An Easy, Delish Asian Dumpling Tuesday, Feb 26 2013 

Well, I decided to come back for the second month of the cookbook challenge ( and this month’s book was Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen. I was a little intimidated, honestly, because I’ve never really worked with wonton wrappers, egg roll wrappers and certainly not ever dumpling wappers…I even have a hard time folding a burrito! And not only were these going to be the backbone of the recipe, but they were going to be homemade. Like from scratch! I mean, I do prefer cooking from scratch when there is time, but for dumplings?? I wasn’t sure I could do it. Fortunately for me, Ms. Nguyen’s book is extremely detailed AND extremely easy. She outlines the key to making and filling dumplings in a way that is practically fool-proof. After the first attempt came together so smoothly, I was intrigued and delighted. Even my kids were pretty impressed with my results – one asked where we ordered take-out! Not only that, but Asian Dumplings was full of narratives and pictures – the kind of cookbook I sit down to read from cover to cover. And I did just that before selecting my first recipe to try.


I made a double-batch of the Steamed Vegetable Dumplings. My only disappointment was that I could not find brown pressed tofu, so I used an extra firm tofu that I pressed slightly, froze for a bit, thawed and pressed again. I’m not sure if the texture was comparable, but I liked the overall taste and the tofu meshed well with the other ingredients, all of which I  was able to find in my local grocery store. Which is to say that at least for this particular recipe you would easily be able to assemble all the ingredients without resorting to ordering online or anything – except for the brown tofu as noted. Ms. Nguyen has some amazingly exotic-sounding recipes in this book, though I confess I’m not much of a carnivore and not at all adventurous when it comes to meat and seafood. But I can see myself easily following her savory recipes for my family, or adapting many of her delectable looking recipes for my leaning-toward-vegetarian tastes.


The above pictures show my dumplings just prior to cooking. Ms. Nguyen includes a website — — as well as a wonderful resource page, for newbies starting out. I am a huge fan of that site now! And if any of you are lucky enough to live out near San Francisco you can even take some classes!

So I ended up pan-frying the bottoms slightly and was pleased with the results, which I served with rice and steamed vegetables for a complete meal.

Unfortunately for me, once again this was a borrowed library book, so by the time I requested the book and picked it up and then had to return it because it was on hold and not renewable (sad for me!), I did not have enough time to play in the kitchen with any of the other recipes. At least not yet. But once again I’ve found another book to add to my repertoire — Asian Dumplings is now on my “cookbooks I need” list, lol…Meanwhile I’m hoping to get back on the library’s reserve wait list and try something from the “Sweet Treasures” chapter!

If you are a fan of samosas, spring rolls or Asian dumplings of any kind, you really need to get this book and go play in the kitchen!

Visit to the Candy Kitchen, Ocean City Maryland Monday, Feb 25 2013 

While at my daughter’s cheerleading competition this past weekend we had the pleasure of checking out The Candy Kitchen on Saturday afternoon. Ocean City is full of these delightful stores! The colors were so bright and I could’ve died right there in candy heaven! But I survived with a little cash left to spare (and I do mean little!)…


I enjoyed the way the store displayed the mouth-watering sugary treats. My fav by far was the King Tut confection, which I am going to try to figure out how to make. But I also loved the shoestring licorice, brightly colored lollipops and cool candies like edible Legos! Wow!!!


Check out the adorable flipflop candies! I definitely was inspired! Hopefully there will be candy posts to come…after I get my laundry caught up…whatever decade that might be!

So — Go play in the kitchen!!!

Potatoes Potatoes! Recipes wanted! Sunday, Feb 24 2013 

Well I asked for potatoes and I sure did get some! Hubby found 100lbs for $16! So please send your fav potatoes recipes and we will have a potato party!

A rebel cake… Tuesday, Feb 19 2013 

February 18th was my son’s 17th birthday. He was excited because he had off from public school (for Presidents’ Day). And he was excited because he made it into the local fire company (he can literally run there) as a junior firefighter (no more quiet moments in this house — I mean, should there have ever been any…). And he was excited because I baked his cake and designed it the way he wanted…


I found the recipe I use in the Joy of Cooking cookbook, by Irma Rombauer, which is kinda my “go to” cooking manual, and finally tried it one day just to see if I liked it. I won’t give away all the intricacies of the recipe, but I will say that it is more than worth it to try! It does not take that much time, really — baking from scratch as opposed to a box is much better in my opinion (no artificial everything). But this recipe uses real chocolate, chopped and melted (4 ounces) and then mixed in with 3/4 cup mayonnaise, as opposed to using cocoa powder. While that may seem a little fussy, I think that it gives the cake an extra boost of chocolatey goodness that you just can’t always achieve with cocoa powder. I personally attribute this to the fact that the melted chocolate incorporates much more smoothly and evenly into the mayonnaise, so there are no little clumpy bits of cocoa (which always happens to me even if I sift! ugh!!!). Not to knock cocoa — it is delcious and works great in many recipes. But this particular cake’s taste really shines when using real chocolate.

