Monday, February 8, 2016

Steamed Pork Dumplings

Happy Chinese New Year!  
Food is a fantastic way to celebrate any special holiday, right?!  So we are making sure not to miss the opportunity to celebrate the Year of the Monkey with some yummy Chinese food in my house this evening.  My oldest gingersnaps helped me make dumplings (which happen to be the food I miss the most from living in China) as part of our study of Ancient China last week.  But we planned ahead and made a double batch, knowing that we wanted to have enough for tonight's dinner also.  I buy the packaged won-ton wrappers from the store and go from there.  Maybe one day we'll try to make our own wrappers as well!

1 pound bok choy leaves or white chinese cabbage
1 pound ground pork
1 Tbsp finely chopped scallions
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp salt
1 tsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine
2 tsp sesame oil

Blanch or steam the bok choy until soft (it doesn't take long!).  Drain well, squeezing any extra liquid from the leaves, and then chop finely.  Mix the bok choy with the pork, scallions, ginger, salt, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil.  An older Chinese woman taught me to use clean hands for this step to make sure everything is mixed really well.

Place about 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of each plain wrapper.  Dip your finger in water and lightly wet the edge of the wrapper.  This will help the dumpling seal together.  Pinch the edges firmly so that the dumpling is tightly sealed.  You could easily find images or a tutorial video online of how to accomplish this step well.

Fill a large pot half-way with salted water.  Bring to boil.  Add the dumplings and one cup of cold water.  As the water returns to a boil, gently scrape the bottom to ensure that the dumplings are not sticking.  As the water begins to boil again, the dumplings will float to the surface.  When the water is boiling, add one cup of cold water.  Do this step two more times, adding one cup of cold water to the pot each time the water boils.  The older Chinese woman who taught me to make dumplings gave me these "highly scientific" instructions, which have always worked for me!

After you have brought the pot of water to boil four times, your dumplings should be ready to enjoy!  Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce:  

soy sauce
red chili oil
finely minced garlic
fine chopped scallions

mix all or some of the above ingredients to create the dipping sauce you prefer.  I like equal parts of soy sauce and vinegar with some chili oil and garlic.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Asian Zucchini Noodle Stir-Fry with Shrimp

I was given a spiralizer for Christmas, and it's been so fun trying out different kinds of vegetable noodles!  This was my first time making zucchini noodles (which I discovered are often called zoodles?!).  The meal was super easy to put together, and the sauce tasted great.  But I ended up making rice to serve with everything because the sauce was pretty runny and the zoodles weren't substantive enough to soak up the extra juice.  And because we don't have to voice gluten.  So all in all, it was a yummy and simple meal, made better with a scoop of steamy rice.

recipe found here

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 pound jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 medium bell pepper, sliced

1/2 cup shredded carrots
2/3 cup sliced red onions
1 cup sugar snap peas
2 medium zucchini, cut into noodles

Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable broth, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and cornstarch. Set the mixture aside.
  2. Place a large sauté pan or wok over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and and heat it for 1 minute. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook, stirring as needed, until the shrimp are cooked throughout and pink on all sides, about 3 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and then transfer them to a bowl, leaving any liquid in the pan.
  4. Increase the heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, then add the bell pepper, carrots, red onions and snow peas and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes until the vegetables are crisp but tender. Add the prepared sauce and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Return the shrimp to the pan, stirring to combine, then add the zucchini noodles and cook, tossing to coat, for 1 minute.
  5. Transfer the stir-fry to serving plates, garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Crockpot Crispy Caramelized Pork Ramen Noodle Soup

I've saved my favorite meal from the menu swap to share with you last.  This, right here, is some real deal sophisticated ramen soup.  Jessie said this was her favorite meal from 2015, and I immediately understood why after my first bite.  The broth is full of fantastic flavor.  Add in some unique toppings (curried miso roasted squash?!) and good 'ol ramen noodles, and you have yourself a bowl of goodness that you'll slurp to the very last drop.  Take the extra ten minutes to caramelize and crisp the pork.  It's totally worth it.

