Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Simple Gyoza's (dumplings)

When Cory and I were first married we were young and trying to find our way in this life.  We were not sure what to do for careers but we knew that we needed to go to college.  Being young and having to support ourselves in school we did what we thought was best: we joined the Air Force.  We did this for two reasons: school and to travel.

Well Cory got to travel…LOL  He was gone for 2 of the 4 years while I got to see Texas.  He did get his education after we full-filled our commitment.  We were so grateful for our time spent in the military and that he was able to serve our country.  He was in the Gulf War for 9 months.   During our time in the military we met lots of wonderful families and friends.

One of the couples we became friends with, had just returned from Japan.  This young man returned with his Japanese wife to a foreign country and she spoke very little English.  We immediately became friends because my husband speaks Japanese.  He lived there as a child and served a mission there for two years.

When we first met, you could see the loneliness in her eyes and when Cory greeted her in Japanese she immediately got this beautiful smile….she found some friends.  Of course, I do not speak Japanese, outside of the few phrases I have learned through the years.

Our two families spent a lot of time together.  In the course of our friendship we cooked together.  It was something that we both loved to do and also something that did not require us to know the others language.  I could watch and learn and I did.

When she showed us how to make the gyozas…we were in love.  Cory was taken back to his time in Japan…the smells were delicious in the air.  He said he could close his eyes and feel as though he was in a home in Japan.  This was a special moment for him.

I could not believe how much work it was to make the gyoza's and together we knocked them out quite fast.  From that short friendship and moment in our life, this recipe has been made thousands of times.  In 25 years I  make this recipe at least 4 or 5 times a year and each time I make the recipe I prepare about 200-250, unless I am hosting a party and then the number turns into 400-500.  Yes, it's crazy but the smile on my guest faces when they taste them…it's worth it!

Over the years my recipe has changed.  Primarily because I could not always get the "original" ingredients.  I am finding myself in this situation now.  I have been wanting to make these and share them with you for almost 6 months but I have had one problem:  the gyoza wrappers.  I can't find them anywhere in our new location.  It's so maddening!  I can find wonton wrappers and I have resisted this buy for months, until this week.

I tried to order the gyoza's online but they want a fortune for shipping…75.00 to ship 12 packages.  OUCH!  I asked Cory what he wanted for his birthday dinner and this is what he requested.  FINE, I will buy the wonton wrappers and make them work…but I am NOT taking a picture of them and sharing on the blog…RIGHT!!!

SO, here I am with my wonton wrappers, recipe and pictures.  I finally told myself that it's ok to share because maybe others can't find the wrappers too.  Honestly, they tasted great and I could hardly tell the difference.  To my Japanese friends, please forgive me that I have used another wrapper…but, I could not refuse the request of my hubby for his special meal.

If you would like to see the "real" deal along with beautiful pictures and an original recipe please visit my friend Nami from Just One Cookbook. She is Japanese and has an amazing recipe that you can also check out for Gyoza's.

Over the years we have loved having Japanese students living in our home.  We love this culture and find ourselves having strong feelings and an abundance of love towards the people, the culture and especially, the food.  This always made them smile when I would make gyoza's.

This was also the first time that we involved our kids in making the process.  I thought that it was about time for them to understand the labor that went into making something that they loved so much.  It's kind of like catching your dinner and then having to kill, clean and cook it.  Although I did not make them kill the pig for the pork (my neighbor did that).  We had a great time.  I treasure these times with my kids, especially as I know that their time under our roof is limited.  We talked about how, one day, they will look back and remember the times we made gyoza's together and hopefully they will teach their kids and have the same bonding experience.

This recipe is a keeper.  It's work, but if your involve many hands, it becomes fun and memorable.

Recipe:  Gyoza's (simple recipe)

1 pound of ground pork
1 head of cabbage ( I have used Napa and regular green cabbage over the years)
1 onion
lots of minced garlic (3-4T)
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 T. Mirin Sauce

Oil, for cooking
water, for steaming
3-4 packages of Gyoza wrappers (round ones if you can find them)

Dipping Sauce:

soy sauce

Your Gyoza wrappers should be set out at room temperature for at least an hour before you start to wrap the gyoza's.  If they are cold the wrappers have a tendency to break or tear.  Just my opinion from over the years of making them.

