Thursday, November 7, 2013

Girl Power

Recently I was able to go to Parent/Teacher conferences for all my school-aged children.  It is amazing how much anxiety I had before hand.  I had already met all my kids teachers before school started.  Most of them I have spoken to on the phone before the conferences about one thing or another.  And for the most part, I like them.  One of the teachers isn't my favorite, but it will be a good experience for my child to learn how to negotiate a relationship with a different personality.

The kids are all doing really well and it is always nice to hear someone gush over your child because that really is what it felt like, aside from the one teacher I already mentioned, but it was a good report none the less. I know a few things I need to work on, like calling their former school and seeing what the deal is and why they haven't sent their records yet?!  We need to work on flexibility (of schedule, not body, though I am sure some bodies need some flexibility training as well.)

What I was most caught off guard by was a comment the Kindergarten teacher said.  It simultaneously invoked pride and broke my heart.  "Your daughter is not afraid to speak her mind and let people know what she wants.  That is really good, for a girl."  The "for a girl" part was not in a taunting way like one might say about the way a girl hits or throws, it was with awe, like other girls don't speak-up for themselves.  The pride and joy came from knowing I was teaching my child to have a voice for herself.  But at that same moment I became choked-up, realizing there was a classroom full of little girls potentially being trained at home to keep quiet and go with the flow; to give the appearance of being cute and kind, maybe at the sacrifice of their opinion and voice, perhaps like a doll.

Here's my question, why can't it be both.  I admit, I may not be the best example.  Honestly, it wasn't much of a surprise to me that my child was not the submissive one in the corner with a zipped lip.  (Well, maybe a little, this is my shy child.  But apparently she has gotten comfortable with her teacher and classmates.)  I am not one to sit passively by and watch my surroundings.  I call it passionate, others may call it annoying or embarrassing.  I don't mind having discussions, even heated ones, as long as they don't get nasty, or ugly.  I like hearing others opinions and trying to understand where they are coming from.  Maybe it comes from a desire to always seek the truth; what if my opinion is wrong, I have a right to change it.  This may include something I do not feel is correct.  I will speak-up for myself and those around me.  Very rarely does it end on a sour note.  I guess my kids have been watching.  I suppose this doesn't always lend itself to being a "doll."

Or maybe I don't want both.  Maybe what I want to teach my daughter is self-respect.  Speak-up for yourself, don't let people take advantage of you.  Know when you are wrong and apologize.  Be humble.  Advocate for yourself and others.   Be in control of yourself.  These are all things I am still learning, and will be for the rest of my life.  Being cute many not be all it's cracked-up to be.  I don't want to teach my daughter they are valuable because they are cute or pretty.  I want them to see they are valuable because they know who they are and aren't afraid to show others and that is what makes them beautiful.

This was a lesson I learned from my mom.  When I was in second grade my parents went to a parent/teacher conference.  My second grade teacher told my parent that I was doing fine in school, my only problem was I talked too much.  She told my parents they needed to talk to me about self control. And about how I would be a much better student and young girl if I wasn't so talkative. Or something to that nature.  Well, my mom being the strong talkative woman she was said "No!"  She told my teacher there are far too many girls in this world that do not use their voice for good and speak-up for themselves.  They stay silent.  I am not about to tell my daughter to become one of them.  Now, I am sure she did talk to me about speaking out of turn and not distracting others from their tasks, but she encouraged me to explore and learn what I wanted. To ask questions and not be afraid to give answers.

When does self-doubt creep into a person?   Is it when a College professor asks if you are actually Graduate School Material? I really questioned my own intelligence for several days.  Is it when as a teenage volunteer you are publicly chastised for doing what you were asked to do, but apparently the person didn't realize what that entailed on their part?  This event actually caused me to give-up my hobby.  Is it when you relay your abuse to a friend and they choose not to believe you because the abuser "would never do that."?  I questioned my own integrity since a close friend would not believe me. Is it when as a child asks a question and the teacher mocks the student in front of the entire class, leading to ruckus laughter at the child's expense?  It sure made me think twice about asking another question in my 5th grade class.  How about when a 3rd grade teacher gives end of the year "awards" to each student, sometimes labeling a child in unkind terms?  I still feel the sting of that label and get a little sensitive when the word is used and often question all the words that come out of my mouth wen in a leadership role.  Or a man on an airplane preemptively scolds a 3 year old on a Trans-Atlantic flight?  I tried not to move a muscle the entire flight.  Luckily I was able to sleep a good portion of it.

