Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chinese Dumplings with Beef and Green Onions

I have only a few childhood memories of helping my mom cook in the kitchen. Usually she handles it all. In one of them I remember chopping Napa cabbage furiously for the dumpling filling. Then we made snakes out of the left over dumpling wrappers, which I believe were homemade. This dumpling recipe doesn't have Napa cabbage in it, but it's made the same way--homestyle.

Chinese Dumplings
About 60 dumplings

1 lb ground beef
2 inch fresh ginger, minced
4 stalks green onions, finely chopped
4 large Shiitake mushrooms, softened and finely chopped
4 oz firm tofu, finely cubed
4 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp finely ground pepper
1 tbsp corn starch
Dumpling wrappers

Dipping Sauce
6 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
Hot sauce (Sriracha), optional

Prepare filling by putting ground beef, ginger, green onions, Shiitake mushrooms and tofu in a large bowl. Add soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and ground pepper. Mix a little, then sprinkle corn starch in the bowl. Combine until all ingredients are just incorporated. Do not over mix.

Set up a baking sheet with plastic wrap for placing dumplings and a bowl of water for sealing the wrapper.

My dumpling station
Place about one tablespoon of filling in the wrapper. If it's store-bought, one side will be less floured. That's the side to fill. Dip your finger in the water, then wet half of the dumpling wrapper along the side. Pinch in the middle, then seal both sides with your thumb and forefinger. Homestyle.

I made 45 dumplings this time. One serving is about 10 dumplings in my family. The uncooked dumplings can be frozen. Keep them on the pan while they freeze. Once they are frozen, keep in a freezer bag. It's so convenient when there are frozen dumplings in the freezer! The leftover filling is good for Chinese meatballs or Ants on Branches (future posts).

Usually we fry half to make pot stickers, and cook half in boiling water. First the boiled kind: Add dumplings to about 3 quarts of boiling water. Stir carefully to prevent dumplings from sticking to the bottom of the pot. After they float up, wait two minutes, then use a slotted spoon to spoon them out. Carefully stir with a wooden spoon or chopsticks and a little bit of dumpling water so they don't stick together in the bowl.

To make the sauce, combine soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Sprinkle in green onions. Add hot sauce if desired.

To fry dumplings: Heat 2 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Place dumplings bottom side down. Fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Turn dumplings so the backside is down. Fry until golden brown.

Turn dumplings frontside down. Add about 1/2 inch of water carefully to avoid splashes. Cook until all the water is gone, and wait 2 minutes until the side that is down is also golden brown.

My stove is uneven so the dumplings are all gathered on one side

Fry to perfection and serve with sweet chili sauce.

It's our favorite meal. What's your favorite homemade meal?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Flashback: Reunions

We are getting so excited about our upcoming trip. Our college friend Scott is getting married in one week! I'm ecstatic for him and his fiancee. I'm also excited for a reunion of college friends. It's been so long since we have gotten together, as most of us are living in different corners of the U.S.

We've had many adventures together. Just 5 years ago in March, 2007, we visited the Big Apple.

Looked for oysters and wireless in Boston...success!

Saw the cold and magnificent Niagara Falls.

Fall of 2007, we took a road trip to Atlanta, hot and hard to navigate, but we cooled down with some Yo La Tengo.

And Chinese restaurant calamari.

At that time my kitty was a young lad. Now look at him :)

Left: 2008 Right: 2012

The last time we all saw each other was 3 1/2 years ago in beautiful Charleston.

Magnolia Plantation

In one week, we'll get to see everybody...Jen, Josh, Scott, Dave...again. I can hardly wait to see what other adventures we will have together in the future--now with Scott's new bride!

But before then, a power hot yoga week to make sure my dress for the wedding will fit. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes With Mint Buttercream Frosting

We're celebrating St. Patrick's Day with Mint Chocolate Cupcakes!

Remember these chocolate cupcakes? Still my favorite.

However I don't have a favorite frosting recipe yet.

This time, I tried to make whipped cream frosting and butter cream frosting. Butter cream wins with this cupcake.

Whipped cream frosting in the back; butter cream frosting in the front

I'm also using this opportunity to practicing cake decorating. This one reminds me of Bowser. It's also Bill's favorite.

My four leaf clover, still needs practicing.

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Celebrating Pi Day With Ramekin Pies!

Today is Pi Day. To celebrate, we made four pies in ramekins.

Of course, we had to have Bill's favorite: Chicken Pot Pie. We like our pot pies personalized. Here's another version.

Ramekin Chicken Pot Pie
2 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
6 tbsp butter
5 tbsp ice water

1 chicken breast
1 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1/2 stalk celery, finely diced
1 tbsp flour
1 cup cream
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt & pepper

To make Rough Puff Pastry: Combine salt and flour. Cut butter into flour until it resembles cornmeal. Set in fridge for 30 minutes. Mix in 4 tablespoons of ice water until dough comes together. Add the last tablespoon of ice water if there are loose flour. Wrap in plastic and form a disk of dough. Set it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Roll out into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Fold in thirds like an envelope. Set it back in the fridge for 30 minutes. Repeat one more time.

