Search This Blog

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kale and Chicken Dumplings

Similar to a previous post I made on Pork Pot-stickers, this recipe is also 100% from scratch and includes a similar set of ingredients.

However, as with all my culinary spatterings, each new iteration is an improvement (or an attempt at improvement) upon a previous one.


I had some leftover chicken from somewhere... I forget where... the Wife has a strange and difficult to understand penchant for buying roast chickens.  Like whole, roast chickens.  I never ask her to, and every time she comes home with one I ask her if she knows how bad they are (both for us and for the chicken!) but she never seems to care.

Personally I blame her (equally prevalent) penchant for doing the grocery shopping while hungry.  :)

Anyway, I took the leftover chicken, and mixed it with some fresh green kale, some onion, garlic, and ginger, and a pinch of white pepper and salt.

Mmmmmm...  looks kind of like vomit.


The dumplings are the fun part.  And surprisingly easy to make!

Rather than make them like 'wraps' or delicate little pouches, this time I decided to just go full bore on a round dumpling style.

When they were all assembled, I brushed them lightly with some sesame oil, 

And then fried them lightly in a frying pan.

After turning them over several times to brown each side, I poured in about 100 ml of filtered water, and then quickly covered them.

This was a step I did not do in previous iterations of these dumplings, and I found that it is essential in getting that typical, attractive, soft and moist dumpling look:

Glistening with moisture, and yet golden brown, these dumplings were soft and chewy rather than crispy and dry.  And so delicious!

Obviously the above technique involved a couple of batches, but if I had a huge wok or something it might be doable in one batch?  In any case, though, it is not hard to do them in several batches.

I also made up some green beans and a dipping sauce (for both the dumplings and the beans) made out of soya sauce, sesame oil, and a few green onions and bits of chili pepper.

They aren't always, but this particular attempt was a definite improvement upon previous Asian-styled dumplings like this, and will surely get filed towards any future attempts!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Vegan Garlic Cream Sauce

I love pasta sauces.  They're my favourite thing to both eat and make.  Being a discriminate eater, and one who appreciates flavour of foods as much (if not more) than the healthiness of food, I want to put it out there that of course a full-fat cream sauce is just divine and wholly unparalleled in terms of both flavour and texture.

An authentic French cream sauce is like drinking a rich velvet or silk, to invoke a colourful metaphor.

But, sometimes we just don't feel like putting all of that animal fat into our bodies.

So, it is of ongoing importance to me, to experiment and keep experimenting with vegan substitutions.

And, true to form, each of my experimentations and iterations does prove to be better than the last.

So, here's my latest vegan cream sauce, with garlic.

First, we sweat a generous amount of white onion and (copious amounts of) fresh garlic in some vegetable oil.  I've found canola works well... coconut not so much (for this kind of thing).

Sweat until softened and translucent, NOT until browned.

When done, take it out and purée this finely using a strong mixer or immersion blender, adding some almond milk (unsweetened, unflavoured) to help with the blending.

When that is nice and consistent, pour that into a medium-sized saucepan.


Next, mix (either whisking or blending) together some corn starch and some almond milk.

When that is also mixed finely, whisk that into the saucepan.

Adding more almond milk if needed, but do so slowly and allow for a few minutes to pass between additions.

So smoot!

Add some fresh herbs of your choice.  Personally, I'm a fan of Italian Parsley for cream sauces, but have also been known to do fresh Thyme or Basil or even Tarragon.

After a few minutes, and after it has thickened somewhat, it's ready for your noodles.

Today I chose a nice, high quality rigatoni noodle; all the better to help soak up the sauce.

Now, normally I do not advocate mixing the noodles and the sauce together in one pan, but instead prefer to keep the two separate until right before eating.

However, this was a small batch, just for myself, and I wanted to mix it up real well in the saucepan, so I put them together just this once.


Not as delicious as an authentic white sauce, but still delicious and garlic-y, while being just so much ridiculously healthier.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Vegan Quinoa Stirfry

Yes, this was wholly devoid of any animal products.

And, yes, it was really, really good!

The trick is using a tonne of really fresh veggies.

So, what have we got in there?  Clockwise from the centre-top: carrots (heirloom), green beans (chopped), italian parsley (minced), peas (frozen), brown mushrooms, scallion tips (green tops), shallots (minced), ginger (minced), scallion bottoms (whites), spice blend (lemongrass, white pepper, salt).

