An Easy, Delish Asian Dumpling Tuesday, Feb 26 2013 

Well, I decided to come back for the second month of the cookbook challenge (http://growandresist.com/2012/12/21/cook-the-books-a-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.

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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.

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The above pictures show my dumplings just prior to cooking. Ms. Nguyen includes a website — www.Asiandumplingtips.com — 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!

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The secret to chocolate mousse Wednesday, Jan 30 2013 

Well, I mentioned recently that I was interested in the cookbook challenge posted at http://growandresist.com/2012/12/21/cook-the-books-a-cookbook-challenge/. I had borrowed the January and February selections from my local library, devoured them page by glorious page recently when I was ill and stuck in bed, and then finally got into the kitchen today after finishing up chores, homeschooling and the like. I am so happy I did, with sweet results!

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I think Dorie Greenspan is my new hero…Her recipes sound so amazing, fresh and inspired. I cannot wait to purchase my own copy of her book Around My French Table so I don’t have to worry about ruining the library’s copy while I’m playing (messily at times) in my kitchen. Her stories are interesting and entertaining, as well as educational. But I will now forever love her for the inclusion of the top-secret chocolate mousse recipe. It is probably the best I’ve ever tasted — not to mention the absolute easiest! And hey, with such a large family and crazy life…Well, I’m all for easy! You will have to buy this book and try this recipe!

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I’ve been searching for a recipe for chocolate mousse for as long as I have been cooking. And I am so happy to have stumbled upon one that will live in my recipe files forever. So for the curious: What I liked about it…

Obviously “everything” is too general, so here’s my short list:

036First, all natural ingredients. By that I mean there are no boxes of pudding or canned anything or otherwise heavily processed, chemical-laden ingredients…It’s just chocolate, eggs, salt, sugar. That’s it. Simple. While I’ve seen other recipes that add cream, coffee or liqu0r of some kind — which I’m sure are delicious add-ins — this recipe would be great when you want to serve something elegant but fast. I always have those four ingredients handy…I mean, who doesn’t have a stash of chocolate, right??! (If you don’t, you need to start building a stash ASAP! Seriously!!!)

And guess what else catapulted this to my top fav chocolate mousse? Absolutely no gelatin of any kind — thank goodness! I despise working with gelatin…I don’t think it likes me. And I can only stomach it when doing jello shots (go figure!). It never sets up right for me. Ever. Which is sad because even my 8 year old son can get it to work. Plus, I’m trying to purge many animal products from our diet. I make an exception for the eggs because we own our own free-range chickens, thus I know where the eggs come from and how the chickens are treated, so no one needs to call PETA or anything. It’s totally legit and the chickens actually seem happy. I digress —

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This is definitely a keeper!!! My official recipe testers loved it and some were disappointed there were no seconds. I served it with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon, though a dash of cocoa would have worked nicely too. It was very light but yet dense with chocolate, if that even makes sense. My palate was in heaven.

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