I think self-doubt is a life long battle.  There are still times in my life today that I face self-doubt, but somewhere along the line my self-confidence took a stronghold within me and has not let go.  I was fortunate and lucky.  I want self-confidence for all my children.  I worry the world will tell my daughters it isn't something desirable.

I know my daughters are blessed to live in a country that allows them to have freedom to make choices and access to education.  I want them to take full advantage of it.  I want them to learn that their thoughts and opinions are just as valuable as the thought of the boy sitting next to them.  I want to encourage my children to speak-up for themselves and for those that need help beside them.  I want them to share their opinions kindly with tolerance for others.

All this ran through my head while I sat there for the parent/teacher conference.  I think I missed some of what was said about which sight words we need to work on more, but I'm not sure it matters. We'll get the sight words down. How do you make a home lesson plan for keeping self-confidence.  I guess for now I let my kids talk.  I let them share their opinions and see that each one of them can have an opinion and none of them are better than anyone else's.  Now how do I listen to all these opinions at once without getting a headache?

All joking aside, for a little bit, I think it is equally important to teach your child to listen.  They need to listen to not only other's thoughts and opinions, but also their own.  They need to ask themselves if it sounds logical and reasonable.  They need to learn to ponder and think things out in their mind, trust me, it leads to far fewer foot in mouth moments.  Far less anger.  Far fewer hurt feelings.  Listening to yourself also allows you to value yourself and validate that you are worth the time.  And with my children it comes with the added bonus that this Mom named Luna gets some quiet to ponder some thoughts of her own!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Anniversary Cards

I love coming up with fun things to give as a gift, especially for our Anniversary.  This year I decided to make some scratch off cards.  I thought I would make 52 of them, so Chris can have a little present every week!

I got the idea and instructions here.  And I used to make design the cards.  I am thinking about making some rewards cards for the kids!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Baker: Bakewell Tart (or Pudding)

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

I thought this was pleasing challenge. Not too complicated, but I thought it was tasty. Hubbs, on the other hand, did not.

I decided to make some Lemon Curd to fill my tart. While cooking the Lemon Curd I imagined the conversation I would have with Hubbs about the taste of the finished Tart.

Luna: What do you think?
Hubbs: It is a bit Tart.
Luna: It is supposed to be, it is a tart!

The actual conversation was nothing like that. I served the tart to a few ladies I had over at my house. Later after they left I offered a piece to Hubbs.

Luna: Would you like to try a piece?
Hubbs: ummmm...well....uhhh. I think I need to know more about it.
Luna: It has sugar, almond, egg, lemon, butter, flour. You like all those ingredients.
Hubbs: Um...uh...I guess.
*30 min later and only one bite missing*
Luna: Do you not like it?
Hubbs: (not wanting to say no and hurt my feelings he take another pathetically tiny bite) I think I don't like the texture.
Luna: which layer?
Hubbs: There are layers?
Luna: (sneering) yes!
Hubbs: I just don't think I have had much of this sort of cake.
Luna: (still sneering) it's a TART!

Needless to say, Hubbs did not like it. But I think it might have been the Lemon Curd, not sure! He doesn't like sour or tart things. I, however, LOVE it. And since I was making it, and it is summer time, and I happen to have a few lemons I thought a nice fresh lemon curd would be great!

The Curd turned out great. It was a bit thin, but the kitchen was getting WAY too hot and it was WAY too hot outside, so I stoped at a "good enough" thickness.

The pastry crust was a different story. It all looked good until i tried to pick it up to place it in the dish. It completely fell apart. So I just ended-up piecing it together in the dish and molding it to the dish. (oh well!)

The frangipane seemed to go well. I have never made one before, so what do I know. Maybe it was all wrong too.

I guess it doesn't much matter because everyone, except for Hubbs, seemed to like it. It did get a bit too brown for my liking in the oven around the edge, mainly the crust. So I trimmed that up a bit.

Before trimming

After trimming


History Lesson we receive on the Bakewell Tart/Pudding issue

Bakewell Tart History and Lore

Flan-like desserts that combine either sweet egg custard over candied fruit or feature spiced ground almonds in a pastry shell have Mediaeval roots. The term “Bakewell pudding” was first penned in 1826 by Meg Dods; 20 years later Eliza Acton published a recipe that featured a baked rich egg custard overtop 2cm of jam and noted,

“This pudding is famous not only in Derbyshire, but in several of our northern counties where it is usually served on all holiday occasions.”