You will want to shred your cabbage very thinly then make sure the pieces are small….do not use a food processor and turn your cabbage into mush.  It should be small pieces.  See pictures below to gage the size.

Finely chop your onion.  Add the onion, garlic, pork, cabbage, Mirin sauce  and soy sauce into one large bowl.  NOTE: I do not measure my ingredients for this recipe.  The soy sauce  is an estimate.  You want your mixture to look like it is coated with soy sauce, a light brown in color.  MIX all of the ingredients well.  I use my hands to do this because I want the pork and cabbage mix to be really combined.

This is the pork that my neighbor gave to us.  I also use ground pork from the butcher.

This really is a team effort.  We try to involve as many people as possible when making these morsels of yumminess.  I have a large bowl for the meat/cabbage mix and then each person gets a spoon, a small bowl of water and a tray.

With your spoon, take a small amount and place in the center of wrapper.  Wet the edges all the way around and fold over one side.  You can real fancy and put tucks into the edges or simply seal the wrapper.  For my immediate family we do not tuck, but for fancy dinners and guest…I tuck!

I have cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and start putting our creations into rows.  Without the parchment paper they will stick to the metal of the cookie sheet and get gooey.

Once your gyoza's are made you can start to cook them.  In the past I have had a large covered electric skillet.  This is the best way to cook them.  You can also steam or boil them.  My family does not like them this way so I don't use either of these cooking styles.

For this dinner I was forced to use two pans because my electric skillet died and I have not replaced it, plus I forgot about that until I was ready to cook them…LOL  Guess whats on my list to buy?

In your pan, put a small amount of oil.  Place your gyoza's and cook about 3 minutes on each side.  We do both sides because we like ours a little bit crispy.  After both sides are cooked, add 1/4 cup of water to each set cooked and place a lid on top.  You want to steam the gyoza's for a few minutes.

I usually set my oven to warm, place an oven proof pan inside, and add my batches until I have enough to feed my family.

I serve the gyoza's with white rice and the dipping sauce.  I like my sauce twangy, so I do a bit more vinegar than most.

Your house will smell wonderful, your friends and family will be stuffed, you will be eyeing the leftovers for tomorrows breakfast ( yes, because they don't make it to lunch) and you will already be planning when to make these again.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner 2011

I am finally getting around to writing up and sharing a few pictures about our dinner last Thursday.  It's been a crazy month and my time has kept me away from the blog.  Not only did we have a celebration of what we were all thankful for, but it was my hubby's birthday weekend.  Weekend?  Yes, when your birthday is around a holiday it seems like it goes on forever because we are all trying to fit in so many "traditions"…LOL

If you remember I took Cory away for the weekend a few weeks ago.  It was the first time that we had been away together, without kids, in over two years.  It was nice to have grown up time and sit quietly and just listen and talk.  I had printed off a questionnaire of 50 questions that spouses could talk about.  Being married for 25 years you would think that we had talked ourselves senseless and that we had nothing to "know" new about each other.  It's true, we were pretty up to date on the favorite food questions, etc…but it allowed us to talk openly and remind each other of what is important to how we treat each other and raise our family.  We talked for 3 hours and it was wonderful!  I can't begin to put into words what my heart feels towards this man.  He is my everything, my best friend, my all.  I am so grateful for his love and support.

My husband is one of a long list of family members that I am thankful for.  My kids bring me so much joy and happiness.  They teach me daily about the things I treasure,  remind me to stay grounded and show me love.  My external family is priceless, as well.  My Mom, Step Dad and Sisters are invaluable "limbs" to my being.  They have allowed me to exist as "me" and have loved me unconditionally when, at times, I felt no one else had (earlier years…long story….this is a happy post…LOL)

Gratitude is something I used to take for granted as a young person, spouse and mother.  As I get older I am reminded that it is not stuff that makes me happy….but people, experiences and…ok, fine…food…lol

I made these for each of the place settings. The kids thought they were cute.