And some garlic which I forgot about.


And a healthy bit of my vegan vegetable stock, which I "re-constituted" (diluted with filtered water) into a 'broth', and then separated into two portions.  One large portion for cooking the quinoa, and another, smaller portion to be saved for the veggies.

The quinoa was easy.  One cup of dry quinoa, to two cups liquid.  In this case, two cups of my veggie broth.  Don't forget a pinch or two of salt as well.

Yum!  Sure it makes the quinoa a little yellow-y but the flavour is unbeatable!

The veggies were a little involved.

Now... I know a lot of people who consider veggie stir fry an easy and not very time-consuming ordeal.  But anyone who knows me, knows that I am picky, and part of what makes my cooking better than average is my attention to detail and painstaking effort.

So, I'm sure it would be fine for 90% of the world to just throw all the above veggies into a pan or wok, add some oil, sauté for a few minutes, and then put it all together with the quinoa.

Well... to me that would be gross.  For one, it would mean that some (the larger pieces) veggies would be less cooked than others (the smaller pieces).  For another, it wouldn't allow some of the denser flavour mediums the time to mellow, and the flavours would not be balanced.  

Essentially the most important thing in this technique is the separation of, and dedicated attention to, the hearty veggies and the delicate veggies, respectively.

Anyway... so, here's what I did.  It may seem a little involved (perhaps over-involved to some), but I think it really, really makes a difference.  As you follow along I urge you to consider the reasons why I choose to do it this way.

Veggie broth in a pan.

First cook the 'hard' vegetables to soften them and release their compacted flavours.

The green beans and the carrots are essentially poached or boiled for several minutes.  Like ten minutes, until they get bright in colour, and softer to the touch.  The carrots don't have to be super soft... like not mushy or anything... softened, but still totally crisp.

When that is ready, empty this, liquid and all, into a clean bowl, and set aside for now.

Take your pan and get a fair bit of oil in there.  Any vegetable oil will work here, but I chose a vegan margarine, which is essentially just a blend of vegetable oils.

I'm not one to extol anything positive about processed foods.  At all.  Like not even a little bit.  But, I will say that from what I can tell, Becel's latest iteration of margarines, the vegan margarine, actually looks like it isn't half bad.

It's basically just a bunch of vegetable oils.  There is, however, "modified palm or palm kernal oils" in there, which isn't super great... but the product is still non-hydrogenated, and it is still overwhelmingly just vegetable oils. 

So, I'm using it.

If I was going to fry something up using high heat, I'd likely throw in something else like canola or avocado oil to balance the smoke point, but today we're cooking on low heat, so the margarine is fine.

Next step is to sauté the onion, shallots, and garlic.

Before this gets too along, add the mushrooms.

I like my mushrooms to be a little crispy, and not dry and wooden like many people do.

Anyway, making sure to stir this about constantly, it's done after about five minutes, or when the garlic and onion are golden but not browned.

The above picture is the perfect level of sautéing for these little, delicate veggies.

Now just dump the broth and the hearty veggies back into the pan, and give it (the pan) a good scraping with a metal utensil (like a whisk) -- unless you've used a non-stick pan, in which case you should never use metal utensils.

Now we add the even more delicate flavours, and those flavours we wanted relatively uncooked; the herbs, the spices, and the scallion greens.  These guys are best saved for last, because we don't want to boil them like we did the first veggies, nor sauté them crisply like we did the second batch.  The peas, even though they were frozen, we don't want to cook for very long either.  Nobody likes an over-cooked pea!

So, maybe you're starting to see, and perhaps even appreciate, the effort involved so far?!

Stir this about until everything is coated and wet, and then cover it up tightly and turn the heat down to simmer.

After about five minutes, everything should be very uniform in both flavour and texture and consistency, which I argue is the most important thing in any dish with so many ingredients.

Mix in the quinoa (which is cold by now, but it doesn't matter, the stirfry is hot, hot, hot!)

It doesn't look delicious, but damn this was really tasty.  And not just 'vegan' tasty, but actually, honest-to-goodness, really yummy!

And very healthy, so feel free to fill up on this stuff!