Saturday, May 2, 2015

Pork Pot Stickers (Chinese Dumplings) & Dipping Sauce

I've been having a serious craving for good Chinese food and unfortunately, there's no Chinese food
restaurants in our little town that we like.  We had our wedding catered in '08 by a friend who owned the best Chinese restaurant in town, but the building burned down a few years later and she never reopened it.  We've been without good Chinese food in town and the solution to that - make it ourselves.

While these are mildly time consuming, they're actually fairly easy to make.  If two people can get together and make them, it makes it much faster.  One person can be chopping vegetables while the other is adding them to the pork with the wet ingredients.  Then during assembly time, one person can be scooping the mix onto the wraps while the other pinches and seals the dumplings.  Team work!

We always have a ton of vegetables in our house, so we actually had a lot of the ingredients already and it didn't cost us much at all.  If you have to buy all the vegetables and end up with leftovers, just chop it all up for a salad - we eat cabbage and vegetable salads all the time.  Or soup would be another good option for the leftover cabbage, pepper, onion, carrot... man, you could make a killer soup!  

I went old school for tunes with this recipe and pulled out X's "Nausea".  I got to see them a few times in Chicago.  I always think of John Doe (bass player) in the movie "Great Balls of Fire" as Winona Ryder's dad.  I love that movie.  It's so terrible and cheesy and awesome. -jen


PORK POT STICKERS (CHINESE DUMPLINGS)
Prep Time:  about 45 minutes
Rest Time:  30 minutes
Cook Time:  6 minutes
Difficulty:  Medium
Makes:  about 80
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup cabbage (Napa or green), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
    We've been buying poblano peppers instead of bell peppers because
    they're significantly cheaper and similar in flavour!

  • 1/2 cup green onions, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Sambal (Asian chili paste)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese mustard (or Dijon mustard)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch (plus extra for dusting)
  • about 80 round pot sticker/wonton wrappers
  • oil for frying (vegetable, canola, peanut, etc)
  • water for sealing and steaming
Pork and vegetable mix
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients (except the wonton wrappers, oil and water) until well mixed.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (but you can refrigerate longer).

Sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with corn starch and set aside.  Have a small bowl of water for your assembly.  I worked with 9 at a time on a cutting board, keeping the unused ones covered with plastic wrap so they don't dry out.  Place 1 teaspoon of filling into center of wrapper.  Wet edge of wrapper and fold over, crimping/pinching edges together to seal.  Place pot sticker on the corn starched baking sheet.

 (If you don't want to cook all 80 pot stickers, you can freeze them uncooked on the baking sheet for about an hour, then put in a freezer bag and freeze for later.)

In a large skillet (that has a fitted lid), heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil over a medium high heat.  Add pot stickers to pan, one at a time, in a single layer. (In our 11" skillet, we could fit 18-20 at once.) Do not over-crowd.  Fry for 2 minutes until light golden-brown.  Add 1/3 cup of water, cover and steam for 2 minutes.  Remove lid and continue to fry for another 2 minutes.  If you do a second batch, just add more oil to the pan and let it get hot before adding your second batch and repeat.

Serve hot with dipping sauce (see recipe below).


I like to put the veggies in,
then pour the wet ingredients over them
POT STICKER DIPPING SAUCE
  • 1 tablespoon green onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Sambal
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
In a small bowl, add all ingredients.  You can use immediately, but if you make it before you start assembling your pot stickers and stick it in the fridge to let the flavours marry, it tastes way better!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Cocadas (Latin American Coconut Confections)

Last year, I made Macaroons for the first time, and they were delicious.  However, after making Cocadas, which are very similar, I decided I prefer the Cocadas.  I love a one-bowl baking recipe!  These are so fast to whip up, and they're cheap to make!

Cocadas are a traditional Latin American coconut confection.  It does seem that every area has it's own version and they can come in all different flavours and styles.  I didn't get too crazy, but I made some plain ones, some with pecans, some with cocoa powder in them to make a chocolate version, and some drizzled with dark chocolate.  Next batch we make, Justin wants to put some diced up dried apricot in them - you can really get creative with whatever flavours you like.

