Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday Night Dumplings

I recently got the cookbook Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas and More, by Andrea Nguyen. Before going into my experiences with the book, a little bit about me and my relationship with cookbooks. I am a reformed cookbook-junkie. I used to buy cookbooks constantly. And, to my credit, I do use most of them. I must admit, however, that I could probably cook a different recipe every day for the next 50 years and not repeat one. And there are a couple that I have never used. The least-used ones tend to be Asian cuisines. This is not because of lack of interest or desire, or even difficulty; I love a culinary challenge. It's the ingredients. I can tell you with certainty that there isn't a banana leaf or a tube of shrimp paste within 100 miles of Alma, CO. So, now I do my homework before buying a cookbook. If any reviewer warns of hard-to-find ingredients, I steer clear. I first heard of this book when I heard the author interviewed on The Splendid Table. She talked about how making dumplings was easy and fun...even the dough! I was skeptical, but up for the challenge, so I printed out the recipe from The Splendid Table, recruited husband and daughter, and got to work. We made the Fish and Chinese Chive Dumplings. They were delicious! The dough was actually easy make, and so much tastier than store-bought. And, we had a (somewhat) fun family night of cooking together. So, I was convinced; I bought the book. Our next attempt was the Japanese Pork and Shrimp Pot Stickers. Same dough, the Basic Dumpling Dough. I prepared the filling as I watched my chef husband and tenacious six-year old argue over the thickness of the wrappers. Once again, success. And we had fun; so much so, that my husband suggested that we make Saturday night dumplings a weekly event! (It also works out well for Sundays, as we always have enough left over to have with football!) We paired the pot stickers with an inexpensive, but pleasant Sake, Moonstone Asian Pear. I was a little nervous about the pear infusion; fruit infused liquors can be so obnoxious. But, the pear was very subtle, and the Sake was very nice with the meal. I think next we'll try Samosas or maybe something with a rice flour dough.
I urge you to try it yourself. It really is not that hard. And who couldn't use a little extra family-bonding time? Ms. Nguyen also has a very nice blog, Asian Dumpling Tips. It has quite a lot of recipes, if you're curious, but don't want to invest in the book just yet.
If it sounds good, but you know that you'll just never do it, stop by our house on a Saturday night. We may put you to work, but we'll feed you well!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Down on the Farm

I joined a farm co-op. I'm very excited about it, too. I've been trying to eat more seasonally and locally for a while. It's good for our local community, the environment and our health. I feel like I'm now one more step in that direction. Honestly, I didn't think it was possible to eat locally at 10,000 feet. Then I found Colorado Grown in Buena Vista, CO. It's a cooperative of several farms, and for a mere $25 lifetime membership, you can shop at their store and have access to locally grown and produced vegetables, meats, eggs, honey, raw-milk products, jams & preserves and other fabulous goodies. The store is tiny; essentially, it's a garage. It is only open on Saturdays. I love going down there with my daughter and browsing through the store, while she runs around and plays with the goats, rabbits and pigs.
I discovered the farm in late October, well after the bounty of the harvest. I am really looking forward to next summer and all of the vegetables. They have a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture. You purchase a share in the farm, in exchange for a weekly box of produce throughout the season.) They even have a work-exchange program.
If you are interested in joining a CSA, or finding a farm co-op such as this one, please check out . Local Harvest is a national directory of farms, CSAs, farmers markets and other sources of local, natural foods. You would be surprised at the number of sources in every single state.
I know that I will not be eating 100% locally. Give up coffee? Olive oil? Not a chance. But feeding my family as much local and seasonal food as I can, makes me feel good on a variety of levels. Try it; I think you will like it too.
If you are interested in reading about a family that ate only locally produced food for a year, read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It's one of my favorite books of the past year.
As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Let's Get to the Real Holidays

If you're friends with me on Facebook, or if you're just friends with me, you know that I'm not a big fan of Halloween. A holiday based on giving children an enormous bag of candy has no redeeming value in my mind. Easter has a that reputation as well, but at least it has a religious story to it, and often a family meal involved. That being said, I am OK with the kid aspect of Halloween. I smile at little cuties trick-or-treating. Jack-o-lanterns are cool, and I love It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. I limit candy, and grin and bear it; I don't want to be the mean Mom who forbids fun. I do have some other issues with Halloween though. When did it become an adult holiday? My parents never dressed up (if they did, the neighbors would have talked!) Why am I, at 44 years old, expected to? And when did it become a drunk-fest? It must rival New Years Eve for drunk-driving arrests these days. And my last question is, when, and why did costumes go from scary-cute things like ghosts, witches and black cats, to total gore - hatchets in heads, severed limbs etc? (I did find all the Sarah Palin costumes last year quite terrifying!)
But Halloween is the harbinger of good things to come. It's late fall here; skiing and the holidays are just around the corner. As a matter of fact, I went for my first cross-country ski this morning. I followed it up with a cool weather brunch for my family: cheddar and apple soup with sausage cornbread and bloody marys. Soon I'll be working on holiday menus. I plan on getting my Thanksgiving turkey this year from my local farmer. With the rebounding economy, we'll be seeing the return of the tourists this winter, and they'll be drinking more wine. Good for my personal economy! So, if you haven't heard it yet, let me be the first to wish you....Happy Holidays!!