Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

What I love about my mom and Jon is their obsession with ethnic food. I used to be really picky, and if it weren’t for them I would have never tried anything new. Papa Bear Bruns loves Cajun and Italian food, of course, so that only aided my food bias. But when my mom would only cook with ingredients like curry or soy vay, I had to get over that pickiness pretty quickly. Creole/Cajun cuisine will always be my favorite (apart from dessert), but thanks to Mom and Jon, Thai and Japanese definitively hold a new place in my heart.  

The only problem with cooking Asian food is the complete lack of necessary ingredients in your everyday grocery store. Gyoza skins? Wonton wrappers? Chili garlic paste? Forget about it!  No, these ingredients can only be found in your local international or Asian food market that looks kinda dirty and is run by a small old lady who barely speaks English and only takes cash. These places are so much fun to go to though because you never know what you are going to find. And not to mention cheap! I bought a bag of almond flour (what you use to make macaroons) for $5!! It’s $15 at whole foods! My mom took me to this place literally in the middle of nowhere (aka by the airport somewhere) and they had an amazing assortment of noodles and rices. I’ve been dying to make an authentic homemade Pad Thai, but I went there for the gyoza skins and that is what I left with.

I’ve been waiting 3 months since I bought those gyoza skins. I got them with my mom over the summer, but there just wasn’t enough time to make dumplings between leaving work and getting ready for school. Fortunately they last forever in the freezer, so when we cracked them open they were as if I bought them yesterday. I also thought this recipe was going to be so much harder than it was. Finding the ingredients was harder than the actual cooking. Restaurant dumplings are amazing so I just didn’t think I was going to be able to achieve that level of delicious. I can’t believe how wrong I was! No, they were not as perfect or pretty as restaurant quality dumps, but they were definitely as good. The crispy edge was killer and they cooked really quickly too. If you are willing to do a little hunting for the ingredients, I definitely suggest giving these a try because the finished product is immensely satisfying (especially when you have so little faith in yourself to begin with!). 

This recipe was adapted from a blog called Former Chef. Some adjustments were made do to taste preferences and ingredient substitutions. 

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza
(Also known as Dumplings or Pot Stickers)

2 cups finely chopped bok choy
½  tsp + ¼ tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 tsp.  fresh ginger, grated
2 Tablespoons green onions, finely chopped
6 oz ground pork
5 oz chopped, cleaned and diced shrimp (about 6 shrimp)
¼ tsp sugar
½  tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ Tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Seasoned Rice Vinegar

Dipping Sauce Ingredients
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar, unseasoned
1 tsp chili garlic sauce

Chop the bok choy and put it in a separate bowl along with ½ teaspoon of course salt. (I should have soaked it in ice water to clean it off first but it isn’t life or death if you don’t) Let it sit for about 15 minutes so the excess moisture is released. When is ready to use, squeeze out the excess water from the bok choy with your hands. This should reduce to about ½ cup.

In a large bowl, combined the pork, shrimp, bok choy, green onions, ginger and garlic and mix with your hands so all of the ingredients are completely incorporated. 

In a smaller bowl, combined the salt, sugar, pepper, seasoned rice vinegar, and soy sauce. Stir it up and then pour it on top of the shrimp/pork mixture. Mix it all together with a spoon (or with your hands)

Have a small glass of water next to you as you prepare your dumplings. Dip your fingers in the water and wet the outer rim of the gyoza wrapper. Scoop a little less than a tablespoon of the meat mixture and place it in the center of the skin. Fold it over and firming press along the rim, making sure there is no air left inside of the wrapper. You can do the fancy crimped edge, but I found that after they were steamed, you could barely tell which ones were crimped and which weren’t (they tasted exactly the same)

In a hot wok or sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Place the dumplings in the wok and let them cook for about 2 minutes or until the bottoms look nice and crispy. Then carefully pour less than ¼ cup of water into the wok and cover with a lid to steam and finish cooking the gyoza. Do this for about 6 minutes or until most of the water is gone. If there is still a lot of water but your dumplings look finished, pour out the excess water and cook them for about a minute longer to re-crisp so they don’t get soggy.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gingerbread Men

This past week my friend and sorority sister, Leah Cronshaw, asked me to bake gingerbread men cookies for an event hosted by a battered women’s shelter that she volunteers for in Burlington. It’s a pretty known fact that I absolutely love doing stuff like this, so of course I immediately said yes. I had never made gingerbread men before though, so I can’t pretend I wasn’t nervous.  It’s not like I was just baking these for my friends who will pretend to like them even if they were terrible. Each cookie was a dollar and the money raised would go straight to charity; so obviously I had to impress.

I did my research and found a recipe online that seemed promising. I was nervous about making enough though, so I ended up making 3 batches just in case. When a cookie recipe says “makes 2 and a half dozen” I usually don’t believe it. Cause how can you know, really? - Especially with cut-out cookies. I mean, how big is YOUR cookie cutter….Much to my surprise (and somewhat dismay considering my limited counter space), each batch made almost exactly 2 and a half dozen; meaning I made over 7 and a half dozen cookies….I counted 86.

