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Perfect Chinese Dumplings – For The New Year & Beyond

Happy Lunar New Year of the Sheep! Chinese New Year is one of my favorite holidays growing up in Hong Kong. A celebration of Spring’s impending arrival, we would fill our homes with fresh flowers (boy, do I miss the sweet scent of the Narcissus bulb!), see friends and family, and eat a lot of food that typically only gets served during this festive time of year.

While these precious gatherings are harder to come by these days, I hope to carry on this great tradition by making the foods that remind me most of home. Turnip cake is a solid staple, while it does take a bit of work, it’s so worth it to make your own – check out my recipe (and menu) here. This year, I’m going to dive into another gold star staple, the Chinese dumpling!

Ready to wrap and roll!

Ready to wrap and roll!

Our household favorite savory dumpling recipe features some unusual ingredients like bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms (for crunch), and Chinese chives (more garlicky than regular chives). You can omit or substitute those ingredients and the dumpling would still be delish – this recipe is pretty forgiving. To learn more about wrapping, serving, and storing your dumplings, check out this great noshon.it post:

Ingredients (makes 50 dumplings):

– 7 – 10 Shitake Mushrooms chopped

– 10 – 15 pieces Wood Ear Mushrooms chopped

– 1 small can Bamboo Shoots chopped

– 2 small Carrots chopped

– 5 – 6 Napa Cabbage (or 10-12 green cabbage) leaves chopped

– 8-12 stalks of Chinese chives (or 2-3 stalks of spring onions if unavailable) chopped

– 1 pound Raw shrimp (as binding agent for the vegetable mix) grounded into a paste using a food processor

– Soy sauce to season dumpling mix

– 50 Dumpling Skins (should be able to find Nasoya brand at Wholefoods or local grocery store)

– Soy sauce or Citrus dumpling sauce with a drop of seasame oil for dipping

Instructions:

1. Chop all listed ingredients

2. Mix all ingredients well with soy sauce

3. Wrap a small spoonful of mix in a dumpling skin

4, Steam, Pan fry, or Boil your dumplings and serve hot with dipping sauce on the side

5. Have a dumpling party!

Chinese Dumplings

Wrapped up and ready to go!

Gift Great Hair – A DIY Last Minute Gift (for the super procrastinator)

Happy holidays everyone!!!  I can’t believe the end of 2014 is nigh.  This has been a seminal year for me and the husband as it signifies our first marital Christmahanakwanzika together!  In lieu of buying material things for the holidays (and in general), we have made the conscious decision to shed the clutter in our lives and minds.

But… gifting can be fun.  Which brings me to my perfect procrastinator, yet super practical, 5 minute (no joke) gift idea – a gift of great hair.  Who would say no to that?

Homemade Shampoo and Conditioner

Homemade Shampoo and Conditioner

I came across this homemade solution a few months ago when I was desperate for hair products that are organic yet effective.  Since I had all the ingredients readily available, I figure, why not?

Shampoo Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 Cup of Water

Conditioner Ingredients:

Other Materials:

  • Ketchup / Mustard squeeze bottle or perhaps an old shampoo bottle?
  • Essential oils, if you’d like. Here’s some guidance on properties of essential oils for hair

Directions:

  • Mix Shampoo / Conditioner ingredients together in 2 separate bottles
  • To use shampoo: Pour baking soda solution on scalp, massage and let sit for a few minutes. Rinse
  • To use conditioner: Pour vinegar solution on hair, massage and rinse. For extra shine, rinse with cold water (closes hair cuticles)
  • Do a happy dance. VOILA. It is THAT SIMPLE

Now you may think this is weird, I get it. I also know that the solution doesn’t foam like commercial products out there, but here’s my “why not” logic:

1. Baking soda is a known cleaning agent. It’s a mild abrasive and attractant (picks up dirt), and it is also alkali, which deodorizes. No brainer! In fact, after you apply the baking soda “shampoo”, you’ll notice that your hair is SQUEAKY CLEAN.

2. Apple cider vinegar has the same acidity as your hair, thereby restoring the alkali environment that the baking soda shampoo created. It also works to naturally de-tangle your hair and binds closely to your hair cuticle.  Ooooo, SILKY AND SHINY hair.

3. It’s works! It’s natural! It’s magic!

I have been using this solution for a few months now and have experimented on my husband (lol), we have both noticed a big difference in the health of our hair.  I have received more compliments on how bouncy, voluminous, and shiny my hair is over the past few months than I have in past years (even my hair stylist said so, therefore it must be true)!

This has since been recommended and passed onto many friends and family of ours and we’ve heard some pretty great feedback.  Now, this solution shouldn’t be used every day as it is pretty potent, so definitely listen to your scalp and adjust as needed. And try not to get the vinegar in your eyes, it WILL burn.

On that note, HAPPY OWLIDAYS and see you all in 2015!

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Just Stew It – Polish Edition

Winter gettin you down? No sweat (it’s too cold anyway), lift your spirits with some Polish Hunter Stew!

I still remember the first time I had this radiant stew years ago at an unassuming New Jersey catering spot.  With loads of vegetables, the slight tang of sauerkraut, smokiness of kielbasa, spiciness of cayenne pepper, this Polish national dish (Bigos) is anything but forgettable.

Bigos - Polish Hunter Stew

Bigos – Polish Hunter Stew

Far from being a “quick” dish, this stew is a great alternative to your traditional stew and is worth the extra TLC.  What’s more? It freezes well, keeps well, AND it tastes even better by days 2 and 3! BOOYAH!

Ingredients

  • 2 thick slices hickory-smoked bacon
  • 1 pound kielbasa sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pound cubed beef stew meat
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage (green or napa,both ok)
  • 1 (16 ounce) jar sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon caraway seed, crushed
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 ounce dried mushrooms (ok to skip)
  • 1 dash bottled hot pepper sauce
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 cups beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons canned tomato paste
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes

Directions

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and kielbasa; cook and stir until the bacon has rendered its fat and sausage is lightly browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat and transfer to a large casserole or Dutch oven.

2. Add the garlic and onion in the pot, sautee until golden (approximately 3 minutes), then add carrots, fresh mushrooms, cabbage and sauerkraut. Reduce heat to medium; cook and stir until the carrots are soft, about 10 minutes. Do not let the vegetables brown.

3. Deglaze the pan by pouring in the red wine and stirring to loosen all of the bits of food and flour that are stuck to the bottom. Season with the bay leaf, basil, marjoram, paprika, salt, pepper, caraway seeds and cayenne pepper; cook for 1 minute.

4. If you have them, mix in the dried mushrooms, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, tomato paste and tomatoes. Heat through just until boiling. Pour the vegetables and all of the liquid into the casserole dish with the meat. Cover with a lid.

5. Cook on low to medium heat for at least 1 hour or until meat is very tender.

Give a gift of food!

From Poland, via NYC, gifted with Love!

Credit goes to All Recipes with my notes and modifications