  • Soup
  • 2-3 pounds pork shoulder roast (or butt)
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth, plus more of needed
  • 1/4-1/2 cup + 2-4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce 
  • 1/4 cup + 2-4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons thai red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek (chili paste) (or to taste)
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five spice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 cups wild mushrooms, left whole - or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 packs Ramen noodles, seasoning packets discarded
  • 4 soft boiled or fried eggs, for serving
  • Chopped carrots, sliced jalapenos, cilantro + green onions, for serving
  • Curry Roasted Acorn Squash
  • 1 medium acorn squash, seeded + diced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (I use spicy curry)
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Pepper, to taste

Add the pork to the bowl of a crockpot. Pour the chicken broth, 1/4-1/2 cup soy sauce (depending on your taste), 1/4 cup rice vinegar and fish sauce over the pork. Add the thai red curry paste, ginger, sambal oelek, juice of 1 lime, Chinese five spice powder, black pepper and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours (I recommend going low and slow).
About 40 minutes before you are ready to eat, roast the squash. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a small bowl mix together the melted coconut oil, curry powder, miso, brown sugar and a good pinch of pepper. Add the cubed squash to a greased baking sheet and pour the curry mixture over the squash. Toss well. Bake for 30-40 minutes, tossing a couple of times during cooking. You want the squash to be lightly browned and crisp.
Meanwhile, remove the pork from the crockpot and add the mushrooms. Cover the crockpot and crank the heat up to high. Lightly shred the pork with two forks or your hands.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame oil. Once hot, add enough pork to cover just the surface of your skillet, do not over crowd the skillet. Sprinkle a little brown sugar over the pork, add 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, toss. Allow the pork to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir and allow the pork to continue to caramelize, about 3-5 minutes total. Remove the pork from the skillet, repeat with the remaining pork. Keep the pork warm.
Add the Ramen noodles to the crockpot and allow them to cook 5 minutes. Once the noodles are cooked, stir in only half of the pork. Ladle the soup into bowls. Top with extra caramelized pork, curry roasted acorn squash and an egg. Season the egg with salt and pepper, Add the carrots, jalapeños, green onions and cilantro if desired. Happy slurping!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Slow Cook Thai Chicken

Such an easy and yummy winner dinner!  The sauce is so rich.  I might try adding a little brown sugar to the sauce next time just for fun.

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter (I used chunky)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
3 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts


1. Place the chicken breast strips, bell pepper and onion into a slow cooker. Pour in the chicken broth and 1/4 cup of soy sauce, then season with cumin, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to blend, then cover and cook on Low for 4 1/2 to 5 hours.
2. Remove 1 cup of the liquid from the slow cooker, and mix this with the cornstarch, peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and lime juice. This should blend into a fairly thick sauce. Stir the sauce back into the slow cooker, and place the lid on the pot.
3. Cook on High for 30 minutes. Garnish with green onions, cilantro and peanuts before serving.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Baked Potato Soup

Jessie's photo

I chuckled when I saw this soup on Jessie's menu for us, knowing I had put a similar potato soup on her menu!  After trying both in a matter of two weeks, I don't think I could choose a favorite.  Both are equally creamy, filling, simple, and delicious!

3 bacon strips, diced 
1 small onion, chopped 
1 clove garlic, minced 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon dried basil 
1/2 teaspoon pepper 
3 cups chicken broth 
2 large (already) BAKED potatoes, peeled and cubed 
1 cup half-and-half cream 
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce 
Shredded Cheddar cheese 
Minced fresh parsley

In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. Set bacon aside. Saute onion and garlic in the drippings until tender. Stir in flour, salt, basil and pepper; mix 
well. Gradually add broth. Bring to boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes. 
Add the potatoes, cream and hot pepper sauce; heat through but do not boil. 
Garnish with bacon, cheese and parsley.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Spinach Salad with Sweet-Spicy Nuts, Apples, Bacon, and Feta

This salad, another great recipe from Mel's Kitchen, could easily have been my favorite meal from our menu swap week (if it weren't for the Asian noodle soup that is coming up . . . YUM!).  There wasn't a single bite left in the bowl when my family of five walked away from the table.  Next time I would try brown sugar or maple syrup instead of white sugar for the nuts.  