By the latter half of the 1800s, the egg custard evolved into a frangipane-like filling; since then the quantity of jam decreased while the almond filling increased.

This tart, like many of the world's great foods has its own mythic beginnings…or several mythic beginnings. Legend has it in 1820 (or was it in the 1860s?) Mrs. Greaves, landlady of The White Horse Inn in Bakewell, Derbyshire (England), asked her cook to produce a pudding for her guests. Either her instructions could have been clearer or he should have paid better attention to what she said because what he made was not what she asked for. The cook spread the jam on top of the frangipane mixture rather than the other way around. Or maybe instead of a sweet rich shortcrust pastry case to hold the jam for a strawberry tart, he made a regular pastry and mixed the eggs and sugar separately and poured that over the jam—it depends upon which legend you follow.

Regardless of what the venerable Mrs. Greaves’ cook did or didn’t do, lore has it that her guests loved it and an ensuing pastry-clad industry was born. The town of Bakewell has since played host to many a sweet tooth in hopes of tasting the tart in its natural setting.

Bakewell tarts are a classic English dessert, abounding in supermarket baking sections and in ready-made, mass-produced forms, some sporting a thick sugary icing and glazed cherry on top for decorative effect.

Enjoy it with a cup of tea or coffee or just eat it sneaky slice by sneaky slice until, to your chagrin, you realise the whole tart has somehow disappeared despite you never having pulled out a plate, fork or napkin with which to eat it.

Is it a tart or is it a pudding?

Someone once said something like “The Bakewell pudding is a dessert. The Bakewell tart is that girl over there.”

It’s a debate that rages on and we aren’t taking sides on this one. But we will say that many people call this pudding a tart.

While we’re at it...
The etymology of pudding is a rather interesting and slightly convoluted one.* The naming confusion may come from the British manner of referring to the dessert course as ‘pudding’ (as well as referring to fat babies by the same name, though we don’t think that is what was the inspiration in this case). And so any dessert is a pudding until another name comes along and adds clarity to what it really is.

The Lemon Curd recipe I used I git off

3 Large Eggs
1/3 Cup fresh lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons, don't use bottled juice)
1 tablespoon fine lemon zest
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp. (cut into small pieces is helpful)

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C). This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn't form) and refrigerate for up to a week.

Makes 1 1/2 cups (360 ml).

If you want a lighter lemon curd whip 1/2 cup (120 ml) of heavy whipping cream and fold into the lemon curd.

The recipe as I received it.

Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Jasmine’s notes:
• If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It's a pretty popular popular cake, so you shouldn't have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes and linked to them in the related alt.db thread.
• You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.
• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.
Annemarie’s notes:
• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Jasmine’s notes:
• I make this using vanilla salt and vanilla sugar.
• If you wish, you can substitute the seeds of one vanilla bean, one teaspoon of vanilla paste or one teaspoon of vanilla extract for the almond extract


Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Annemarie’s notes:
• Add another five minutes or more if you're grinding your own almonds or if you're mixing by hand (Heaven help you).

Monday, June 15, 2009

How to prune a tree in the South!

1. Wait for severe weather
2. Hide in a safe place
3. clean yard of all debris

This truly works. Now, be aware that the "gardner" isn't very precise, or tidy, of kind, or convenient, or an actual gardner! However, Many trees and branches will be removed from their former location.

On Friday I was playing a game on the computer with SweetPea when I heard the city sirens screech, and no, I don't me some slutty girls singing to entice us all to danger, though, there was danger of another kind. I quickly got up and explained to SweetPea we could no longer play the game and she was to get her socks and shoes on. (to tell you the truth, we all had to get out of our PJs) So I got clothes out for everyone and we quickly got dressed and ready. I gathered the all weather radio, some snacks, water and books. I woke Eli up and we went and hid in the bathroom. Just as I was walking into the bathroom the power went out. So I told the kids to stay there and I went to get flash light, candles and matches. When i returned to the bathroom I realize Banana seriously needed a diaper change. I attempted to change it with the diapers I brought into the bathroom, but I didn't have wet wipes and the TP wasn't cutting it. So I went back out to grab the wet wipes and hand sanitizer. I also thought I should check how bad it was outside and see if I needed to take down wind chimes and hanging plants. As soon as I opened the storm door, I quickly went back inside. It was eerily calm, too calm. (I've seen the movies, that is never a good sign)

We spent awhile in the bathroom singing songs reading books and listening to the radio. The kids didn't enjoy the radio part. We were able to talk to Hubbs a few times. He was safe and sound.