 With that being said, lets lighten the mood a little and talk about the food that we had at Thanksgiving.  We ate a feast that was fit for a king, or at the very least, a small village.  Cooking a small meal for me is hard to do.  In the past, we have had lots of family and friends over for the holidays.  Our home is usually filled with laughter, game playing and lots of little feet running around.  This year was different.

We moved 2000 miles away from any family and have not met many friends.  It was a small group.  I have to admit, that this was the easiest meal I have made in a long time for Thanksgiving.  I never realized how much work it was feeding 30 people.  My preparation was minimal, in fact, I found myself on Thursday wondering what to do…LOL

I watched the Macy's Day Parade…first time since I was a kid that this happened.  I loved it and we are planning on going next year as a family.  We invited some missionaries to have dinner with us and they arrived at 2pm.  Dinner was served!

We ate and ate and ate.  We had plans of playing a few games but all we really wanted to do was take a nap…LOL

So we chatted until they had to go to their next appointment and eat 2 more meals…poor kids!  I received the nicest thank-you from one of the Elders the next day about how much he enjoyed the meal and that his Mom wanted to thank us for having her son…that melted my heart!  AWWWW

I did the number one taboo for any meal, especially a special occasion…I made brand new recipes!  TSK…TSK…TSK…it's true, I did it and LOVED every new thing we tried.  I feel that I was able to do this because I have been cooking for a few years (wink, wink) and I can read a recipe.  I know if it's within my abilities, I know the cooking methods and I know the ingredients.  I think this helped me to pick the best of the best for our special dinner.

I will share the recipes and the sites where I found them below.

The turkey was amazing.  This can be found at the site named She Wears Many Hats under Mayonnaise Turkey.

The Pecan Pie Bars were to die for!  This recipe can be found at Just a Taste under Pecan Pie Bars.

I forgot to get pictures of individual squares…LOL  Here is the whole batch!

I found the pie crust for the pies at The Pioneer Woman site.  The recipe can be found under Perfect Pie Crust.

I decided to make individual pies and this way we could have ALL of the flavors we wanted: Blueberry, Peach and Cherry.  I will definitely do this again…it worked out great and everyone loved the "mini" pies.

The Cranberry Orange Relish was my own recipe.  It can be found here.

Our rolls came from Taste of Home and can be found under Parker House Rolls.  Sorry, I did not take any pictures but if you go to the site they will show you an image.

Along with the above dinner items we also had:  green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and a yummy cheese platter for lunch.

Our leftovers lasted a few days, not many.  We enjoyed sandwiches and panini's until we could no longer eat turkey…LOL

This was such a fun family day for us.  We ended the night playing games and watching Lady Gaga's Thanksgiving special (my daughter loves her).  I am blessed beyond measure….I am so thankful

Written by Sherron Watson

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cranberry Orange Relish

I have never tried to make anything from fresh cranberries.  I love cranberry sauce and dried cranberries.  While shopping last week I found myself reaching for a small container of them in the produce department.  I was not sure what they even tasted like fresh.  I imagined something sweet and crisp.  Well, the crisp part was right but the sweet…UM…NO.  It was a tart little thing!

This set me back a few days.  I had to ponder and really think whether I was going to take time out of my busy week to devote to something I wasn't even sure my family or I would like.  So they watched me from the counter for a few days.

On Tuesday I was cleaning the kitchen and accidentally knocked the container on the floor.  Not only did I knock them on the floor, but they hit the dogs water bowl on the way down.  I thought about crying but then I laughed.  I don't think I could have done that again if I tried.   I had cranberries and water all over my kitchen floor.  Do you know how hard it is to walk with cranberries all over the place…LOL

I gathered them up and washed them and decided that our day had come and they needed to be used. I saw my oranges on the counter and I vaguely  remember chatter from family and friends about a relish that used these two ingredients.  I went in search and found that out of the gazillion recipes I found, they were all the same with a few additions here and there.  Some added apples or cinnamon.

