Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pot Stickers!

With a freezer full of meat, I sometimes get really sick of making the same old thing, the same old way. 

I'm bored with the stuff that I have been eating and I want to try something different.  I want to give my hubby something different.  BUT, I have to make do with what I have in the house.  I am NOT going to the store for anything.

 I love Pot Stickers.  When I lived in Connecticut I always had some in the freezer.  There was a specialty store nearby that carried them.  Here in Northern Maine we have no such store but... They do carry Wonton Wrappers in the grocery store so a while back I picked up a package and just have never gotten around to using them.

My favorite Pot Stickers are the pork ones so I spent the morning browsing a bunch of recipes to see the basics of what they usually contain. 

I have pretty much everything,

So lets go,  lets see what we can come up with.

Below is the basic recipe I followed but I didn't have exactly everything so I improvised a bit.


1/4 small head Napa cabbage, finely chopped (about 2 cups; 7 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/8 teaspoon for seasoning
1/3 pound ground pork (not too lean)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced (from 1/2-inch knob)
1 small carrot, coarsely shredded (about 2 tablespoons)
2 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons Asian (toasted) sesame oil
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
30 gyoza (pot sticker) wrappers, from 1 (14-ounce) package***
1/4 cup canola oil

***I used Wonton Wrappers and they worked fine.

All of the recipes called for Napa Cabbage. I don't have any of that but I do have regular cabbage.
So with the regular Cabbage I chopped it up fine and sprinkled it with the kosher salt and let it sit for a bit. 
 then I put it inside of a clean dish towel and wrung out as much water as I could.
and put it in a bowl.

Ground pork.... hmmm.. I don't have any of that either but I do have pork chops.

I took two pork chops out of the freezer

 and while it was still almost completely frozen I sliced it thin and then chopped it up fine.
Its pretty easy while its still frozen.  It would have been next to impossible if I had waited until it was thawed. 

 And No,
 I don't have a meat grinder or a food processor.  I would love both of those things but really, this worked fine and was close enough to ground pork for me.

I guess that is one of my points in writing this blog.

You don't really need all of the expensive or fancy gadgets and equipment. No matter what you have or what your cooking experience is, you can make all kinds of stuff.
Love, imagination and determination go a long way.

(I would however, not be happy if your took my knives or my Kitchen Aid Mixer!)

I grated the Carrot
Chopped the Scallion
Copped the Garlic
Chopped the Ginger
I put these ingredients into a bowl
with the Pork and Cabbage
Soy Sauce and
Sesame oil

In a separate dish I beat the egg and added 1/2 to ingredients in the bowl.

I mixed it up and started to fill.
I had a dry counter, a coffee cup with a little bit of water in it and a pastry brush. 
Keep your package of wrappers covered while you are working so they don't dry out.
 There are fancy ways to fold the wrappers and you can see by the pictures that I did them that way for a bit but it took so much longer that...
 I just folded them into a triangle. 
 Easier to make and easier to cook.
I did only a few at a time because the wrappers dry out so fast.

Place about 1 1/2 tsp. of filling into the center of the wrapper.
Brush the edges of the wrapper with wet pastry brush.
Fold as desired and press edges until you feel them stick.
As I worked, I placed the completed Pot Sticker onto a DRY cookie sheet not touching each other.  When the sheet was full I placed them into the freezer.
They are fragile and stick if at all wet so I found them much easier all around to deal with when they were frozen individually.
I have to say, Pot stickers are not something you want to make from scratch if you are in a hurry.
If you have the time they are WELL worth the effort.
I filled and froze in batches.  They don't take long to freeze.  Once they were frozen I removed them from the cookie sheet and placed them in a storage container. 
When all was said and done I had 45 Pot Stickers.  Plenty for the nights meal and plenty to keep in the freezer for another time.
To cook them I placed some oil in a pan and browned them on both sides taking care the entire time to be gentle because they are fragile. Once they were browned the way I wanted them I placed about 1/4 cup of water in the pan and covered them. Let them cook for about 5 minutes and removed the lid.  Let the rest of the water evaporate.

Remove from pan and serve with dipping sauce.
Remember... They are called Pot Stickers for a reason.  Be careful or they will fall apart.
I served them with two choices for dipping sauce.
My favorite Peanut Sauce from the store...
and a dipping sauce recipe I got from a friend

Robb's dipping sauce:
1/4 c. soy sauce
 approx. 1/8 c. rice wine vinegar
minced garlic - to taste, 1/2 tsp.
minced ginger - to taste,1/2 tsp.
 1 tsp.. brown sugar1/2 tsp. sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds.
- whisk all together in bowl and adjust seasoning to suit your liking.
Between the two,  I have to say I preferred Robb's sauce.
But, both were YUM!!
If you want to serve them as a meal a stir fry rice is nice!

Enjoy!  We did!



