Gung Hay Fat Choi!!

I probably spelled that wrong, didn't I? Well, what I'm trying to say is Happy New Year!!! in phonetic Chinese. I have a hard enough time getting things right in English so forgive me if my phonetic Chinese royally sucks... but hey, I tried =)

I read a lot of blogs... primarily food blogs. If you're a food blogger, that makes sense. I sometimes think I'm obsessed with food. I know I'm obsessed with making it... and I know I just looooooove to eat it! LOL. Seems the past week has been full of food blogs relating to the Chinese New Year.

On Wednesday I felt terribly uninspired - almost ready to ask DJ if he wanted me to cook anything in particular this weekend. Luckily I didn't resort to that... I let the lack of inspiration pass and Thursday ideas started marinating about making asian-inspired dishes this weekend.

Now, I'll be honest. I love Asian cuisine - - - but I completely suck at making fancy things and to me, Asiain cuisine qualifies as "fancy". So many steps - so many ingredients I'm unfamiliar with - and let's not talk about how completely uncomfortable I am using a wok. Sure, I have one but it intimidates the crap outta me. But I was reading something on the Steamy Kitchen blog and she referenced a Pad Thai For Beginners recipe on the Chez Pim blog. I started reading it and (rightly or wrongly) thought "Hey, I can do this!!". It had ingredients I'd never even heard of before (palm sugar? tamarind pulp? dried shrimp?) but she was so straight forward about presenting things in a step-by-step format (totally important to the Repressed Pastry Chef's ol engineering brain) that it really got me to thinking I could make it.
And then in the pantry I came across a jar of sesame seeds. DJ love sesame seeds. I thought "ooooh, I could make sesame chicken". I checked AllRecipes.com (my fave!!) and found a recipe that looked good and was reviewed extremely highly.

Then I found a recipe for szechuan shrimp - - - whoa nelly do I love me some szechuan shrimp {swoon}. I added that to the weekend menu folder too. Recall that DJ doesn't go near shrimp and the poor dear literally sweats eating anything spicier than ketchup (sad, huh? LOL) so he won't be gettin any of my szechaun shrimp - - - it's mine! mine! mine! mwuaaaahahahahah!!

But I digress ;-) Somewhere along the line I came across a recipe for Thai Chicken Pizza which is something DJ and I always order at California Pizza Kitchen. We're quite good at making our own homemade pizza... so another addition to the weekend menu folder was made.

While all of those dishes sounded great, being a repressed pastry chef, I knew I needed something on the sweet side of things and came up with the idea of making fortune cookies and almond cookies too. Hey, what's the point of a meal if dessert isn't right around the bend =)

In the end, the contents of the weekend menu folder turned out to be Pad Thai, Sesame Chicken, Szechuan Shrimp, Thai Chicken Pizza, Fortune Cookies and Almond Cookies.

Almond Cookies
(adapted from About.com)

2 c flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/8 t salt
1/2 c butter
1/2 c shortening
3/4 c + 1 T granulated sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 t almond extract
4 T slivered almonds
40 whole almonds (1 for each cookie)
1 egg slightly beaten (for brushing tops before baking)

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a medium bowl cream butter, shortening and sugar (I use a KitchenAid stand mixer). Add the egg and almond extract and beat until well blended.
Add the flour mixture and combine well (if the dough is still crumbly, that's fine).
Add the slivered almond and combine well (this changed my dough from crumbly to holding together nicely).
Flour your worksurface and your hands... turn out the dough and fashion it into somewhat of a ball. Roll this out into two logs each about 10-12" in length.
Wrap each log in aluminum foil and freeze for 2hrs.
Go read a good book... watch some tv... play a few games of Scrabble (whoa do I love to whop DJ's butt at Scrabble! hahahah) do whatever, but leave your almond logs alone!
After 2hrs remove the logs from the freezer and preheat the oven to 325F
Cut each log into approximately 20 slices.
Roll each slice into a ball and place on a lightly greased cookie tray, about 1 1/2" apart.
Place a whole almond into the center of each cookie and press down lightly.
Brush each cookie with beaten egg.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown (be sure to watch the bottoms - they might turn quite brown before the tops get to a true "golden" shade).
Cool for 5 minutes then grab one of those babies, pop it in your mouth, savor the almondy goodness and say out loud (yes, it's important to say this aloud) Gung Hay Fat Choi because you just made some pretty darn fabulous almond cookies!