It took me no time at all to whip this up and I am SOOOOO glad that I did.  I let it sit in my fridge for two days and decided to give it a try.  Well, lets be honest, I encouraged my hubby to try it first.  I already had the first taste of a fresh cranberry and was not looking forward to another pucker moment.

He loved it!  This encouraged me to try it myself.  Yes, it's true…two English Muffins later I can promise you that this is something I will forever be making for the Turkey Holiday season.  My mouth was loving the flavors and the texture.

In fact I will be going to the store today to buy more ingredients so that we have enough for next week.

Recipe:  Cranberry Orange Relish

1.5-2 cups of fresh cranberries, not frozen
1 orange
1/2 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of blanched almonds

I used a mini chopper and blended my cranberries until they were finely chopped.  You want small pieces.

I zested my whole orange with a fine grater.  This yielded me about 2 T. spoons.  I then cut the orange in half and , over my bowl, took the meat of the orange out with my fingers and let the juice run into the bowl.  I did not use any rind, pulp or seeds.

Add the sugar and almonds.  Stir to blend well.  I chose to refrigerate mine for two days so that the flavors could blend, sweeten up and the almonds had a chance to absorb some of the juice.

You can warm this up before serving or serve chilled.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Yummy Tomato Salad

In the summer I find myself eating all types of fruits and veggies.  Then the cold hits and I turn into a bear and decide that I should be hibernating.  With this hibernation process I usually gain my "winter weight" back. Come Spring time, I start all over again and so the cycle goes.

Back in January of this year, I made a resolution that I would not diet anymore and so far I have kept this goal.  Not because I didn't want to get skinnier but because I was tired of the way I felt mentally.  It's hard dieting all the time.  When I run I don't care what I eat and my body doesn't either but this past summer I just could not find the motivation to run.

I don't consider myself "fat".  I consider myself "mommified".  I cook 3 meals a day for my family.  I spend my days shuttling kids around in the car.  I have a part time job that keeps me busy.  I have chores, this list is not necessary.  And although these chores have me running up and down stairs through out the day, I am bending and reaching constantly, it is still not the same as running.  This is what keeps my body in shape.

I use the word "shape" loosely because we are all shapes, are we not?  Some years I am a shape that I like and some years I am not…LOL  Why did I set a goal of not dieting?  I personally wanted to go back to a whole food way of eating that incorporated more "whole foods".  We drink only whole milk, eat organic meat, try to eat organic produce and fruit, use butter (no substitutes),  real sugar (no substitutes) and more water, these are a few things we have done over this past year.  This works for us.  I guess it could be called a diet, but for us it was a lifestyle change.

I have strayed this past few months from this way of eating.  It is hard to always eat the right foods.  It can be expensive at times to buy the "whole" foods.  I am a food blogger.  This is my biggest challenge when it comes to what I eat.

I want to bake.  I want to make bread.  I want to make cookies, gravies and yummy side dishes.  I want to try every freaking delicious recipe that comes across my screen…you should see my recipe piles!  LOL

So I slipped.  I got lazy.  It's true…I am 43 years old and tired and lazy.   It's so easy to not run, to not eat right, and for me, to justify why I can't run or eat right.

I struggle.  I am an open book.  I debated writing about this but it's who I am. It's where I am at now.  It's me.  A little bit "fluffier" than I would like but I am happy.  For the first time in my life, I am not worrying about my size.  I like my size most of the time.  It's always that extra 5 to 10 pounds that I would like to have shifted or gone.

It will happen, it always does.  I just have to refocus priorities with my eating and find some will power again.  I have enjoyed the freedom this past year of not being on a diet, other than the GF, but that is a way of life for me, not a choice.  Which this past 2 weeks, I have totally abandoned.  I will save that for another session..LOL

Food, at times, brings me the most joy and at other times I wish I could wire my mouth shut.

TMI (too much information)?  Probably so, but I don't think I am the only one who struggles in this part of my life.  I think as a group of people, we are all working on eating healthy, exercising and staying happy.  I think it's a game of balance. Finding the right balance in your life that makes you happy, healthy and content.