Music - some O Pioneers!!! doing "Loose Lips Are The Key To A Good Foundation".  -jen


COCADAS
Chocolate on the left, Pecan on the right
Prep Time:  5 minutes
Cook Time:  25 minutes
Difficulty:  Super Easy
Makes:  About 22
  • 3.5 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 13oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Optional Ingredients:
  • 2/3 pecans, chopped small (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (optional for chocolate flavoured Cocadas)
  • 4oz dark chocolate chips, melted (optional for drizzling over the tops of Cocadas)
Pecan Cocadas
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine coconut, sweetened condensed milk, egg, almond extract and salt (if using pecans and/or cocoa, add now) until well mixed.  Using two spoons, drop 1.5 tablespoons of coconut mix onto parchment paper.  You can leave in a rounded heap for a softer cookie, or smash the heap into a 1/2" thick disc for a crispier cookie.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 24-26 minutes.  Cocadas will be slightly golden brown on top.  (Careful not to burn the bottoms!)  With a spatula, carefully remove from parchment and cool on a wire cooling rack for 5-10 minutes.  Cookies will crisp up as they cool.  (If drizzling with melted dark chocolate, drizzle over cooled cookies and allow 30-60 minutes for chocolate to cool and harden.)

Drizzled with dark chocolate


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pasta Puttanesca

We don't eat a lot of pasta, but lately I've been craving a lighter pasta dish.  Generally, I love marinara and bolognese sauces, but don't really dig putting them on pasta - I'd rather put them over some spaghetti squash.  This time, I felt like pasta, but didn't want one of those heavy sauces, so I did my own version of Puttanesca.  It's mostly traditional, but a little of my own preferences thrown in there.  Came out really delicious.  When I minced together the garlic, anchovies, sun dried tomatoes and olives, it looked like a tapenade of the Gods!  I just wanted to spread it on some garlic toast!  Admittedly, I was spooning some of it onto the tomato halves, sprinkling some basil on top, and munching them that way as I was cutting them in half, heheh.  The dish was really quick and easy to make!

I was reminded the other day that I hadn't used anything from Rancid's new album with one of our recipes.  So here is another Rancid Recipe - the title track, "Honor Is All We Know".  -jen


PASTA PUTTANESCA
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 mimuntes
Difficulty:  Very easy
Serves:  4-6, depending on serving size
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 6 anchovy filets (I'm inclined to use the whole 2oz can)
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives (or green, or black, or D-all of the above)
  • 12oz dried pasta (your choice: spaghetti, bow tie, rotini)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-5 large scallions, diced (about 1/2 a cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (or chicken broth)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup pasta water
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped or julienned
  • 4oz Romano cheese, crumbled
Bring large stock pot of salted water to a boil while preparing the following steps.

Mince together garlic, anchovies, and sun dried tomatoes.  Roughtly chop the kalamata olives right into the minced mix.  Set aside.

Add pasta to boiling water, bring back to a boil, and then turn down to a low boil, cooking 6-8 minutes until al dente (still slightly under-cooked.  Pasta will cook more in skillet.)  Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet.  Saute scallions and red pepper flakes for 1 minute.  Add white wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until wine has cooked down by half.  Add grape tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the minced garlic, anchovies, sun dried tomatoes, olives and the rinsed capers.  Cook for 2 more minutes or until sauce is reduced and thickened. 

Add pasta to skillet mixture with 1/4 cup pasta water.  Cook another 1-2 minutes (sauce will mostly absorb into pasta).  Remove from heat and toss with lemon juice and zest, basil, (a dash more of wine, if you like,) and crumbled Romano.  Add salt and pepper to taste (careful with the salt since the olives, capers and cheese will add a lot of salt).  Serve immediately while hot, however, it is quite tasty left over cold, straight out of the fridge.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Buttermilk Pumpkin and Oat Muffins

I don't have anything to intro with.  I had pumpkin puree in the freezer from last fall when we got a ton of sugar pumpkins from a friend.  I knew I'd be home today.  I felt like making muffins.  They were awesome.  There's not much else to say.