After the warning passed we left the bathroom, but we waited awhile before we ventured outside. We did finally go outside to see all the work the "gardner" had done. It took us a couple of days to collect all the branches and haul them to the curb.

We spent Friday evening checking in on our neighbors. We all lost electricity and the poser company was saying it would be a couple of days before we got it back. Friday night stayed cool, but Saturday was ugly.

As for our fridge and freezer, Friday night we bought up a bunch of ice and packed the top shelves with ice. Then on Saturday our Home Teacher let use his generator. Thank you!

We had to come up with fun things to do without electricity. We also had to figure out how to see in the dark more efficiently, how to keep cool, how to warm bottles for Banana, and how to clean sippy cups and bottles.

As for bottle warming we found placing a bottle of water in the hot car for a bit warmed the water to make a bottle. We ended-up buying a small camping stove. We could then warm water for bathing the kids, and washing dishes. We also used it to warm bottles as well.

On Saturday we were able to watch the dump trucks come around and collect all the branches and trees the gardner pruned. It was amazing to watch the operator move the massive claw around to pick-up everything. It was impressive how exact he was. The next door neighbors tree was hit by lightening again. (3rd time in less than a year) I just hope the tree stays standing because if it falls, our tree will be the new lightening rod. I could not believe the number of tree that were lost during the storm. It was hard to get in and out of our neighborhood. It was worse at night because we had to street lights, or any lights at all, for that matter, other than the head lights. I never really realized before how much ambient light I use to drive at night. Saturday night we VERY muggy. I filled some spray bottles with water and misted myself throughout the night. Banana was miserable. She wasn't eating well and she developed a nasty cough. So Hubbs to her and slept with her in the van. He turned it on and let the a/c run. It wasn't as comfortable cushion wise, but much more comfortable temperature wise.

We dined out a lot. Chick-fil-A is great. It was cool and the kids could run around.

We did finally get power back on Sunday afternoon. It is so nice to have electricity! Next time I think I will hire an arborist!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Daring Cook: Potstickers

Chinese dumplings/potstickers (aka gyoza in Japanese) Thank you Jen from use real butter for hosting the Daring Cooks June 2009 challenge.
I have wanted to learn how to make potstickers for such a LONG time. I was so excited by this challenge. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I have to say, my finished product was not very pretty, but they tasted good, AND I had fun. It took a long time to get them all done.

I started by making the wrapper dough. AS it was resting I began to make the filling. I used a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Basically I just opened the fridge, freezer, and pantry and found what I could use up.

I used some ground pork, carrots, spinach, garlic, egg, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch. Maybe some other things too. I did it in a frenzy, so I don't much remember what I was throwing in there. From the picture it looks like I also added some teriyaki sauce, chardonnay salt, cilantro bullion and onion bullion. I then began to roll out the wrappers. Then used a Tablespoon to scoop the filling into the wrapper.
I began to fold them. It took a bit to get the hang of it. It took awhile to get the wrappers thin enough. I played with a couple of different ways to fold them up. Some worked better than others.
I froze these dumplings to use at a later time. Here they are after freezing individually, but before I bagged them.
A few days later I did finally cook some up for dinner. I made a simple dipping sauce with soy sauce, sesame oil.
I thought they turned out a bit salty, Hubbs thought the dipping sauce was salty. Regardless, they were pretty good.

After I had used-up all the pork filling I still had a good amount of wrapper dough left. So I decided to try something fun. I thought about a dessert filling, but honestly at that moment I was hungry and wanted something savory.

I took some cottage cheese and drained it a bit. Added cilantro and a little cornmeal. (the cornmeal was to thicken it up a bit.)
I made the dumplings, pan fried them and served them with som avacado and lemon. They were SOOOOOOOO good. I think the best thing I have eaten in a long time. Granted, I may have been really hungry, but I think they were just really good.

The Recipe as I received it.

