Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Friday, February 26, 2010

IN WITH THE NEW-- A NEW CAT COMPANION, AND SOME NEW & USEFUL KITCHEN ITEMS...

Best Blog Tips Isis, the 5-year-old female tortoiseshell cat who adopted us recently:



Isn't she a beauty? She's a big cat, bigger than our male cat, Ringo.


Ringo (the one with his mouth open) in a typical pose, with his sister Tina, who unfortunately passed away last year.

Isis has been quite aloof, but last night she actually jumped up on our bed while DH was reading and sniffed his nose and purred! A first!

A little history: she began hanging around our place a few months ago and, eventually, when we began to see her regularly, I started feeding her outside. In time, she let me pet her while she was eating. We leave a window open for the cats all the time (we live in the country on an island, so we don't worry about locking things!), and we found out that she was coming in and sleeping in the house at night. DH saw her jump out the window one morning. Evidently, the other cats didn't chase her off. Eventually, he got her to stay and eat in the kitchen, and that was that. She was skittish and not terribly friendly, but she stayed.



Our friends Fireweed and Mike, who run the island's spay/neuter and release program for feral cats and strays, took her to the vet who does work for them at a discount. The vet discovered that she was spayed already, about 5 years old, and had an identity tattoo deep inside her ear (we'd missed it). Via the tattooed number, he ascertained that she belonged to a family who lives in Vancouver and has a summer home on our island, and they were contacted. Evidently, she had run away in August (they think because they got a new dog), and they had put up notices with her picture, but no one had reported seeing her. She had been a totally indoor cat in the city and quite overweight, we found out later. The weight was useful for her because she ended up on her own for about 4 months! Somehow, with no outdoor "smarts", she made her way clear across the island to us, and in very good shape!

We also found out that her name was "Isis", which I thought was very fitting, since she obviously thinks she's a goddess!

We wanted to keep her, especially since we knew that our lovely old girl Sinéad was probably going to leave the world sometime soon. Also, all of our cats have "found" us and we really felt that she had chosen us. However, when the family phoned us, they said they wanted her back, so we sadly but readily agreed to keep her safe until they came to the island in a couple of weeks or so. But, to make a long story short, they came, checked us out, and said that we could keep her if we wanted her, because she really disliked the dog! Of course, we said yes! So, she is slowly establishing her place in the house and getting to know us better, and we hope that she will be here for many years!

I wonder if she chose us because there were other cats here and so she figured she'd be welcome?

*******************************************

MY NEW (INEXPENSIVE) AND USEFUL KITCHEN ITEMS

1st new item: My new Danish Dough Whisk



I ordered this from BreadTopia for the very reasonable price of $8 US!! This is the large one-- they also have a smaller one that would be useful for smaller batches of dough or batter, and, especially, sourdough starter. They were friendly and prompt, and their shipping cost, even to Canada, was very low.

I purchased this dough whisk to use on my no-knead bread doughs (see the Bread category on my Recipe Pages list on the right hand side of the page), and it works really well for that, and is easy to clean. Evidently, you can use it for muffin and quick bread batters (probably good for gluten-free bread batters, too), biscuit and soda bread doughs, and even cookie dough-- anything from a thick batter to a real dough! Eric at BreadTopia says, "It's perfect for mixing heavy dough prior to kneading. Way better than a spoon and much easier to clean." It's such a nice, old-fashioned tool. I love it!



**************************************************************

2nd new item: a jelly bag (or jelly strainer) on a metal stand, which I bought to strain homemade soymilk!




The one thing I don't look forward to when I make my homemade soymilk is straining it. But, I like my milk smooth, so I want it strained well. I thought the gold coffee filter, which is often recommended, was very slow and tedious, so I got rid of mine. The mesh strainer that comes with the SoyQuick machine is just not quite fine enough for me and doesn't hold much, so I use it for other things. Consequently, I have been using cotton cloth, which works well, but it takes quite a while for the milk to go through and you have to squeeze and twist the soy pulp (okara) in the cloth by hand to get all the milk out. Then you have to clean the cloths.

On another post, Pat Meadows told me that she uses a "Chinois", or a conical strainer, to strain her soymilk with ease. (These are sometimes called "China caps", and what Pat actually uses is an "8-inch Extra Fine Mesh Bouillon Strainer".) She writes: "I picked this particular one because it has extra fine mesh and it is LARGE. It's made of stainless steel. This is the perfect tool for the job, in my opinion. WHOOSH and most of the soymilk has gone through; a quick press with an oversized rubber spatula or wooden paddle, and the rest goes through. Time spent standing at sink: about one minute."