So the cake was cooling — and stuck in the pan (ever suffer memory loss when baking and forget to grease and flour??). And I was trying to figure out the best method to achieve the particular design my teen country boy wanted for the cake. I chose to work with fondant, mostly because I thought the stars would be better cut than piped. At least by me. I’ve taken several Wilton courses, but time is just not always in my favor when trying to achieve birthday cake perfection. So a quick trek to Michael’s and I was able to procure fondant in a box. Not as exciting as homemade, and certainly not as tasty! Next time I will think things through a bit better to plan ahead. Of course, hopefully I won’t be recovering from a week of illness and scrambling last-minute to get stuff done. But que sera sera, right?! So, ever one to make the best of things, I bought the fondant. But the one benefit is that they make the stuff pre-mixed in colors, so I did not have to mess with red!

Anyway, this is what the finished product looked like:


He liked it! So I count that a success…And since it’s just about gone, everyone thought it was quite tasty too!

Chai Spiced Milk Saturday, Feb 16 2013 

014When the wind is howling outside the windows as the sun sinks into the blackness of night you can often find me curled up under my favorite quilt (which my mother made me!) either reading or watching a movie…And if it’s cold enough you can bet I’ll be sipping on chai-spiced milk. “Why not chai tea?” you may wonder. Well, honestly at night I don’t need the caffeine. And I’m afraid I’m more than a bit of a food snob — I won’t use decaf!

In order to make this warm, spicy and delicious drink, you may have to seek out a few exotic sounding ingredients…But it will be worth your while. You’ll need peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, star anise and cardamom seeds. You can see the last three spices in my picture to the left. The peppercorns were already in the peppermill and I forgot to take them out to include them in the picture. (Since most people have seen pepper before, I wasn’t too worried.)

At any rate, I found a local Indian grocer in my area back in 2010 where I obtained my spices for a very reasonable (a/k/a “cheap”) price. I’ve seen them other places where I thought I’d have to sell one of my children. Seriously. And while I do love great chai, I actually love my children more than food!!! At any rate, the packages I ended up buying were larger, so I got more for my dollar. Plus I had enough that I was able to share some with my sister. And I still have some left. From a purchase I probably last made in late spring of 2012 — I know, time to refresh my stash….I do use these things in my baking too, but not as often as I use them in this particular recipe.

This chai recipe, by the way, was inspired one day while I was standing in the grocery store. I actually took the time to read the label on the back of a box of chai tea and a box of powdered chai tea mix , and I thought I could probably come up with something similar by myself without a mix and without the flavoring already added to the tea…I have experimented with adding other spices, such as fresh ginger, white pepper or whole allspice and even whole cloves. But this combination of spices is my favorite go-to recipe, though I will add the above-mentioned things from time to time just to change things up a bit (I know, I live on the wild side, right?) Well — the chai spiced milk part came from just omitting the tea one evening out of necessity…because one of my children used the last – gasp! – teabag without telling me! And discovering that I had no tea after I was already through the majority of the recipe gave me this heavenly-scented, body-warming, exotic creation that is now almost a nightly ritual during the harsh winter months.

So here’s what I do:

* Place about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds in a small saucepan and crush slightly with the back of a spoon.

* Add 2-3 whole anise stars to the pan and crush lightly

[NOTE: You don’t want to pulverize your spices into a powder – you merely want to crush them enough to release their scent and flavor.]

* Break off a 1″ piece of cinnamon stick and add to the saucepan.

* Next, add about 1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper. I use whole peppercorns in a peppermill and just measure out what I want after I grind it.

* Add sugar — this will depend on how sweet you like your spiced milk.  I probably add up to 1/3 cup, and my recipe serves about two people — unless, like me, you have very large cups!

* Finally, add your milk. Again, this will depend largely on how much you want. I usually eyeball it, but the last time I measured, it was about 3/4 cup per serving. So in other words, for the two servings in this recipe, I used 1 1/2 cups. I have made this with regular whole milk, but I have also used coconut milk (not the canned kind, the one in the dairy case) and almond milk to make it vegetarian/vegan friendly. I have not tried it with soy, so if you happen to try it out, please comment to let me know what you think.