It's a basic concept: a filling inside a dough wrapper, sealed, and cooked. This delicious theme runs through many cultures and is among the more popular bites at Chinese restaurants - especially dim sum. The recipe I provide is based on my family recipe. There is a lot of wiggle room and I encourage you to explore. If you've made them before - great! Now try something different!

The process goes a little like this:

You can (and should) reference instructional photos and discussion on my blog post here.

Wrappers: Well yes, you could purchase pre-made dumpling wrappers at the store (NO WONTON WRAPPERS - they have egg), but they are inferior compared to homemade. The whole point of this challenge is to make the dumpling wrappers by hand. So here is the one requirement: the dumpling wrappers must be made by hand. It isn't all that hard, it just takes a little time and practice. People usually get the hang of it after making about a dozen. **NOTE: I have a special recipe for gluten-free dumpling wrappers at the bottom of the post. They are another type of traditional dumpling and they are pretty awesome (although more finicky). Really delicious too, so you may want to have a looksee even if you aren't gluten-free. [EDIT 5/18/09:] I see that some have chosen to make the wrappers by hand. I don't recommend this method because the wrappers will be too thick and probably yield far fewer dumplings for the dough recipe. The point of rolling the dough is for uniformity of wrapper and to achieve a thickness that is otherwise difficult to attain by hand. Also, rolling is much faster than hand shaping. We're aiming for a delicate skin that does not dominate the dumpling.

Fillings: the beauty of the Chinese dumpling/potsticker is that the filling is very versatile. That's why there are so many different kinds of dumplings when you go to dim sum. The two most common are pork and shrimp. You can make them with other ground meats (beef, chicken...) or vegetarian (tofu, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, glass noodles, Chinese chives - oh yum!). The important thing to keep in mind is that the filling needs to "stick" to itself or else you will make your life incredibly miserable wrapping up filling that keeps falling apart. I think if I were to make vegetarian dumplings, I would sauté the cabbage and mash up the tofu for a better cohesiveness. It's up to you how you want to fill your dumplings and I say - run with it! Just keep it cohesive and no big chunks of hard ingredients (they poke through the wrapper dough = disaster). I realize it may be tempting to dump all of the vegetables into a food processor and give it a whir, but I caution against it. You don't want a slurry, you want a mince. Practice your knife skills and be careful.

Special Equipment: A rolling pin - preferably not tapered. (see blog pictures for the type I use).

Time: Prep for the filling takes me 30 minutes - longer if peeling and de-veining shrimp. It will depend on your proficiency with a good sharp knife. Rolling and wrapping several dozen dumplings takes me 1 hour by myself. My parents can crank through it in 30 minutes when one person is rolling wrappers and the other is wrapping dumplings. Might be fun to get a second person to help! Cooking: I have to cook mine in batches. When steaming, I can cook a dozen at a time in about 10 minutes. Potstickers: 15 minutes per 2 dozen determined by the size of your pan. Boiling - 6 minutes per dozen or so depending on size of pot. My own personal preference is for potstickers - mmmmm! But they are ALL good. Here is the recipe:

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

pork filling:
1 lb (450g) ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried - rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch


shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Make the dough, Method 2 (my mom’s instructions): In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

[EDIT: 5/26/09] There have been two complaints posted about a dry dough and I realize that this rests in the problem of measuring flour which has a different density and hence weight for 2 cups depending on how you scoop it. That is why I also list the weight: 250g. Flour tends to settle over time, so when I scoop it out, I shake several cups' worth back into the container before taking a final scoop of soft, fluffy, flour and I get 250g for 2 cups. When you knead the dough, if it feels hard and dry, then you can add more water. [Warning: it will NOT be a soft bread dough, so don't expect it to be, but it shouldn't be a brick either.] It is perfectly fine to use more than the 1/2 cup listed in the recipe as everyone's climate and flours vary. Use your judgment - this is what being a Daring Cook is about. We are trying to cultivate a sense of intuition so that recipes are general guidelines from which you can expand your own style.

Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side (see images in post for how to fold pleats). Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

placing the dumplings in a steamer over napa cabbage leaves

steamed and ready to eat

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

potstickers, bottoms up to show off the crunchies

To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


I have some VERY funny friends. They have a way of making me laugh so much. Honestly, probably too much. So much so I have been known to wet my pants. I am not afraid to admit that people! I can't control it, it just happens, ok! And before you start telling me to get the kegels going, I know! It helps, but it isn't perfect. I think the problem is I laugh too hard. I LOVE to laugh. It feels so great. I don't care if I laugh loud or I laugh dorky! I LOVE TO LAUGH.