I still intend to get one of those at a later date because it would be so streamlined! Pat paid $20 on sale, but the same strainer is $28.40 now and they can go up to about $35. Then you have to add shipping costs (unless I can find one here or in Vancouver). Unfortunately they don't ship to Canada, and I haven't been able to find anything in that price range in Canada (I tried ebay, but what I could find had to be shipped from the US at a rate of over $20 shipping!), so I'm going to see if I can have it shipped to a friend in the States who I am going to visit soon.

If you do buy a conical strainer, opt for extra-fine mesh, NOT perforated steel.

UPDATE: I ordered this one from amazon.com.


I couldn't fit it into my budget just now, so I thought an old-fashioned jelly bag might work similarly well for the time being. I ordered one from a Canadian (BC) company, KitchenNiche.ca, for $10 and received it very fast. (You can get one from amazon  online, but kitchen stores should have them, too.)

It works much better than a regular strainer, or a cloth-lined colander! I think that is the fastest I have ever made soymilk! The conical shape helps the milk drain out quickly and, though I tried squeezing the last bit out, it really wasn't necessary. I strained one batch (I had made 2 at once), dumped out the okara and poured in the next one. It went so fast and the clean-up is also fast and easy!







The cloth was cleaned and dried in a jiffy and I put it back on the stand. I'm just going to leave it set up, covered with a plastic bag, and stored on a shelf, so that I don't have to re-assemble it each time I use it.

UPDATE Ap. 12, 2010: The jelly bag is started to fray and tear a bit, so I'm anxious to get the extra-fine-mesh conical strainer I ordered! (See picture above.) Otherwise, I would have to buy a few new bags to have on hand.

*****************************************************

The 3rd NEW item: English Muffin Rings





I wanted to make no-knead English muffins, but knew that the dough would be so slack that you would need the rings (which are probably actually crumpet rings) to hold the nice round shape. I have only tried them once and I didn't like the particular recipe that I used, so I'm going to work on one and will post it when I'm satisfied! But the rings worked just fine!

Cheers!

Monday, February 22, 2010

MY VEGAN POTSTICKER RECIPE

Best Blog Tips Thanks so much for all the good wishes and condolences!



UPDATE (Feb 2011):  There is a new mushroom gyoza filling at this post!

I promised you a recipe or two from our Lunar New Year feast, so here's the all-time favorite one.

Guo Tie are called "potstickers" because of the unique cooking method-- the juicy dumplings fry and steam at the same time, leaving them delicately soft on top and crispy on the bottom. They are so popular in Japan that they have been assimilated into Japanese cuisine, under the name "gyoza". I've seldom met anyone who could stop eating them unless the plate was taken away! For this reason, I'm giving you a large recipe. If you can't use it all at once, they freeze well. You might as well make a large batch while you are putting out the effort!

As long as the filling is not too wet, the dumplings can be made in the morning, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated until time to cook them. Or they can be frozen (directions below) and a few cooked whenever you want them.

This is my vegetarian version of the traditional pork-and-vegetable-stuffed potstickers, using either textured soy protein, ground seitan, or frozen tofu. Bob's Red Mill Organic TSP (available at amazon.com and many other vendors) is: "...made from identity-preserved, non-GMO soybeans. It's made by removing the soybean oil in an all natural water process, then cooking, extruding and drying ground soy."

In my cookbook, I have a recipe for homemade dumpling wrappers, which are actually very easy to make, but a bit time-consuming.
(There is also an alternative filling recipe.) This time, I used the commercial ROUND egg-free dumpling wrappers (sometimes called "gyoza wrappers"). (The square wuntun wrappers contain egg.) The wrappers are often available frozen or in the produce section of large supermarkets, where egg roll and wonton wrappers are found. A 1 lb. package may contain from 50 to 75, depending on their thickness, so buy two packages for this recipe (extras can be frozen). If they are frozen, thaw them out completely before filling.

They come in a package something like this:


I also used a handy little gadget for filling and sealing the dumplings, instead of doing it by hand (hand-filling instructions are in my book)-- it's called a potsticker press. It's a little hinged plastic gadget (usually white, but he one I have is purple!) that's available in Asian and gourmet stores, usually for under $5. Amazon has them, too. (I would advise against getting a set of different-sized dumpling presses. I bought one, and the small press, which is for potstickers, doesn't seal properly.)