It's St. Patrick's Day... and there's really nothing Irish about these muffins.  I mean, I'm sure they have pumpkins and muffins in Ireland, so they could be Irish.  But that wasn't really my intention or anything.  I'm just going to use it as an excuse for an Irish tune.  Justin had Dropkick Murphys' "Good Rats" on today, so that's what I'm using.  -jen


BUTTERMILK PUMPKIN AND OAT MUFFINS
Prep Time:  20 minutes
Cook Time:  22-25 minutes
Makes:  12 muffins

Topping:
  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Muffins:
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup raisins or cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 orange (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line 12-cup muffin tin with paper cups.

In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients, mix and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, pecans, raisins, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger,  baking soda, salt and orange zest.  Mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg and vanilla.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and fold together just until dry ingredients are moist.  (Do not over-mix.)

Spoon evenly into paper cups.  Sprinkle with topping and bake for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let cool for 5 minutes. 


Monday, March 9, 2015

Cauliflower "Couscous" Salad

This recipe is vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, and low-carb!  Oh yeah, and it tastes amazing.  We try to eat low-carb most of the time and jumping on the cauliflower bandwagon the other day, I was making some pizza crust out of cauliflower, cheese and eggs.  I was supposed to "rice" the cauliflower in the food processor, but I did it a little too long and the pieces came out more like couscous than rice.  Then I mixed in some minced garlic and dried oregano as  part of the crust recipe, and decided to give it a taste.  Totally gave me the idea to do a couscous salad out of it.

I can't actually tell you how incredibly stoked I am at how good this came out.  I really enjoy Mediterranean-style cold salads.  I used to do them with rice, but I don't eat rice anymore.  So we started doing them with barley and couscous... but they're still pretty high-carb.  This solved the problem and I foresee us having this salad in the fridge on a frequent basis for lunches during the work week and quick dinners.

I decided to go with Lagwagon's "I Must Be Hateful".  I was feeling pretty hateful tonight towards a medical issue I'm having.  Seemed apropos.  -jen



CAULIFLOWER "COUSCOUS" SALAD
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:  10 minutes
Makes:  About 6 cups
Requires:  Food Processor
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, diced large
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2/3 cup English cucumber, seeded and diced small
  • 2/3 cup bell pepper, diced small
  • 1/2 cup green onions, diced small
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, diced small
  • 1/2 cup carrot, shredded
  • 1/4 cup green olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup giardiniera, chopped (optional)
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned or chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of 1 whole lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Place large-diced cauliflower in food processor and process until it looks like cooked couscous.  Place in a large, microwave-safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap (I recommend using glass so the plastic wrap sticks).  Microwave on high for 10 minutes.  Fluff with fork.

Add all remaining ingredients and stir until mixed.  At this point, you can serve it while it's still warm, or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Per 1 Cup Serving:  Calories-130, Fat-9g, Carbs-11.5, Fiber-4, Protein-3g


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Cream of Vegetable Soup

We've been making soup about once a week.  Throughout the week, we often have roasted vegetables several times and will often make a salad of some sort.  So when we're preparing vegetables, we've taken to saving things like the ends of carrots and onions, the stems of herbs, all of our vegetable "scraps", and storing them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer.  Then Justin makes stock out of them and we make a delicious vegetable soup.  Usually they're broth-based soups, but we felt like going with a cream style this week, packed full of vegetables (and bacon, which is totally optional).  Came out so rich and delicious!  We make large batches at a time so that we have lunches for work.  You can cut the recipe in half if you're not looking for quite so much.

The awesome thing about soups like this, is that you can customize the vegetables to whatever you like.  Don't like mushrooms?  Axe 'em and add cauliflower instead.  Don't like bell peppers?  Axe 'em and add potato instead.  I think most of our soups end up created just using whatever we have leftover in the fridge.  

