Chinese Cod Dumplings with a Cherry Sauce Reduction

Food challenge time!

It is amazing how much I still look forward to my food challenge nights. When I started this blog almost a year ago I remember thinking to myself that I would probably get bored with the idea and move on to other hobbies. Luckily, I’m still having a blast and learning so much! For tonight’s challenge, Joe brought me cod, lettuce greens, cherries, and goat cheese. He also brought very specific instructions: “Go wild, go crazy. Don’t leave the fish in a filet form and don’t give me a salad.”

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I had wanted to try make chinese style dumplings for quite some time. I remember thinking that the recipe for the dough was very easy and was able to remember it for this challenge without use of the internet. It is just a 2:1 ratio of flour:hot water. Simple enough. I set my mind to turning these into dumplings.

First, I started the cherries. I pitted each cherry which took awhile. Sure enough, there are easier ways to pit a cherry than what I did. I added them to about 2 cups of red wine and let this cook on low while I did everything else.

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Next, I added 1 clove of minced garlic, about 1/8 cup of onion, several stems of chopped chives, and fresh grated ginger (I still have ginger from my Chicken Tikka Masala) to a few teaspoons of olive oil.

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This is where I seared the cod. It fell apart in the pan but I wasn’t planning on keeping the filet shape so it worked out.

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After the fish came out of the pan, I added lettuce torn into bite sized pieces. I left it cooking on medium-low so that the lettuce would slightly wilt. While it wilted, I shredded the fish with two forks.

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Next, I mixed the wilted lettuce and 2 ounces of goat cheese into the shredded fish.

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This is my dumpling filling. Now, I just needed dumplings. I mixed 2 cups of flour and one cup of boiling water to form the dough. I rolled it into a ball and let it set until the dough had cooled.

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I rolled out small circles (with a drinking glass! I rarely bake so I have never owned a rolling pin!). I filled each circle with about a tablespoon of filling, making sure that I got lettuce into every dumpling. At this point, I blanked on how dumplings actually look…I couldn’t remember and with my own no internet rules, just had to make up a way to close them. For the record, this is how they look so I wasn’t too far off in my own interpretation.

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Two lessons from the pictures above. First, it takes a lot of flour to keep the dough from sticking. Second, make sure you get all of the lettuce stems out or they poke through the delicate dough.

I fried the dumplings in a wok with olive oil and then added water and covered them to allow them to finish cooking.

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Finally, I added the wine reduced cherries. I have to have a moment of complete honesty here. I didn’t want to try them. It sounded good when I started, but the seeing the dumpling mixture kind of grossed me out. I had texture concerns. I thought I would be going to Kroger to get sushi for dinner. And then I thought, I have to blog about this because I promised to blog about all of my challenges including both successes and failures. I made Joe try them first, haha! I finally sucked it up and tried the final dish.

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I was pleasantly surprised. I have lots of tips for improvement, but it was good and we did not have to buy dinner. Will I make it again? Probably not. I think I want to try dumplings again but with a different filling. If you want to try this, or some variation of it, here are my suggestions for improvement:

1. get the dumplings a little browner before adding the water

2. add more goat cheese – I couldn’t taste it at all

3. thinner dough – I need a rolling pin or more arm muscle

Less Meat!

I tried to go vegetarian once after watching a documentary about meat processing. It only lasted about a week.

There has been a recent movement called “Meatless Mondays.” Despite the name suggesting that this is only happening on Mondays, you can go meatless on any day of the week. There are lots of reasons for cutting the meat including health reasons and environmental reasons. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to go fully vegetarian, but I do think I can pull off at least two days a week without meat to improve my overall health.

Sounds easy, right? It is a little more difficult with my attempts at following the Paleo diet about 75% of the time. So, no veggie pastas, veggie tacos, veggie pizza, or other easy go-to ideas that may immediately come to mind.

Today was my first attempt at being a vegetarian. I personally find it hard to think of a variety of ways to spice up my diet without the proteins I grew up on, so I thought I’d start sharing my attempts at making vegetarian fun and healthy.

My first meal was breakfast and I had a boiled egg and cantaloupe (and coffee of course!)

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For lunch, I used portabello mushroom caps, brushed them with olive oil inside and out, and added a slice of tomato, red onion, and mozzarella fresca. “Fresca” is Spanish for “fresh.” Every ingredient used was fresh, so I’ll call this my Portabello Fresca Pizza. I baked it at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

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Finally, for dinner, I tried a recipe I found on Pinterest for Kale and Butternut Squash Saute. I did not have the dried cranberries, but it still turned out to be pretty good. In past posts I’ve made Butternut Squash and Chicken Curry and Butternut Squash Soup.

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There are lot of types of vegetarians (as I often hear in my students’ speeches). Because of the egg and cheeses used in today’s meals, I’d be considered a lacto-ovo-vegetarian. I found that the most vegetarians have trouble getting enough protein, so I think the egg and cheese is necessary. I also had an apple with peanut butter (more protein) for a snack.