I applaud all of those that don't struggle, you are lucky.  I encourage those that are in my shoes to keep pushing through and it will happen.  I am just trying to not eat everything in sight this week…LOL  I deal with my issue with humor, so this post is, in part cheeky and truthful.  I find that laughter helps me to handle my life much better, yet this is a topic I struggle with a lot.

This yummy salad is one of our favorites.  It was shared with my by Cory's aunt Jackie, who is from France.  She said this was her favorite salad ever.  I try to make these yummy salads to have for lunch.  I like green salads, but I get tired of them easily.  This salad is wonderful.  ENJOY!

Recipe:  Yummy Tomato Salad

3 cups of  Cherry Tomatoes ( about 1 small carton)
2 cups of fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced or cubed
3 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
salt and pepper to taste
avocado (optional)  I added this to my recipe and I love the combination of the avocado and egg yolk, it makes a yummy dressing.
green onions (optional)  I add these because we like onion.
equal parts: vinegar, water and oil.  I start off with a 1/4 cup of each.  It depends on the size of salad that you make.  You can also add some sugar, if you would like it to be sweetened a bit.  Start with a teaspoon at a time.  Shake.  Re-taste.

Wash all of your produce.  Boil your eggs.  Chop and slice the mushrooms, cucumbers and eggs.  Leave the tomatoes whole.

Combine your dressing and add to the salad.

Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

**You can add the avocado and onion at anytime or leave them out completely.

Written by Sherron Watson

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homemade Dinner Rolls and Chicken Alfredo

'86.  This was a good year for me.  I graduated from high School,  spent some time with my Dad, started a new job and found a college to attend.  I would have to say that this is when my life got really good.  My memories are fresh.  The music was awesome.  My future was before me.

'11.  So many years later and never in a million years would I have been able to plan for the adventure my family has had!  Life is good.  We are blessed every day and are so thankful for each and every year we get together as a family.

November has a way of making you stop and think about the things you are grateful for.  I am glad that it's a month and not just a day.  Yes, we eat turkey on one day,  but really the whole month is a constant reminder that being thankful brings a person joy and happiness.

I have said this before, and will probably say it again, that I am thankful for this page and blog.  It is a great way for me to share with my family and friends wonderful recipes that have been shared with me and for this I am thankful.

The other day, Rye and I were making something that she loved.  She asked me if I was going to put the recipe on the blog.  OF COURSE sweet girl!  My kids are understanding , that the recipes that we eat and share as a family,  have memories attached to them.  That the recipes represent a time in their life when they will one day be able to relate it to an event, somewhat like music does.  When you hear a song, no matter where you are, it takes you back to a time, a place, an event…a memory.

I want my kids to have those memories because those will include me.  Our time spent together at the kitchen table, preparing our dishes, laughing and being together.  Our family time is precious and for this I am thankful everyday.

This blog allows my kids, nieces and nephews, to have family recipes where ever they may live or be in their lives.  They can always call but having an index does come in handy.  I am thankful for technology.

These two recipes were shared with me over 20 years ago by some dear friends.  This was during a time when I was just learning to "really" cook.  That sounds odd, but this is the time that I learned the words "from scratch" and really embraced them.  I love to cook things with whole ingredients.  These recipes are not original to them ( I am sure they were handed down to them by their family) but they are just great recipes.  Easy and quick are two words, lately, that I have enjoyed in the kitchen.  I love my days that I get to spend ALL day making one dish; there is a time a place for all things.  I am thankful for all types of cooking styles, flavors, techniques, recipes and cooks.  Together we make this "foodie world" wonderful!

Recipes:  Quick Dinner Rolls (32 rolls)

1/3 cup of sugar
2 T. yeast
2 cups of warm water
2 tsp. salt
6 eggs
8 cups of flour
1 stick of butter, melted

Heat your oven to 425.

In a small bowl or 2 cup measuring device, add sugar and yeast to the warm water.  Let set for 5 minutes until frothy.

In a LARGE bowl or large mixer, add your salt, eggs and water/yeast mixture.  Mix together.  Slowly start adding your 8 cups of flour.  The dough will be sticky.