Friday, January 6, 2012

Italian in my Irish

Where I am from, Italian heritage was all around me,
yet I am not Italian.  I am Irish.
I grew up believing the BEST cooks were older Italian Grandma's or Ma's,
women who spoke broken English,
 had lots of kids,
stayed at home wearing flowered moomoo's and
ALWAYS had a pot of "sauce" on the stove. 
You didn't walk into that woman's house without being offered a plate of pasta,
hungry or not.
 Its not one woman that I am thinking of, but an image. An image that is an accumulation of many woman.
An image that represents a spirit of HOME to me.

Now, I must say that I am a bit nervous talking about "Sauce".
In a way I feel like I am trespassing on ground that does not belong to me.

So if you are of Italian heritage... forgive me.

I am writing about "Sauce" today because Ragu and Prego take up an entire isle at my grocery store.  I am writing about "Sauce" because, much like when I was younger, there are many who think of sauce and say.... that is too hard and way more cooking than I have time to do.
It is that thinking that sends people to that isle in the store for the jar of RAGU.

That's too bad, because nothing could be easier than making a pot of Sauce. 
 It is what I save to make when I am too tired or too busy too cook. 
It is what I make when I want to cook something on a moments notice,
like when a friend or a neighbor has a death in the family and I want to help them out. 

On top of all that...
its versatile,
it can be made in large batches and frozen, and...
it makes the house smell fabulous!!

Literally... it takes 5 minutes to put together.

Who doesn't like Spaghetti? 
 Well I'm sure there are some but really,
for the most part it is one of those universally liked things,
 something that most kids wont turn aways from.

My mother is a fabulous cook...
but my mother can not make spaghetti sauce.  It may be the only thing that she makes that I just do not like.
 Sorry Mom.

When I was newly married I wanted to learn to make Sauce in the worst way. 
 I think even as a young woman I wanted to convey that image of home.
  That warm image that draws a body in to stay for a while. 
Unlike everything else, Sauce was not something that my mother could teach me. 
For this I would need to go elsewhere.
So that's what I did. 
 I asked an Italian woman I worked with. 

 I was expecting to be taken to her kitchen where we would spend hours
 chopping and cooking
 and I would be instructed on those amazing
 "Italian Sauce Secrets". 
Instead, she wrote this very simple recipe on a scrap of paper and told me...
the trick to a good sauce is the Tomato's.  Don't skimp on your tomato's!
and cook it slow!

So here it is...


1 32 oz. can of Italian Plum Tomato's
2 cans Tomato Paste
Meat of your choosing, I use Italian Sweet Sausage most of the time.
Olive Oil, about 1/3 cup
Lots of chopped Garlic... 2 + Tablespoons once its all chopped. (Yes, I do cheat and use the jar Garlic but, NEVER garlic powder.)
1 Tablespoon of Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Basil
3 Tablespoons of Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
Salt and Pepper

Now one thing that I have learned along the way is that even among Italians, Sauce is different from household to household,
 family to family. 
Every family SWEARS by their sauce to the point where they may not eat anyone's sauce but their mom's, or wife's. 
My house is no different. 
My hubby, even me... We prefer my sauce to others. 
 I have been told that I make a darn good sauce for an Irish girl. 

I will say, I like my sauce thick and chunky.  The original recipe had, 1 tomato sauce can of Red Wine and another of water but that was too thin for my taste.  Feel free to add it back if you prefer a thinner sauce.

So... add your olive oil to the pan with sausage and garlic.  Brown it up just a bit.  Open tomato's and crush them with your hands (careful or you may squirt yourself). Add crushed Tomatoes and all other ingredients to pot and simmer on low heat for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.

These days unless I am in a hurry, I just dump all the ingredients in my crock pot and put it on low for 5 or 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

A word of advice... If you want to double the recipe don't double the tomato paste.  If you use 4 cans of paste it is horribly pasty... use 3 cans.

So... next time you are reaching for the Ragu... Don't.
Reach for a can of good Italian Plum Tomato's instead.  You will be surprised how easy it is. 
 Your house will smell terrific and your taste buds will thank you!

I have discovered that the Moomoo isnt necessary.


Here's to the Italian in your...?


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stuffed Italian Bread, YUM!

I'll have to say...
its one thing to move to the other side of town
and its quite another thing to move to another state. 
About 6 years ago my hubby and I pulled up stakes and transplanted our roots
from Southern Connecticut
to Northern Maine.
We wanted to buy a house
 and we were never going to get one in Connecticut.

This is our house in Maine.
Needs a bit of work but,
bit by bit...
we'll get it done.

Now,  I'm no dummy. 
I knew that we were in for an adjustment. 
How could it not be when you are going from a place where there are 100 memories around every corner
 to a place where there are none.
I guess we just figured...
Maine is still New England,
how different can it be? 

Well... I am here to say, it was like moving to another planet.