  • 16 ounces baby spinach
  • ½ small red onion, slivered (see note about tempering the onion flavor)
  • 6 slices of applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled or chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup Feta cheese crumbles, more or less to taste
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or cherries, more or less to taste
  • 1-2 Honey Crisp apples, cored and sliced thin 
  • Sweet Spicy Nuts:
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of cayenne (more to taste if you want)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Red Wine Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  1. For the dressing, shake all the ingredients together in a mason jar until well combined or run them through a quick blender cycle. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The dressing can be made up to a week in advance. 
  2. For the nuts, lightly toast the nuts in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, checking often so they don't burn. While they toast, place the sugar, cayenne and salt in a skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the sugar mixture until it liquifies completely, adjusting the heat so it doesn't bubble and burn. Toss in the toasted nuts and stir to coat the nuts with sugar. Let the sugared nuts cool completely.
  3. To assemble the salad, toss all the salad ingredients together along with the cooled nuts. Serve immediately with the vinaigrette alongside. All the components can be measured out/prepped ahead of time and stored separately (I like to soak the apples in a bit of lemon juice in water to help prevent browning). Just toss right before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Chicken (or Turkey) Pot Pie Crumble

Jessie and I did a menu swap before Christmas, but I'm just now getting around to sharing the recipes!  As usual, Jessie's picks for our weekly meals did not disappoint.  We started out with this one-pan-dinner, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would.  The crumble topping takes the dish up a notch from your standard "pot pie".  I had Thanksgiving leftovers, so I swapped out turkey for chicken, leaving everything else the same.  The directions seem long, but it's really fairly simple to pull together.

1 ½ pounds chicken (or turkey
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion , chopped fine (about 1 cup)
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced (about 1 cup)
2-3 stalks celery, chopped (about ½ cup)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
½ cup flour
1 cup milk
3/4 cup frozen peas

Crumble Topping:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy cream


To prepare the chicken, place the chicken and broth in a large Dutch oven or pot and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Cook the chicken until it is just done (don’t overcook or it will dry out) – about 10-12 minutes. Alternately, if you are planning in advance, you can place the chicken and broth in a slow cooker and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 5 hours. Transfer the cooked chicken to a medium bowl. Pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup and reserve. Return the pot to the stovetop (no need to wash if you used it to cook the chicken).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Sprinkle the chilled butter pieces over the top of the flour. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Add the cream and stir until just combined. Crumble the mixture into irregularly shaped pieces onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the crumble topping until fragrant and starting to brown, about 15 minutes, tossing halfway through. Set aside.

For the filling, heat the olive oil in the now-empty pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 5 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, shred the chicken into small bite-size pieces. Transfer the cooked vegetables to the bowl with the chicken; set aside.

Over medium heat melt the butter in the empty pot. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in the reserved chicken broth and milk. Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes, taking care not to burn the bottom. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat and stir the chicken, vegetables and peas into the sauce.

Pour the mixture into a 9×13 pan. Scatter the crumble topping evenly over the filling. Place the 9X13-inch pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until the topping is well browned, about 15-20 minutes. Let the casserole stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Baked Cranberry Almond Oatmeal

We polished off our week of baked oatmeal with this recipe from Real Simple that my friend, Patricia, tried first and said was a must.  It was, indeed, real simple, as most baked oatmeal recipes are!  It was also real good, thanks mostly to the butter and, in my opinion, mixing the almonds in with the oats.  This one got both my son's and my husband's votes for top pick.  It'd be a great way to start your Thanksgiving weekend!