According to Leah, the gingerbread men were a huge success! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the event myself because I had my Management Information Systems AND my Economics final the next day – and there was no way I had time to take a break. Leah was able to take pictures of the event for me though so I could at least see my goods in action. And although it took me over 8 hours to make all of them (divided between 2 days, don’t worry), one regular batch would actually be pretty easy and would definitely be a crowd pleaser at any holiday party (or make a great gift!)

I used a recipe I found on called Eileen's Spicy Gingerbread Cookies 

1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar. (Since its margarine it won’t get quite as fluffy as butter – at least I don’t think it will….) Then fold in the molasses and egg yolk with a spatula.

In a separate bowl, combined the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Sift the flour mixture over the wet ingredients. Begin with the spatula and finish with the blender (I do this to prevent the flour from forming a cloud and getting everywhere)

Cover and chill in either the freezer or the fridge for at least an hour. I put it in the freezer, but the fridge would do just as well.

Form the dough into a ball and turn out onto a heavily floured work surface. The counter must be well covered in flour because this dough is very sticky and it is very difficult to keep the cut-out gingerbread shape if you have to scrape the dough off of the counter. In the reviews, some people added more flour during the mixing process, but I found that after reforming the dough into a ball again and again as I continued to roll it out, the cookie dough would accumulate enough flour from the counter to the point where it was unnecessary.

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Place the cut-out shapes onto a silpat or tinfoil and freeze for about 15 minutes. This helps the cookies retain their shape during the baking process. Also make sure that no dramatic flecks of flour are on the top of your cut-out cookies before baking because it will leave a somewhat permanent white mark on your cookies after they are baked. Just brush it off with your hands or wet it slightly with a touch of water to get them off.

Bake for 8 minutes.

If you have little freezer space like me, form an assembly line in your cookie baking process.
1.       Cut out cookies
2.       Place them on silpat or tin foil
3.       Freeze
4.       Bake
5.       Remove from oven and let sit (separate the tinfoil or silpat from the hot cookie sheet so they do not continue to bake and they both can cool down more quickly – the cooler the tinfoil/silpat the better because you don’t want you gingerbread-dough-cut-outs to spread immediately after you cut them out)
6.       Cool on cookie rack
7.       Transfer to stacked/ cooled cookie location

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Savory Rosemary and Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls

This year for Thanksgiving I was in charge of the pie (as always) and bread. Every year we always freak out about the bread because we almost always burn it. Both houses. I just don't get it. Is it just our family or does everyone struggle with this? Thus, I thought it would be fun to make homemade rolls instead. That way it would be nearly impossible for us to burn them because I would be watching them like a hawk.

Since I had never made dinner rolls before, I thought I would try out two recipes to give everyone more options aaannddd to have a backup in case one completely backfired. I think they both turned out great, but it was clear that the sweet potato rolls were everyone's favorite (myself included). I think if the rosemary ones were saltier, they definitely could have given the SP-rolls a run for their money. (so you if want to give these rolls a try, I suggest increasing the salt by at least a teaspoon)

This recipe was moderately adapted from one I found on
Sweet Potato Rolls  

1 package active dry yeast
4 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 can sweet potato puree
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons margarine, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

*This recipe is best made with a stand mixer. I’ve made bread with a hand mixer before and it just doesn’t work as well.

Mix together the water, yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar on a large bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes until frothy.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, sweet potato puree, margarine, salt, and whisked eggs and mix well. Mix in 1 cup of flour and then add the remaining 2 cups. Mix until the dough comes together, but is still sticky

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 2 to 3 minutes and add just enough flour so that the dough is no longer sticky. Don’t over knead. When the dough comes together (and no longer sticks to your hands) roll it into a ball.

Place the dough into a well-greased bowl and turn it until the entire dough ball is lightly greased in oil. Cover with a towel and place in a low lit area. Let it rise for at least an hour (2 is better). The dough should almost fill the bowl at this point. After the dough has risen, punch it down with your fist and let it sit for 2 minutes.
Pinch and roll the dough into 16 balls and place them into well-greased pans. (I used a 9.5x13 inch glass pan). Cover the dough again and let it rise for another 2 hours, or until the balls have doubled in size.

Bake at 375˚ for 15 to 20 minutes.

 this recipe is adapted from Confections of  Foodie Bride 

Savory Rosemary Dinner Rolls 

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp oil (vegetable, canola, or olive – I used olive) plus more for greasing bowl and pan
1 large egg
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt (I suggest adding another teaspoon to amp the flavor)
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp melted butter

Stir together the warm water and yeast in a large mixing bowl and let sit for about 10 minutes, or until frothy 

Add the oil, egg (scrambled), sugar, salt, pepper and rosemary to the water/yeast mixture. Stir.

Freshly picked rosemary from my step-mom, Stephanie's, amazing herb garden

Add the flour in two increments and mix on low speed until the dough comes together and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.