(If you don't have a potsticker press yet, and you just have to make these right now, here are 2 videos showing how to seal them by hand: this one gives you a close-up lesson on how to pleat and seal them; this one shows how fast you can do it once you know how!)

These are really very easy to make, and fun to make with friends!



It pleats and seals the dough for you with just a little pressure on the handles. With this handy gizmo, even a novice cook can make perfect potstickers and other dumplings.



Printable Recipe

BRYANNA’S BEIJING-STYLE VEGAN GUO TIE (OR "POTSTICKERS" OR GYOZA) (SAVORY STEAM-FRIED DUMPLINGS, WITH STEAMED
VARIATION)

Makes 80 dumplings

This recipe is from my book “Authentic Chinese Cuisine for the Contemporary Kitchen”. (Reviews)

INGREDIENTS:

DUMPLING WRAPPERS: Use 80 round commercial egg-free "gyoza" or steamed dumpling wrappers (see notes in text above-- the square wuntun wrappers contain egg.)

FILLING:
2 2/3 c. dry textured soy protein granules,reconstituted with 2 c. plus 2 T. boiling water for 5 minutes (Bob's Red Mill Organic TSP, available at amazon.com is: "...made from identity-preserved, non-GMO soybeans. It's made by removing the soybean oil in an all natural water process, then cooking, extruding and drying ground soy.")
Alternatives:
OR about 3 2/3 c. crumbled, squeezed frozen tofu
OR about 3 2/3 c. ground plain boiled un-seasoned gluten

2 large carrots, grated OR 2 c. fresh bean sprouts (or 1 c. each) 1 c. minced green onions
4 large cloves garlic, minced or crushed
4 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 c. light soy sauce
1 tsp. salt

FOR STEAM-FRYING:
3 1/2 T. oil (such as peanut or canola) PLUS 1 T. roasted sesame oil, mixed

BRYANNA’S SPICY DIPPING SAUCE Makes about 3/4 c.

1/2 c. light soy sauce
1/4 c. rice, cider or white wine vinegar
2 tsp. roasted sesame oil
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. brown sugar
OPTIONAL: pinch dried red chili flakes or 1/8 tsp. chili garlic paste

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. Can be made ahead of time.

DIRECTIONS: Make the various components of the recipes in the order given.

MAKE THE DIPPING SAUCE and set aside.

TO MAKE THE FILLING, mix all of the ingredients together well, preferably in a food processor. Before filling the dumplings, drain off any excess liquid from the Filling.

TO FILL USING A POTSTICKER PRESS: center a wrapper on the opened-up press. (If the wrapper is not perfectly round and does not fit to the edge of the press, you can gently stretch the wrapper with dry hands.)



Moisten the wrapper edge with water, using a small brush, and place about 2 teaspoons of Filling in the center of each circle.



Close the press, using pressure to seal the wrapper.





Pop the dumpling out and start again.



Arrange the dumplings on floured cookie sheets and cover with clean tea towels as you work. NOTE: It’s important to keep your hands and the potsticker press dry, so keep a clean cloth nearby to wipe with.



TO FREEZE THE UNCOOKED DUMPLINGS place them on floured cookie sheets in the freezer until frozen solid. Loosen the frozen dumplings by banging the pan on the table. Place them in plastic bags or rigid freezer containers and fasten airtight before returning to the freezer. Freeze up to a month. Cook them about a minute longer than unfrozen ones.

NOW, TO STEAM-FRY THE DUMPLINGS:
A 10" skillet will hold about 15 dumplings, a 12" skillet about 18, and a 14" skillet about 30 dumplings, but with a skillet this large you will probably have to move the outer ones to the middle and vice versa for even browning. If you are cooking all of the dumplings at once, you will need several skillets, or you'll have to cook in batches. Use heavy skillets, such as cast iron.

Heat the skillet(s) over high heat until very hot. Add 1 T. of the mixed oil to the 10" skillet (1 and 1/2 T. to the 12" skillet, or 2 T. to the 14" skillet). Swirl the oil around and lower the heat to medium-high. Remove the pan(s) from the heat while you place the dumplings in the pans(s), not quite touching, pleated side up. Return the pan(s) to the heat.