My hubby and I had been coming to Maine for every vacation since we married in 1986. 
 We thought we knew where we were going. 
 Let me tell you, the spot we chose in Northern Maine is nothing like the L.L. Bean Maine we anticipated.
 We are in
 "The County". 
According to Native County residents
 its the "Real" Maine.
The language is a bit different. 
The culture is different. 
The priorities are different.

 The food is different. 

Here is a funny story that drives home just how much I was a fish out of water. 
A few weeks after we moved I was cleaning an apartment for a little extra cash with a local girl whom I had never met. 
 As we worked we were chatting away. 
She was telling me all about her plans to move to a town that was about an hour north of us,
 when she said...
yeah, I moving because my "band" is up there.
 My response to her was, 
Oh, what kind of music do you play?...
 thinking as I said it,
 that we were going to have a nice chat about music.

Well, this queer little look came over her face, like...


Band of Indians, she said. 
I am a Micmac Indian.  The band here is Malaseet!

Well... didn't I feel dumb!

I eventually got over my embarrassment.

I am adjusting to all the cultural changes. 
I love my new community and the "people" are its best asset!

I wouldn't go back to Connecticut now, even if I could. 

There are some things though that I will always miss and the biggest is the FOOD!

Anything and everything that I could ever want was available to me in Connecticut. 
Now, my options are extremely limited. 
I am learning that if I want something that I am missing,
 I am going to have to figure out how to make it myself...
if I can find the ingredients, that is. 

One thing that I really miss is a good loaf of Italian bread. 
 Here in "the County" they prefer a much softer bread. 
 If I go to the store I can find something that is called Italian Bread but...
its not. 
Its like... Wonder Bread shaped in a long oval.

 I have been searching and trying and trying again,
 recipe after recipe
trying to find something that compares to what I am missing.

I think I have found something close enough. 
Thank you Emeril!
I love to make bread so its been a fun exercise.

So anyway,
 today I wanted to make something yummy!
I wanted to use ONLY what I had on hand.
I want to Love my husband and my family by cooking.
In the fridge I had a small head of broccoli that was about to go bad.
  In the freezer I had a half a bag of spinach that was too small to do much with.

Those things got me thinking… STUFFED ITALIAN BREAD!!

So here I go…

Bread Recipe is as follows…


2 cups water, warm
1 3/4 ounces cake yeast(1/3 cup)
Here is a link to a yeast conversion table.
I use instant yeast so I always need this handy when I am trying a new recipe.
5 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
Add all of the above ingredients to your mixer with your dough hook.  I would leave out at least 1 cup of the flour.  It may not need it all.  Start with 4 to 4 and 1/2 cups and let it mix for a while.  Once it has all mixed together turn off the mixer and give it a feel.  If it is very sticky add some more flour until you get a relatively stiff ball around the dough hook.  When you touch it it may be a bit sticky but it wont come loose onto your finger tips. The ball will feel stiff.  Once you have all the flour you need let it mix for 5 or so minutes.  Lift out your dough ball, remove the hook, oil your bowl a bit and add dough back, cover and place in a warm spot to rise till doubled in bulk.
Once it has risen punch it down, remove from bowl onto a lightly oiled counter.  Split dough in half.  Press out to an oval or rectangle.
Add filling. (See Below for suggestions)
Pull in ends and sides and pinch together.
Place loaf, seems down on the underside of a cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal.
Allow to rise...maybe 1/2 hour...maybe less if it is very warm.
Slice top with a sharp knife just enough to break the skin. don't go all the way through to the filling.
Spray top with water and place in a 375 degree oven for three minutes.
  Spray with water again and cook for another three minutes.
Spray one more time and then cook to an internal temperature of 180 degrees or until top is golden and when you knock on crust it sounds hollow.

Remove from oven and move onto a rack to cool.

Serve warm or cold. 

If you don't want to stuff it,
 just press it out, roll it up,
 turn under the ends and place on the pan to rise.
 Right before you place it in the oven slice the top, brush with 1 egg white, lightly beaten and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
 or topping of choice.

 Always spray with water three separate times at the beginning of cooking.
 This process is what makes your bread nice and crusty.

I stuffed one loaf with...
3 sauteed, Sweet Italian Sausage
2 large Cloves of Garlic, sliced thin and sauteed
1 small head of Broccoli, chopped and sauteed
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
Red Pepper Flakes
Approx. 1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese

I stuffed the other loaf with…

1+ Cup of Chopped Pepperoni
2 large cloves of Garlic, sliced thin and sauteed
½ bag of chopped frozen Spinach, sauteed
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
Red Pepper Flakes
Approx. 1 cup of shredded Mozzarella Cheese

What you end up stuffing it with is up to you.
Use what you have.
Use what sounds yummy to you.

Create your own.

 I didn’t go to the store for anything.
  I made do with what I had.
I will not end up throwing away the broccoli or spinach.

I have plenty to keep for us and...
Plenty to give away,

with lots and lots of love attached!