On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough for about 5 minutes. You can use the mixer and increase the speed to high but I personally think the gluten forms a more successful crisscross pattern when it is done by hand.  (The crisscross pattern in the gluten helps it rise and makes it soft instead of tough) 

Place the dough back into a well-greased bowl and cover with a damp towel. The recipe I used said to let the dough rise for an hour. I did this recipe twice however and found that the dough I let sit over night was much softer and made much better rolls so I suggest letting it sit for as long as you can (at least a couple of hours) 

After the dough has doubled in size, pinch off pieces of dough and roll them into balls. Place the smaller dough balls in a well-greased cake pan or glass baking dish (either works well) making sure to leave space for them to rise and expand. 

Preheat oven to 350˚

Recover the balls of dough with a damp towel and let rise again. (About another hour) 

Brush the tops of the dough balls with half of the butter and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly brown. After you remove the buns from the oven, brush the tops with the remaining butter. 

My brother, Joseph
Joe-Joe wanted to take the dinner roll glamor shots to a new level... just to mix it up a bit...Maybe he would start a revolution for my blog I mean who knows. Like little sisters do, I tend to think everything my big brother does is brilliant and hilarious so... I decided to go with it....

just noticed the fake gun in the corner.....we're so country
I think the juxtaposition of the buns in each photograph was simply superb.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Soft and Chewy Ginger Snap Cookies

Sunday morning my mom and step-dad, Jon, drove to Houston for Jon's upcoming surgery. We were all pretty shaken up about the whole situation, so to wish them well I decided to make them ginger snap cookies. I thought these would be perfect because for one, they would still taste great after a few days at the hospital and two, my mom and Jon are actually obsessed with all things ginger: candied ginger, gingerbread, ginger rice, ginger cookies, ginger beer (I could go on and on). I have trouble with scary/emotional stuff like this, so baking for people is the only way I really know how to express how I feel. Its basically the only thing that really feels right. Because what do you say really? All I can think of is "it will all be fine. have a cookie."

But regardless of why you are baking cookies, this recipe is definitely a keeper and perfect for the holiday season. I can't wait to make more when I go back home. I would make them at school but molasses isn't an ingredient one generally keeps in a college kitchen cabinet....

(and the crazy part of it all is, I really don't like ginger. at all! but I love these cookies) 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pecan Pie

What I absolutely loved about making this pie is that I didn't have to go to the grocery store for a single ingredient. Granted I keep an abnormal amount of baking supplies stocked in my cabinets all the time, but it was still nice to be able to whip this thing together without spending a dime. (well I had to buy the ingredients at some point - but still!)

Anyway, this was the first pecan pie I have ever made and ohmagoodness was it good. I wanted to make sure I found a recipe that didn't use corn syrup - because one. ew. I've used it before but it just seems so artificial. and two - I didn't have any corn syrup on hand. I also had to decide how I wanted to arrange my pecans. I read online that if you put the pecans at the bottom, they eventually would rise to the top. Although this system may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, I thought it would taste better if the pecans were more incorporated into the the gooey mixture (the only part I would eat growing up). After trying it out, I think this was the best decision. It is pretty to decoratively arrange the pecans on top, but then they don't get the added sweetness of being submerged in the gooey goodness. 

On another note, I have literally eaten about half of this pie by myself so if ANYONE wants a piece please come over to our apartment and it take off my hands!

I also want to apologize in advance for the crappiness of my play-by-play shots. It was late and the lighting was wack.

This recipe is verry loosey based off of one I found in Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts.

The Crust 
1 ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
1 stick of unsalted butter
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ tablespoons ice water
Pinch of cinnamon

1. Start by freezing the stick of butter for about 15 minutes. Since I didn’t have a food processor, I grated the butter with a cheese grater while it was still hard from the freezer. Do this quickly because you don’t want the butter to soften.  If it becomes too soft during this process, pop the grated butter back in the freezer for a couple more minutes.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well (flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon)

3. Add the butter with the dry ingredients. Pinch the ingredients together until it looks like course meal.

4. Add a tablespoon of water at a time and continue to pinch with your fingertips until the dough just barely comes together.

5. Pour the somewhat crumbly dough onto plastic wrap. Pack it tightly into a disk, loosely rewrap the dough and then refrigerate for at least an hour.

6. On a lightly flour work surface, roll out the dough until it’s big enough to fit your pie pan. To pick it up off the counter, roll the dough onto your rolling pin and the roll it back onto the pan.

I got this recipe from and didn't make any changes. I mean 1,051 say its 5 stars so is it really worth making a change just so I can call it my own? I don't think so. 

1 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup crushed pecans, plus more for decoration

1. Start by melting the butter and preheating the oven to 400˚

2. With an electric mixer, blend the eggs until foamy.

3. With a spatula or whisk, stir together the butter and eggs.

4. Stir in the sugars and flour.

5. Lastly, mix in the milk and vanilla

6. Pour the crushed pecans into the bottom of the crust (apparently they are supposed to rise to the top during baking) then pour filling on top. Add whole pecans on top for decoration.

7. To prevent your crust from burning, cut out a rim with tin foil. I actually didn’t have a very dramatic crust edge because I didn’t have much overhang, but I did it anyway just in case.

8. Begin by baking for 10 minutes at 400˚ and then lower the temperature to 350˚ and bake for an additional 30 or 40 minutes.