Meanwhile, cook chicken breast in water over medium high heat until inside is no longer pink, about 25 minutes. Cube chicken. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and cook for five minutes. Sprinkle flour and cook for one minute. Turn heat down to medium low. Add the cream and mix in nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes until cream thickens. Stir in chicken cubes.

Roll dough out into a rectangle. Cut it in half. Add the filling in the ramekin, and cover with dough. Bake for 25 minutes.

On one, we cut an X. On the other, we cut a heart. Note to self: don't fill the ramekins too full next time, or it will bubble over. Oops.

Filling is very hot.

For dessert, cherry and pecan.

Yum. Happy Pi Day everyone!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bread of the Week: Viennese Rolls

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This week, I made some rolls with two awesome birthday gifts I got last month. My thoughtful stepsister sent me a recipe book filled of delicious bread recipes. I picked the Viennese rolls to make first because they looked so deliciously mouthwatering. They are also very versatile--we had them for dinner twice in a row!

Coincidentally my mother-in-law sent me a vintage bread bowl and a butter paddle. It's perfect for this recipe, as you will see.

Viennese Rolls
Makes 6 to 8 rolls
Adapted from Bread

2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cup warm milk
2 large eggs
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
4 cups bread flour, separated
4 tbsp softened butter

Let the yeast dissolve in the milk for five minutes. Mix in the eggs, sugar, and salt. Add 3 1/2 cup bread flour and mix until combined and smooth, about five minutes. The dough will be very soft and sticky.

Cover with a towel and keep it in room temperature for 30 minutes. Next, knead in the bowl 20 times. The paddle comes in handy here as the dough stays very soft and sticky. Cover and let rise for one and a half hours. Then, knead 20 times. Work in the butter and sprinkle the rest of the flour to keep the dough for sticking. Cover and let rise for one hour.

Divide dough into six large rolls, or eight smaller rolls. This dough works kind of like drop biscuits. Line and sprinkle a baking pan with cornmeal. Drop the rolls on the pan. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes next to the stove. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a pan of water on the lower rack. Bake for 18 minutes without opening the oven door for the first 10 minutes.

The first night, we had them right out of the oven. Warm and wonderfully soft. Even better with butter.

Served with roasted chicken and green beans.

The second night, we had them as burger buns.

Grilled mushrooms, cheese, homemade patties. Now that's a burger!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Yogurt Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Crust

This week I was trying to recover from a cold, and, in the process, was reminded of some important life lessons. When I'm sick, it seems to take much longer to make small decisions than it does normally. It feels like I'm carefully planning out every step I take during the day, then immediately regretting them.

Small stuff. Like, I planned a day trip to go to NYC with my sister. Instead of purchasing the tickets online for cheaper, I got the tickets at the school, hoping to get a student discount. The cashier explained that student discounts do not apply for NYC tickets, but I got them anyway, even though I should have gone home and purchased them online. I immediately regretted it after paying for the tickets. But after the trip I realized, losing the $5 doesn't diminish the good times I had with my sister when we saw each other in NYC.

This yogurt cheesecake sort of taught me the same lesson. I forgot to fold the egg whites in the cheese custard before pouring it in the crust, so I folded it in afterwards. The resulting cheesecake had two layers. At first, I hesitated to serve it. But after a few bites, I realized it's creamy, and fluffy, and much lighter than regular cheesecake. So, I happily served it to our friends in these cute bowls from modcloth. No more regrets.

Plus, like the NYC trip, there's always next time. So stop fretting about the little stuff. It's the people around us and the relationships we form with them that count.

Yogurt Cheesecake with Praline Crust
4 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups pecan praline
4 eggs, separated
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp corn starch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides of a spring form pan. Melt the butter and pour into the pan. Chop pralines with food processor. Press onto the bottom of the pan.

Combine cream cheese, egg yolks, sugar, yogurt, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Beat until smooth. Sprinkle and mix in cornstarch one tablespoon at a time. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks and shiny. Fold egg whites into cheese custard.* Pour into the spring form pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Then cover the top with a piece of foil and bake for 25 more minutes. For a total of 50 minutes.

*That is the right way. I had poured the custard into the pan, then folded in the egg whites in the pan.

Serve with ice cream and strawberries. It's absolutely delicious.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saturday Morning Waffles

I'm on a quest to find the perfect waffle recipe. This one is pretty good. Fluffy, but not quite crispy enough. Perhaps some butter will help.

My quest continues.

Still, it's muy delicious on a Saturday morning. Dusted with powdered sugar and served with strawberries.

It's quickly devoured.