Let the dough raise for 30 minutes.  Remove from the bowl to a floured surface and knead in enough flour to make it workable.  I add maybe another 1/2 cup to the whole process.  It should still be soft.

Once your dough is ready to be parted, cut into 4 sections and set them off to the side.

Melt your butter in a bowl.

Take one of the four and roll the dough like you would a pizza crust, into a circle about 14 inches across.

With a pastry brush and using the melted butter, make sure the top is covered in butter.

I use a pizza cutter and cut the circle into 8 pieces, like a pie.

Start on the edges of each piece and roll to the center.  Place on a cookie sheet.  I line my cookie sheet with parchment paper, if you don't, I would spray Pam before laying the rolls on the cookie sheet.

Raise 20 minutes.  You can raise longer, they just get really airy.  Some people like this.

Bake for 6-8 minutes.


Recipe:  Chicken Alfredo

1 large chicken breast
1 cup of broccoli florets (optional)
1 box of pasta
1 stick of butter
1/3 cup of flour
2 cups of cream ( you can use half milk and half cream too)
1/2-1 cup of Parmesan cheese ( we like ours strong)
dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut and cook chicken into pieces.  Steam broccoli and cut into small pieces.

Cook pasta according to directions on packaging.  Drain.

In a medium size pot, melt your butter.  Add the flour.  Cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Add your cream/milk and bring to a boil.  The sauce should get thick within 6-8 minutes.  Be careful to not burn the bottom.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

This is a mild white sauce.  The cheese you use and how much cheese will determine how strong the flavor becomes.

I use two small baking dishes, but this will also fit into a 9X13 pan.  Toss the chicken, broccoli, sauce and pasta together.  Add to your baking dish.  Top with cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.  It should be bubbly.  This makes excellent leftovers.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

French Dips and Broccoli Salad

Last week, Isabella and I, had invited some friends over for lunch.  I enjoy having guest over, especially when I get a chance to cook.  On this day, I knew the kids would be hungry so I tried to plan something easy for them.  They had a choice of several things but chose to stick with an old stand by…peanut butter sandwiches. Along with their sandwiches they had green beans.  LOL  You can't beat that…4 yo's that want green beans!

For the adult portion, I chose to go with a couple of salads and french dips.  I was starving by the time lunch came around and this hit the spot.  For dessert, we snacked on V Chocolates…LOL  YUM!

The lunch turned out great with everyone having full tummies, lots of playing and discussions shared.  Friends are wonderful and having them for lunch is a bonus!

Recipe:  French Dips

1 pound of sliced roast beef
Au Jus (packet or use beef broth)
Provolone cheese
Hoagie buns
French's Fried Onions

Prepare you Au Jus according to packet instructions.

 Place you roast beef in the juice to warm the meat.

 Turn your broiler on.  Lay two pieces of provolone cheese on your hoagie bun and broil for a few seconds, until cheese is melted.

Remove your beef from the au jus and let sit for a moment to drain the juice.

 Add your French's Onions to one side of the bun and the beef on the other.

This is ready to serve.  You can also add pickles or any other condiments that are special to your french dip sandwich.

Recipe:  Broccoli Salad

2 large bundles of broccoli
8 slices of bacon
1/3 cup red onion, diced
1/3 cup of almonds, sliced or slivered
1/3 cup of raisins, any variety

1/3 cup of mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
apple cider vinegar

Wash and chop your broccoli into bite sized pieces.  Prepare your bacon and chop into small pieces. Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a medium size bowl.

In a smaller bowl, prepare your dressing.  I have not given specifics on the apple cider vinegar because it's purely based on your taste buds.  I do start with the 1/3 cup of mayo and add a cap of cider vinegar at a time with a sprinkling of sugar.  Start small and work you way up until the flavor is perfect for you.

Combine the salad mix and the dressing together.  This recipe works best if it can be refrigerated for a few hours before serving.  This gives everything a chance to blend together.

Art, Technology, and Disability

It has been forever, it feels to me since I have written on my blog. I took a break to focus on family and school. Here I am, three yea...