golden syrup (This is the ingredient that takes a year to make, but I used Lyle’s Golden Syrup and it turned out great.  I got this from World Market)
  • ½ teaspoon of potassium carbonate (This is what makes the texture of the dough.  You can get this from the Asian Market)
  • 2 tablespoons of organic peanut oil

Outer Cake Instructions (Preparation takes 24-48 hours)

1. Sift cake flour into a large bowl.  Make a crater in the middle of the flour.

2. Pour golden syrup, potassium carbonate, and peanut oil in the crater.

3. Carefully take a rubber spatula and pour the flour from the sides into the middle of the crater.


4. Keep pouring the sides until the dough is formed.


5. Rub some flour on the cutting board and transfer the dough from the bowl.
6. Now knead the dough until its smooth.


7. Roll it into a log and wrap it with plastic wrap.  It’s difficult to form the filling in the dough within a day (texture is not there yet), so you want to place it in the fridge overnight.  For best results, leave it in the fridge for 2 days.

Lotus Paste Ingredients

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 12 oz dried lotus seeds (You can get this at the Asian Market)
  • ½ cup organic peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon organic brown rice syrup

Lotus Paste Instructions (Preparation takes 24-48 hours)

1. While you are waiting for your dough, you want to make your Lotus Paste because this takes time to make.  First, soak the dried lotus seeds.  I would say soak it over 24-48 hours for best results.


2. Now you want to remove the green root in the middle of the seeds because it’s bitter.  You may need a partner for this.  Simply pinch the seed and you’ll see the green root.  Remove and keep the halves of the seeds.


3. Place seeds in a pot and fill with water.  You want to boil the seeds on high.  Once it boils, lower the heat to medium.  Since I started in the evening, before I went to sleep I had the stove on low overnight.  You may want to start in the morning or use a crock pot.
4. Once the seeds are soft place this in a food processor.  Blend until it becomes a paste-like texture.


5. Put the paste in a non-stick pot on medium heat and mix half of the sugar and peanut oil.  You want to evenly distribute the sugar and oil, so once it’s blended you want to put the other half of sugar and oil to mix.

6. Once it’s blended mix brown syrup until smooth.
7. Put the lotus paste in a container.  Feel free to add nuts to some of the lotus paste.  I made a few nut mooncakes mixing in almonds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts as a separate filling.

Ube Paste

  • 4 purple yams
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup organic coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon organic brown syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of organic coconut milk

Ube Paste Instructions

I made this paste to create a Chinese-Filipino fusion mooncake.  My husband introduced me to Filipino ube desserts in the past and I absolutely love them, so I thought why not make this into a mooncake.

1. Peel the purple yams.

2. Cut purple yams in squares.

3. Boil purple yams on high and then to medium low heat for about one hour.
4. Blend the purple yams in a food processor until it becomes a paste-like texture.
5. Put the paste in a non-stick pot on medium heat and mix half of the sugar and coconut oil.  You want to evenly distribute the sugar and oil, so once it’s blended you want to put the other half of sugar and oil to mix.


6. Once it’s blended mix brown syrup and coconut milk until smooth.  Place the paste in a container.

Mooncake Technique – Now let’s put the two together

1. Before you start, dust your cutting board and the mooncake mold with flour.  Also, spray or oil your baking pan.
2. Use an ice cream scooper to scoop your paste.  Two small scoops should do it.  Form the filling into a compact ball and set aside.


3. Now for the outer dough.  Cut about 2 inches from your roll.

4. Flatten the dough on the palm of your hand.  If needed, flatten further with your fingertips.  The trick is to keep your hands moist, because you don’t want it to stick on your hand.


5. Place the filling in the center of your outer dough and carefully wrap the filling with your fingertips.


6. Dust the filled dough.


7. Carefully place your filled dough in your mooncake mold.  Then use your fingers to evenly press your dough around the mold.


8. Now gently press the mooncake out of the mold.


9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
10. Bake mooncakes for 10 minutes.


11. In the meantime, melt some vegan Earth Balance Butter.
12. Take the mooncakes out and brush them with melted vegan butter.
13. Bake mooncakes for another 10 minutes.
14. Ideally the mooncakes should be consumed in 24-48 hours.
15. Enjoy your mooncakes with jasmine tea.  My favorite brand is Pearl Queen of Jasmine Tea.