And apparently the term for someone trying to be vegetarian sometimes, like my two days a week, is a flexitarian. So many terms! We’ll see how long this lasts…

Flexi-Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian signing off.

Every meeting should involve food

Tonight’s cooking challenge was less about secret ingredients, and more about cooking something to please 3 friends who came over for a working dinner meeting with Joe. They requested lamb.  They got lamb… and a salad, my special mashed potatoes, and a white chocolate covered strawberry cheesecake.

First, I made the cheesecake so that it would have time to set and chill. And I have to be honest, I cheated a little. It isn’t from scratch. I just added my own personal touches to a box mix for cheesecake. To make it my own, I first dipped strawberries into white chocolate. I then mixed the cheesecake crust and filling as indicated on the box. To the filling, I added the leftover white chocolate and mashed strawberries.

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I sliced the strawberries and arranged them on the cheesecake. The finished product was refrigerated for a few hours and I was happy with how it turned out. In the future I will add more strawberries to the mix and I will try a cheesecake from scratch.

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A few hours later, I started the actual dinner. I started boiling skin on red potatoes. I always quarter these to make them cook faster.

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I put the lamb sirloins out for about 30 minutes so that they weren’t as cold when I started to sear them. I lightly salted and peppered them before searing.

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For the sirloins, I made a parsley, mint, and rosemary chimichurri sauce. I had made traditional chimichurri sauce in past meals, but had never tried it with parsley and mint which were selected specifically for the lamb. I used about a half cup of olive oil, 1.5 cups of parsley, a teaspoon of fresh rosemary, a tablespoon of fresh mint, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, one minced clove of garlic, and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. I thought it was a little too oily, so I had to spoon some of the olive oil out. The mint was harder to taste than I had hoped. Overall, it was an ok topping. I just need to work on perfecting it.

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After the lamb sirloins had seared on both sides, I put them in the oven at a low temperature to finish cooking. I made a salad of mixed greens, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese crumbles. I made a homemade dressing (not pictured) of olive oil and black cherry balsamic vinegar. This is the same balsamic vinegar I used to make a sweet potato caprese in a previous post.

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After the potatoes had boiled for about 15 minutes, I added them to a bowl with fresh chopped chives, onion and chive cream cheese, 3 tablespoons of butter, about 1/2 cup of milk, and a pinch of salt. I mixed it by hand so that they potatoes would be a little chunky. I love these potatoes and unlike other mashed potatoes I’ve had, they reheat really well. Luckily, there are some leftover for lunch tomorrow! Or I could use them in a meal makeover.

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Finally, I pulled the lamb out of the oven and served it with the chimichurri. The lamb was cooked perfectly and it was so good! We don’t buy lamb often, but when we do I love it. In past blogs I’ve tried sriracha roasted lamb shank with blackberry pear compote and lamb sliders.

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Now, here is the part where I fail as a food blogger. I forgot to take a picture of a plate meal! It was so yummy that we just starting shoving the food into our faces. I plan to make all three components again sometime, maybe I’ll catch a picture then.

Not too Baaaa-ad

I love all cheeses, but especially love goat cheese. You’ve probably picked up on that in previous posts where I’ve used it including the endive and goat cheese stuffed mushrooms,in salads, eggplant parmesan, in pasta sauce, on bruschetta, and in many other tasty recipes.

I recently found a kit to make goat cheese and decided to try it as an appetizer with french bread for New Year’s Eve.

The kit includes this:

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I just had to buy this:

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The “Easy to Digest” statement on the carton made me curious. I googled it and found out that goat’s milk is better for multiple reasons. We typically drink and bake with almond milk in our house, which is also a healthy alternative to cow milk. Another note: the kit asks for raw or regular pasteurized milk. I could only find ultra pasteurized. The kit instructions said this was ok but that it would just make the cheese softer. Hoping to account for this, I followed the directions to make firm cheese.

I had time to look all of this up while the cheesecloth, molds, and utensils were sterilized in boiling water.

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First, you cook the milk on medium heat, only stirring occassionally, until it reaches 190 degrees. Apparently it is really important NOT to use an aluminum pan in cheesemaking, as the acid will react with the aluminum and aluminum will leech into your cheese. This heating process took about 40 minutes.

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While this was cooking, I mixed water with the citric acid and let it absorb. After the milk reaches the appropriate temperature, you turn it to low and add the acidic mixture. It started to curdle. You remove it from the heat and let it sit for about 10 minutes. It looks something like this:

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Then, you pour it ont the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain.

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After about 10 minutes of draining, you add cheese salt, stir it in, and let it drain some more unitl it resembles mashed potatoes.

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You spoon the curds into the molds, where they will continue to drain.

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Then refrigerate for a a few hours and it is ready to go! This was a nice addition to the appetizers we had at New Year’s Eve. This is only one of the two cheese molds.

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As a side note, I discovered that you can clean and reuse cheesecloth. The kit comes with enough ingredients to make 10 batches. What you see above was only half a batch. Each kit should go a long way making it worth the money!