Off Duty.

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At some point in the history of writing these posts about dinner, I mentioned that my husband was a hardbound encyclopedia set salesman.  I think I even went so far as to call him a “warrior of the static information age”.   I wrote that because I thought it sounded absurd enough to be obviously untrue.  But then, one of Andra’s relatives recalled with sweet nostalgia that someone in her family had at one time actually BEEN an encyclopedia salesman.  I mean, what are the chances that my sarcastic, obscure reference would actually have some basis in reality in one of our families?   I should have known that any attempt to be funny always results in proving what a jerk I am.

The truth is that my husband is not an encyclopedia set salesman.   He’s a dedicated public servant and for the last two years, he’s managed to nimbly weave a blanket of freedom at an extremely difficult loom and manage to make it look easy and be fun to hang out with.   (For more information on exactly what my husband does for a living, you can go to his blog, http://www.whatIdoforworkandhowitrelatestoyou.nonya.com.)

Now, he’s done with the hard stuff (for at least a year) and we’ve moved to a new place, where we’ve been led to believe that family dinners will happen with much more regularity than they did in New Jersey.

And while the graduation from the previous job is exciting enough to make you double-clink your popsicle, there’s more.

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We’re back to a gas stove and a full knife drawer.  And Stella made it safely.

 

So for the next year, while we live in rural Pennsylvania and see more of my husband than is normal, expect great things.*

– Catherine

* The term “great things” relates to dinner only.  And probably not with the frequency I should be cooking/taking photos/actually posting.  Any resemblance to Martha Stewart’s use of the term “Good Things” is purely coincidental.

20 Days and a Wake Up

That’s how long we have left in our house before moving.  In the next 20 days, I need to get everything organized for the move (sorted, packed, donated) and figure out a way to use all of the stuff in our refrigerator, freezer, pantry and Stella with minimal waste.

Who’s Stella, you ask?

This is Stella.

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Not sure why my parents named her that, but it’s funny to hear everyone in my family do their best Marlon Brando impression through the side of their mouth.  “Steeeeelllllllaaaa!!!”

When the moving company reps came to estimate how much stuff we have, I took them to the garage first.  Lose, break or ruin most of our things and we’ll get over it.  But Stella?  She needs to arrive intact.  I think the movers are actually bringing a piece of equipment to lift her.

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To give credit where it’s due, my father found Stella at a garage sale.  We figured he deserved naming rights for what has become a member of the family.  My husband calls her a Weapon of Mass Condensation, because on hot days, she can get pretty sweaty.  That can make it hard to read which category you’re pulling your beer from:  the “Maintenance” beer for everyday, the “Family Hold Back” beer for special occasions and/or guests, or the “Swing” beer, which can fall into either category.  (The cans are for the beach, of course.)

My Dad always said that “10 Moves Equals a Fire”.  This will be our fifth move since getting married, but our first since Stella joined the family.  I’m a good sport about moving and try to put on a brave face when strangers are packing up my Great Aunt Josephine’s china and Grandpa Doug’s paintings.  But, watching Stella disappear into the back of a dark truck will be hard.  I just hope there are no bumps on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

– Catherine

Christmas Eve Dumplings

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We had the Winning Gyoza for dinner Christmas Eve along with another favorite dumpling, Pearl Balls.  Both originated from Deanna Luke’s Chinese Cooking, Pocket Text.  My mom altered the recipe a little by adding green onions, garlic and sesame oil.    Both of these recipes are really  delicious and so festive.

-Andra

Pearl Balls

1 lb ground pork

2 teaspoons corn starch

1 egg

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

4 green onions, chopped fine

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon mirin

1 clove of garlic

1 teaspoon Siracha (optional)

1 cup of sushi rice, soaked for at least three hours.

Combine all of the ingredients, except the rice.  Measure out tablespoon sized portions of the meat mixture and roll into 24 balls. Roll each ball in the rice until well covered.

Put the balls of meat into a steamer basket that has been lightly oiled.  Steam for 30 minutes until the rice is tender.

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Gyoza

1 pound ground pork

1 cup dried shitake mushroom, rehydrated and finely chopped

1 tablespoon green onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon soy sauce

3 tablespoon corn oil or light flavored oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

50 round gyoza skins

Mix all of the ingredients for the filling together. Refrigerate for one hour.

To assemble the gyoza, place 1 rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper. Dip your index finger in water and wet the edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half and seal the edge. Starting from one end and working your way to the other end, pleat the gyoza about 4-5 times. Set gyoza on a sheet pan lined with wax paper or a Silpat mat.

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At this point, the gyoza can be frozen. Make sure they are placed in the freezer so that none of the dumplings are touching each other. Once frozen, you can place them in a ziplock bag and pull them out when you are ready to steam them.

To steam the gyoza, place a wok filled about halfway with water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to simmer. Spray a bamboo steamer basket with non-stick cooking spray and fill each layer with the dumplings. Make sure that they are not touching and that the steam can circulate around each dumpling. Put the lid on the steamer basket and steam for 12-15 minutes. Steam frozen gyoza for 16-20 minutes.

Serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce 

3/4 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 hot peppers, chopped with seeds

Mix ingredients and serve with gyoza.

Slumping.

Bill Buckner. Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Ladies, if you’d like to know the story, ask a man, ANY man to tell you. But, if he’s from Boston and you want to make him happy, drop it. Don’t say a word.

My lack of recent posts doesn’t mean that I haven’t been cooking.  It means that everything I’ve made lately has either looked or tasted ugly.  Luckily for me, I married a Red Sox fan, who understands that the best part of a slump is the return to normalcy and eventually, maybe even a ray of hope once every sixty years or so.  (I should tell you that I’m not an educated sports fan.  I go to events for the beer and the companionship, so my knowledge of a standard Red Sox slump is measured by my husbands mood swings during baseball season.)

Here’s what hasn’t been reportable from my kitchen:  a totally forgettable white bean chicken chili made in the slow cookah while we were at soccer practice.  Meh.  Sautéed parmesan chicken cutlets served over green salad with lemon vinaigrette.  Sounds better than it was.  Pasta for the girls while we went out.  We ate those leftovers the next night.  Hard to screw up buttered pasta with parmesan.

Last night, with all of the previous evenings failures behind me and lots of avocados and great spinach, I was going to get us out of this slump with a classic Cobb salad which never fails.  But when 7 p.m. rolled around that idea turned into bacon, egg, tomato and avocado sandwiches.  A total Hail Mary (not sure if there’s a baseball equivalent), but it turned out to be our best dinner in days.

Look for great things in the next few days.  Or send us a pizza.

– Catherine

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