DIY Mooncake Packaging

I wrapped my cakes in pretty red tissue paper and raffia ribbon to make it more decorative.  Then I placed my mooncakes in the tin boxes I saved from the last year’s moon festival.  It was a perfect way to package my parent’s anniversary gift.

Eating and Running “Chi”

Two meanings of “Chi” in this post – Chi as in “energy” and in Chi-town (aka Chicago).  There’s amazing energy in the windy city, but with a relaxed vibe than the East Coast.  I definitely appreciate the wind since we’ve been suffering from crazy heat back at home, so coming to Chicago was a breath of fresh air.   Last time I was in Chicago the weather was hot with patches of thunderstorms, but lady luck was on my side this time around and the weather was gorgeous.  I was itching for a run but first things first when I arrive – food!

Chicago main staple digs are its deep dish pizzas, Chicago dogs, and Italian sandwiches.  A few people stressed this and thought it might be difficult for me to find good vegan eats around the city but au contraire.  There’s always options especially in Chi-Town.  About every menu had vegan/vegetarian eats.

I was craving for a big leafy green salad and something quick because I had a busy day ahead of me.  I was at the Willis Tower (also known as Sears Tower), so there were tons of restaurants all around me.  I made my way to Market Creations since there was a huge salad bar. Got myself spinach, red onions, tomatoes, cranberries, cucumbers, Moroccan chickpeas, bowtie pasta with artichoke and olive salad.  I only had a few minutes, but found a table where I can baste myself in the sun.  I couldn’t do that back home, so I enjoyed the little time I had with my salad and the beautiful weather.

That night I met up with a few friends who happen to stop in Chi-Town from their cross country trip.  We went to concert at Millennium Park and headed to dinner at The Purple Pig.  The ambiance there was spectacular.  There’s a patio strip where you can have wine delivered to you as you wait for your table.  We got a table outside which made it perfect.  You’re probably wondering what I was able to eat.  There’s actually a variety.  To begin my friends treated me with some champagna.

I started with Tomato Bread with garlic, olive oil, and sea salt.  This was phenomenal and new to their menu.  I also had the charred green  onions with romesco sauce.  Romesco sauce is a nut and red pepper base sauce from Spain.  It went perfect with the charred green onions.  We ended the night with another toast to their travels.

The day after I went to a very hip restaurant for dinner – Revolution Brewery near Logan square.  They are known for their awesome hometown beers.  I had a cool refreshing Bottom Up Wit – Belgian-style wheat beer spiced with coriander and orange peel.  I heard the Anti-IPA is also a favorite.  That hit the spot after a long day.  I was thrilled to see so many vegetarian/vegan options on the menu.  I had the tempeh reuben with sauerkraut and vegan Russian dressing on dry rye bread – held off the cheese.   I love digs like this because they offer vegan, vegetarian, non-vegan plates, and great beer – a place to satisfy everyone.

I had to take advantage of the weather, so my last day I woke up early and went for a run.  Let me just say it was incredible.  Chicago is actually known for one of the best running places in the US.  I had so much energy running through the morning crowd/traffic and tall skylines around me.  It was bustling.

As I made it to Lakefront by the Navy Pier, it was calm and peaceful with little boats swaying against the wind.  You can see the beautiful Chicago buildings and architecture from a far.  I wish I had more time but there’s always next time.  What a experience!

Before I left for my flight, I walked over to this place called Raw in the French Market.  Raw was started by two women – Polly and Carole – who is raising their awareness around health and nutrition from raw and 100% plant-based foods.  They even have sessions to show you how to creatively prepare/cook raw dishes.  I actually met Carole and she was super nice.  She let me try all sorts of tasting samples.  I had a sample of their apple pie and I totally should have gotten that.  It was so delicious and RAW.  They also had their signature hummus and garlic sticks that were also very yummy.  I decided to grab the Kale salad since people raved about this.  They weren’t wrong.  This salad was amazing.  There was a ton of super foods in this, which I believe helped me with my long run the next day.  The salad consisted of fresh kale, cucumber, zucchini, onion, red pepper, lemon, EVOO, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, jalapeno, herbs, spices, gojiberry for sweetness, and avocados so creamy that it melts in your mouth. A delicious lunch before I headed home.

The visit to the windy city left on a good note.  A couple days of beautiful weather, great company, and a bit of Chi runs & eats.