* Heat the milk til it’s as hot as you like — I like mine cooked just under scalding, where bubbles are just barely starting to pop up around the edges of the pan.

* Strain the milk through a fine mesh sieve and pour into a cup.


* Enjoy!

A crummy Valentine’s Day… Thursday, Feb 14 2013 

I am hopeful that all of you are out enjoying the romance, building on your relationships or blessing others in some amazing way. Me? Can’t…I’m stuck in bed with whatever thing my husband and son suffered from earlier this week. I kept thinking that “it” had passed me by. Until late this afternoon when I should have been starting on the lovely supper I had planned to prepare. Instead, I was not able to play in the kitchen, which just really sucks!

However, prior to my being attacked by “it”, I had the chance to experiment with quite a few recipes in the last few days (in and around taking care of the sick ones)…Just didn’t have time to write about them. Stay tuned for coming posts about some really cool recipes, including the Cook the Books challenge post on Asian Dumplings, a book by Andrea Nguyen, as well as a post about my stomach-soothing Chai Spiced Milk. Thanks for being so patient.

Happy Valentine’s Day — Hug someone and share the love!


No One Knows, But… Friday, Feb 8 2013 

Welcome to Take Two of February’s Secret Subject Swap. This week, 14 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

My subject is “No one knows, but my favorite thing is ________ because __________” and it was submitted by: Here goes:

Baking In A Tornado

Well, this is a tricky subject. I mean, I’m pretty much an open book. Ask anyone who knows me — I’m an opinionated, heart-on-her-sleeve, indoor kinda gal with a passion for cooking/baking, writing, crafts…I’m not terribly unpredictable. At all. Oh don’t think that doesn’t mean I don’t get hair-brained ideas or get a little wild and crazy at times. But it’s usually not an out-of-the-blue “where the heck did that come from?” kinda thing. Not usually. Most of my family and friends know my likes, dislikes, subjects I’m likely to embrace or rant about, favorite colors (purple, blue, black, white), favorite foods (pastas, fruits, chocolate and more chocolate!), favorite types of music, art, etc. or at least pieces if they can’t narrow it down and need to generalize. So. Is there a secret passion I have that no one has discovered yet?? Plus, in this house it’s hard to keep a secret…ask my kids. They hate that!

Well…Maybe there is something after all that might surprise a few people. I’ll start with something small that people may not know…

Though I’m not really an “outdoor gal”, I do enjoy letterboxing ( and geocaching ( Both are like a treasure hunt, which is probably what intrigues me and why I actually am more inclined to participate. People go through a lot of trouble to hide the boxes, post the clues. I really am a huge fan. You can find letterboxes and caches just about anywhere and everywhere. They are very easy “sports” to engage in. And child-friendly. Which helps when you’re a mom of six who needs to find some way to engage her children in “outdoor” tihngs even if you’re not an “outdoor gal”…

Other than that, I seriously dislike a lot about the outdoors. If you were to meet me, you would see what I mean…I do not look the least bit athletic. I look like I — ahem! — bake. A lot. But as a woman of a more advanced age (no I am NOT old!!! just…”older” than I was, say five or ten or so years ago…), it may be slow going. And I don’t like to sweat. Not ever. It grosses me out. A LOT! However, if there is dancing involved I may be inclined to sweat just a bit. But that’s an indoor activity, which means air conditioning is a very real possibility!!! Finally…I can NOT abide things that crawl…such as bugs. You can have them! I don’t want to be walking through the woods and attract ticks, mosquitoes, spiders…And that isn’t even the half of it — there are other things in the woods or in nature that I’m not a huge fan of…like snakes, ew! I am afraid of even the little garter snakes my sons find. And mice. Oh-M-G I am paranoid of mice! When I was pregnant with my now 8 year old son, we had a few mice in the house (we live in a very rural area — not good for someone who is not a fan of creatures). I jumped up on top of the table — at 7 1/2 months pregnant, mind you — because I thought I saw a mouse. My children have to come to my rescue for anything that is alive and not a domestic, intentional pet — you know, like a dog. Or possibly a cat (though I’m allergic). Maybe even a goldfish — because if it’s swimming in its tank I know it can’t get me. Yeah, I’m not terribly brave…And that’s one issue that is not going to be resolved any time in the near future between me and the Great Outdoors, though I am working on it.