To go with our soup, for no particular reason except to rock, is The Marked Men doing "All In Your Head".  -jen



CREAM OF VEGETABLE SOUP
Prep Time:  20 minutes (35 if using bacon)
Cook Time:  20 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes: about 14 cups

  • 1 pound bacon, diced (optional), reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon fat
  • 5 tablespoons butter (6 tbsp if not using bacon fat)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (4 tbsp if not using bacon fat)
  • 2 cups crimini or button mushrooms, diced fine
  • 2 cups broccoli florets (about 1 medium crown)
  • 1.5 cups yellow onion, diced fine (about 1 medium onion)
  • 1.5 cups carrots, diced fine (about 3 medium carrots)
  • 1 cup celery, diced fine (about 3 large stalks)
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced fine (about 1/2 medium pepper)
  • 1/2 cup poblano pepper, diced fine (about 1 medium poblano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 6 cups chicken broth 
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • salt, to taste (bacon adds a lot of salt on its own, as do most chicken stocks, so taste your soup before adding salt!)
Place diced bacon into a cold stock pot.  Turn heat to medium-high, and cook until crisped, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Using a slotted spoon, spoon out the crisped bacon and drain over paper towels.  Set aside.  Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the stock pot.

Add olive oil and butter to stock pot (still over medium-high heat).  Add all vegetables and saute until tender, 10-12 minutes.  Add the rosemary, thyme and marjoram to the vegetables and cook 1 more minute.  Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir until flour absorbs oil and is no longer white.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk in the stock and turn the heat to high.  Whisk continuously until soup begins to thicken a little.  Once it begins to thicken, add heavy cream, white pepper, black pepper and the crisped bacon.  Stir continuously until soup comes to a boil, then remove from heat.  Add salt to taste and serve.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tomato Gratin

I'd like to take credit for this awesome dish, but I really feel like I need to give credit where it's due - Ina Garten's Scalloped Tomatoes.  I went through and added what I wanted, subtracted what I didn't want and my methods were a little different.  But I still wouldn't feel right if I didn't give Ina credit, as her recipe is great.  Ours is just better.  (Sorry, Ina!  We love you!) Justin was baking us a loaf of boule the other day, but whether it was due to temperatures or humidity, it just didn't rise as much as he'd hoped, so it came out a little dense.  I'd remembered seeing Ina make her Scalloped Tomatoes recipe and thought our dense bread would be perfect for this... and it was! 

I wondered why this dish was called "scalloped"; it was my understanding that meant a dish was made with a cream sauce.  So I did a little researching on the magic interweb and it seems there are a few different definitions of what "scalloped" means in the culinary world.  While I didn't find a solid answer, I did find this article that summed up the variances nicely.  Still, I didn't know if I really wanted to call this recipe Scalloped Tomatoes - I didn't know if it would really explain what the dish was to someone browsing recipe names.  Now, the same website that broke down "scalloped" has this to say about "au gratin":  "Au Gratin means garnished with crumbs (usually bread) and grated cheese, then baked or grilled (aka broiled.)"  I think this definition fits the bill for my recipe more.  Now, because I don't speak french, I don't know if it's grammatically correct to call the dish a "tomato gratin" or "tomatoes au gratin" and I couldn't find an answer on that.

I'm not sure how we've done all these recipes and not used a Black Flag song yet.  What the hell is going on?!  Rectified now... Black Flag (with a long-haired Rollins) doing "Nervous Breakdown".  -jen


TOMATO GRATIN
Prep/Cook Time:  25 minutes
Bake Time:  35 minutes
Difficulty:  Medium
Serves:  6-8
  • 2.5 pounds (10-12) fresh Roma tomatoes, diced (1/2") 
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • olive oil
  • 2.5 cups cubed artisan bread (1/2")
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup rough-chopped green or kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic (5-6 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup basil, roughly chopped or julienned, packed
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a shallow 2-quart baking dish (8"x8") with non-stick cooking spray.

Place diced tomatoes in a strainer over a bowl.  Toss with salt and set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over a medium heat.  Add the bread cubes and toss in the olive oil to coat.  Let cubes toast into croutons, stirring often, until dark golden-brown and crispy, 5-8 minutes.  Add drained tomatoes, sugar, black pepper, olives, onion and garlic.  Cook an additional 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in basil.

Transfer mixture into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle Parmesan over the top, and drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the Parmesan.  Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes.  Serve hot.