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped (I didn't toast mine and used sliced almonds - still good!)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
heavy cream or milk for serving

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter or grease a 2-quart baking dish.  

Combine the oats, almonds, cranberries, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.  Stir in the melted butter, milk eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Mix well and spread evenly in the prepared dish.  At this point, I covered my dish with foil and put it in the fridge until the morning.  

Bake in preheated oven until golden and the center is firm, 35 to 45 minutes.  Serve warm, drizzled with cream or milk, if desired.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal

This recipe came on Day Four of our Baked Oatmeal Breakfast Week.  My husband's favorite dessert is carrot cake, so I knew it would be a favorite for him, but it ended up being a favorite for the entire family!  This was actually my number one vote at the end of the week.  The carrots gave the oatmeal a more interesting texture, and I liked the raisins and walnuts on top way more than I thought I would.

2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups lightly packed shredded carrots
1 egg, beaten
2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger (or try ½ tsp ground ginger)
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375F and lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish.  I used an 8x8 square pyrex.

In a large bowl, mix together the rolled oats, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt (plus ground ginger if not using fresh).  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: shredded carrot, egg, almond milk, maple syrup, vanilla, and fresh ginger.

Add the wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until combined.  Pour mixture into prepared dish and smooth out until evenly distributed. Press down on the oatmeal with a spoon to ensure the oats sink into the milk. If preparing the night before, cover with foil and put in refrigerator until morning.  Then continue on with remaining steps.

Sprinkle walnuts and raisins on top.  Bake in preheated oven, uncovered, for about 35 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges.  The oatmeal might still look a bit soft or wet in some spots when you take it out of the oven, but it will firm up as it cools.

Let the oatmeal cool for about 10 minutes before serving with milk, cream, or whipped cream for a special treat!

Read more:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal

My family loves baked oatmeal.  It's the perfect breakfast for us.  It's nutritious, filling, easy to make (I always make it the night before, no matter what recipe I'm using), and everyone is happy coming to the breakfast table when I'm serving baked oatmeal.  So I decided we would do a week of baked oatmeal, trying out a different recipe each day and then voting on our favorite.  If you ask me, breakfast is already the best meal of the day.  But it was especially good during our Baked Oatmeal week!

For Day One, I made our tried and true Banana Berry Baked Oatmeal.  It's been on our breakfast table about once a week for a couple years running, so why not start with what you know you like?

On Day Two, I made Coconut Cream Baked Oatmeal.  This is another recipe I'd already tried and knew we all liked.  

Then on Day Three of our baked oatmeal week, I used an idea from my daughter to create this Apple Pie version.  My middle gingersnap suggested one morning several months ago, "What if we put apples on the bottom instead of bananas?"  Great idea!  A few other additions and it was delicious!  

2 apples, cored, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks - I used my corer/peeler/slicer and then cut the slices into smaller chunks
1-2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp apple pie spice
2 Tbsp brown sugar, divided
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups almond milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease square baking dish with butter or cooking spray.

Spread apple chunks evenly on bottom of the dish.  Using about 2 Tbsp butter total, distribute butter into smaller bits over the apples.  Sprinkle with apple pie spice and 1 Tbsp brown sugar.

In medium bowl, combine oats, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.  Mix thoroughly and pour evenly on top of apples.

In the same bowl, throughly mix milk, eggs, and vanilla.  Pour evenly over the oat mixture.  Use a spoon or spatula to press down, ensuring there aren't any dry oats left.

At this point, you can cover the dish with foil and store in the refrigerator overnight, making this an easy breakfast the next morning.

When ready to bake, sprinkle pecans on top and place in oven, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes, or until pecans are nicely toasted and oats are golden on top.  Serve with milk and maple syrup as a treat!

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