So I dislike a lot about the outdoors. Oddly enough, I’m drawn to pictures of landscapes, flowers, birds…I guess on canvas or print, there are no bugs or other creepy crawly things — and no chance of any jumping out. You know, to get me. I realize I’m way bigger, and that the thought of, say, an ant causing me major bodily damage is ridiculous. But. Yeah…not an “outdoor gal”…

So this may surprise most people (except probably the very few who know me extremely well). Ready???

Well — I love kayaking!! Yeah, it’s an outdoor kinda thing. You probably don’t even believe me after all the rants about my fear of the Great Outdoors! And oh yeah — though I live in Pennsylvania, not too far from the Susquehanna River and the Conestoga River and…well, a few more small bodies of water — I’ve only ever been kayaking in Maine. I mean maybe two vacations’ worth – maybe something like 14 days out of my entire life total. But I kayaked my heart out. Every day, weather permitting. And even a little when it wasn’t so permitting. Since I’m such an “indoor gal”, this would surprise most people.

What do I like about it? Hmmm — I really can’t even put it into words. Because secretly, between you and me — and now the internet — I’m terrified of sharks. I have no idea why. Never been in the water when one was sighted, have had no traumatic shark experiences at a zoo or aquarium or anything remotely close. Once I let my nephew pet one at an exhibit on the boardwalk…I didn’t go too near it of course. It was a small little thing (from afar). In a tank. Like a controlled exhibit. But I don’t like anything about them. I mean their teeth regenerate after they lose one! What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks?! Do any other creatures do that?? I confess I haven’t researched it — I am kinda scared to know! But yeah…I’m afraid to watch Jaws, let alone Soul Surfer (though I peeked at bits of that one from the dining room). So most oceans scare me to death. And again where was I kayaking on the two vacations I actually kayaked?? In the Atlantic Ocean!!! First of all, Maine is the backdrop for most of Stephen King’s gory stories, so why was I taking a chance in the ocean off the coast of Maine????! I don’t know — but I loved it!

I loved being on the water, feeling close to nature in a way I might not have ever been before…You can see a lot of things much more clearly – things you may otherwise have missed if you were, say, on land. For instance, I saw mussels clinging to a patch of rock that jutted out of the water only at low tide, which was too far away from the shoreline to see. Except in a kayak. I got to see lobster traps (um, “lobstah” for the Maine readers…) up close and personal. Boats, fish, seagulls, these cool ducks that dive under the water and resurface elsewhere. You can actually see some of those things from the shore, but it’s oh-so-friggin’-cool when you’re in a kayak. On another trek, at the last house we rented on the coast, kayaks were included in the rental. It was easier to kayak to my husband’s grandfather’s house than it was to drive from the rental house up the coast and down around the point to his house. Kayaking — 5 minutes. Driving — maybe 20…depending on traffic. But — Off in the not-terribly-far distance from the rental house was a small island. Where bald eagles were nesting. On the opposite side where we would not have seen them. I got in real close with the kayak and took pictures with my video camera, which had an awesome zoom lens too! The ability to glide across the water powered by my own body was — exhiliarating. Racing my husband across the small cove…exciting. Paddling in the busy ocean amid lobster boats at sunrise, seeing the men at work in the glistening light…incredible. Swishing back toward the shore while the dusk fell upon the land and the waters were smooth like glass, still and silent…breathtaking.

So yeah — love love love kayaking!!! Which I guess is not quite such a secret anymore!!!

Yummmmm – a simple snack Sunday, Feb 3 2013 

Yesterday I was starving but it was kinda too close to supper for me to really eat much. I had some nice tomatoes I’d picked up at the farmers’ market, so I cut one into wedges and sprinkled them with fleur de sel and some fresh ground pepper — hit the spot!!!

A simple snack...

A simple snack…

February Secret Subject Swap! Friday, Feb 1 2013 

Well, it’s now February 1st (where did January go!?) That means that it’s almost time for the February Secret Subject Swap! The Secret Subject Swap was started by Karen at This will be my first time participating, but I am so very excited! As I understand it, from Karen’s explanation, bloggers who agree to participate send in a prompt, and the host assigns a prompt to each blogger. Then the bloggers all post their pieces simultaneously on the same day at approximately the same hour. It sounds fun and challenging…I’ve already gotten my prompt and have been just waiting to hit the “publish” button…

I hope you’ll take some time to check out the swap — and even sign on to participate. And that you’ll stay tuned to catch my secret subject post, which is…Well, stay tuned and you’ll see!!!

By the way, February’s “take one” swap will be on Karen’s site today. My own post will be coming February 8th in the “take two” section…Don’t miss it!!!