When the bottoms of the dumplings begin to brown-- about 1 minute-- add about 1/3 c. of hot water to the pan (about 1/2 c. to the 12", 2/3 c. to the 14"). Cover and cook until the water evaporates-- about 5 minutes. Cook 2-3 minutes more, until a dark-golden-brown crust forms on the bottom, the dumpling dough is translucent on top, and they start to puff up.



Remove from the pan and serve them browned-side-up with a little bowl of dipping sauce for each diner.

Clean each skillet out thoroughly before cooking another batch in it.

TO OVEN STEAM-FRY THE DUMPLINGS, (This is an option if you’re making lots at once and are busy with other things-- not quite as crispy, but still good!)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (Make sure that your oven is hot enough-- use an oven thermometer, if possible) and oil two 9x13" baking pans with a bit of roasted sesame oil. Place the dumplings in rows, pleated-side-up, barely touching but in a single layer. Pour 1 c. of hot vegetarian broth into each pan. Cover the pans tightly with foil. Bake for 20 minutes near the bottom of the oven, or until the wrappers are tender and the bottoms are browned. Serve them hot, giving each guest a little bowl of Dipping Sauce.

VARIATION: CHENG JIAO (BEIJING-STYLE STEAMED DUMPLINGS)
If you use bamboo steamers, line them with a couple of layers of cheesecloth, or place a little square of foil under each dumpling, or use lettuce leaves as liners.  Place the dumplings 1/2" apart. You can stack two steamers up at once. Steam over high heat 8 minutes and serve immediately. Or you can arrange the dumplings on an oiled plate and steam in a wok or other pot over medium-high heat for 8 minutes.

Steamed dumplings are usually served with a simple dipping sauce of rice vinegar with shredded fresh ginger added.

Enjoy!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

SINÉAD: MEMORIAM FOR A BELOVED CAT

Best Blog Tips
Sinéad smelling the roses in her younger days. (Photo by my good friend Fireweed. See also here and here)

Sinéad (yes, named after Sinéad O'Connor!) was 20 years old and the senior cat (read "Queen", literally!) in our house. She survived a number of our companion cats. She chose us to live with, and she was quirky and affectionate cat. (She loved spaghetti sauce and was known to sneak vegetables out of the sink or off the table a few times!) We will miss her greatly, but we're so grateful to have had her gracing our house with her elegance and attitude for so many years!

She is, as they say, survived by her cat companions, Ringo and Isis (the big tortoiseshell who adopted us a couple of months ago). She was buried next to our little Tina (Ringo's sister):


Tina regarding me from a file box on my desk

and my stepson Sean's dog Huan:


in the woods behind our house, under what I call "the Four Guardians"-- four trees growing in a semi-circle in 2 pairs.




DH took this lovely photo of Sinéad about 18 months ago.

All the best,

Thursday, February 18, 2010

OUR VEGAN LUNAR NEW YEAR FEAST

Best Blog Tips Some photos from our feast last Saturday, at which a great time was had by all 10 of us, and we all ate far too much!










Photo by Fireweed
My Pineapple Sweet and Sour (made with TVP chunks) in the foreground

Photo by Fireweed
My Szechuan Tofu (doufu)

Photo by Fireweed
Pelka's silky black bean rice noodles

Photo by Fireweed
My Buddha's "Chicken" (made with yuba/beancurd sheets)

Photo by Fireweed
Sarah's grilled eggplant with miso-- delicious!

Photo by Fireweed
Ellen's yummy cashew rice

Photo by Fireweed
Fireweed's delectable baked, rolled yuba (beancurd sheets) with lemon sauce


My steamed dumplings (they were supposed to be fried, like gyoza, but I made so many that I just oven-steamed them in broth in large shallow pans covered with foil for 20 minutes) served with a spicy dip


My "Lion's Head"-- braised cabbage with "meatballs" (in this case I made a version of the "meatballs" I have developed for the Field Roast cookbook)

(My recipes, except for the cake, of course, were all from my vegan Chinese cookbook. You can see some reviews here.)


Last, but not least, a cake I made for Pelka, the "birthday girl"-- a rather over-the top 2-layer, heart-shaped chocolate cake with orange/chocolate icing (topped with candied ginger), a filling of orange marmalade and chocolate mousse, and decorated with orange/ginger dark chocolate truffles.

**I'll post a few of the recipes in a day or so!**

Happy Lunar New Year!