But honestly, that really has nothing to do with the actual point of this post. The point starts with one of my friends. He is so funny. I remember a time when we went out for Chinese food and we finished our meal and we were all opening our fortune cookies. We went around the table reading our fortunes, and when it got to his turn he said (in an increasingly perplexed voice) "Help! Help! I am trapped in a fortune cookie sweat shop!" I laughed so hard! Too funny!

Anyway. Sometimes I feel like I am trapped in a fortune cookie sweat shop. Other than the whole fortune cookie thing. And I guess I don't really live in a sweat shop either. Maybe I feel more like I am trapped in a fortune cookie itself! Like I can't get out but I can see everyone else outside my sealed cellophane wrapper.

For the last half a year we have been battling so many illnesses. I have stuck thermometers in more rectums in the last few months than I care to count. I have used multiple bottles of various disinfectants. I think pediatricians office is going to put me on the payroll soon, cuz it feels like I am there enough to earn a pay check. To add to it, Hubbs needs time to study. I hear about all these neat things people are doing and fun places to go, and I just can't seems to get out of the cellophane.

I am determined to make this the last week of fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, asthma, back pain, post-nasal drip, chills, ear infection, or any other malady that could befall our home. I don't want to go to another lab or walk-in clinic. I don't want to call any on-call doctors. I don't want to go to anymore hospitals. I don't want to wait for anyone to call me back with results. I don't want to go to the pharmacy again.

I just want health! I want a pain-free symptom-free life. I want to go somewhere that doesn't require (or at least prefer) an appointment. I want to use all the membership cards I have in my wallet. I want to feel safe to visit with other people again.

I just want my life off of hold. I want to rip through the cellophane!

Monday, June 1, 2009


Bubba has always been a great sleeper. It has been such a blessing in so many ways. Though it does come at a price at times. He can be a bit ridged with aspects of it. For example.... he wants to just lie down, no holding, no fuss, no muss. Some of you might say "that sounds wonderful." and you would be right, most of the time. But let's say you are at church and there is NO place to "just lie down" AND he gets super cranky when he doesn't get his sleep. So it can be problematic.

For awhile he had to have his blanket, aptly named "red" for its red color. He would drag "Red" around with him everywhere like Linus. He really had to have it after he had tubes put in his ears. I think it was traumatic for him.

Anyway, recently he has eased-up on Red. But he picked up a new item. Steve!

let me give you a bit of history on Steve. Steve is a camel. I know, not the name you would think of for a camel, but that is what Bubba picked. Steve is actually my camel. It was given to me by my father as a Christmas gift (I believe in 2001.) He is about 18" tall and is more of a large figurine than a toddler toy. He is not plush or soft in any manner. He is cover in leather with black glass eyes. I am not sure why my father felt I needed an 18" camel, maybe he intended for me to start a nativity scence, but that is hard to imagine. There are only two reason my father gave me the camel. 1.) he wanted to see my reaction to such an unusual gift. This is quite often the reasoning behind many gifts in my family. It isn't unheard of for my family to buy the most bizarre and useless (at least to the person receiveing it) gift we can find. For the most part, we have all our needs met, so it is just frivolous, albeit neat/great/fun/welcomed stuff at times. As an example, I think the year before (2000) he gave me a HUGE cooking pot. I am talking HUGE, like something you cook a medium sized animal in, OUTSIDE! Or you could bathe a small child in it. Notice the trike next to it so you can have a size comparison.

2.) He remembered a conversation I had about future interior decoarting I envisioned for my future house. The funny part about that is, It isn't anything I plan on doing anymore. Needs and desires change as you grow-up and have kids.

Regardless of the reasoning, I now have this camel. I have been trying to figure out what to do with it ever since I received it. I have tried to donated it on several occasions, but Hubbs always stops me, for what reason, I am not sure. Well, the last time I had it in the donation pile bubba found it and decided it was a great toy. He pretended to ride it all around the house. He would sit on it and scoot it everywhere. I tried to get a picture, but he was just too fast for it to turn out.

He will take the camel with him all over the house.

He even decied it is his new bed buddy. Remember, it is not a soft toy.

I decided to ask Bubba what his camel's name was. He said "Steve!"

So I guess Steve is a part of my life now. Thanks Dad!