Chinese Snack Dinner for an All-American Holiday

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Pot-Sticker Dumplings with dipping sauces and Edamame

Dumplings are one of our favorite “fast and easy” light meals. We slept in this morning and had both breakfast and lunch late. We also had a parade of children and snacks through the house and were munching things like popcorn and lemonade (fresh-squeezed, the kids set up a lemonade booth today to raise money for Save the Tigers) all day, so were looking for something simple and semi-light for dinner. I also haven’t been to the grocery store in days and we are out of milk, fresh vegetables and fresh fruit, but we had a bag of frozen dumplings and some edamame in the freezer.

We like to pan-fry our dumplings a bit after boiling them. Sometimes we make our own dumplings, but these were store-bought, frozen ones. After boiling (usually about 8 minutes, but follow the package or recipe directions), fry them in a bit of canola oil (drizzle in a bit of toasted sesame oil, too, for extra flavor) until they are starting to turn golden on the bottoms.

Serve with your choice of dipping sauces. Usually the frozen dumplings come with either a soy sauce based dip or a sweet and sour sauce, or both. We also like to make our own dipping sauce, but it’s a bit spicy for the kids. Hubby LOVES it.

Dipping sauce for eggrolls or dumplings:
1 Tbsp. minced green onions
2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. duck sauce
1 tsp. sriracha hot sauce
Stir all ingredients together until well mixed.

Thai Chicken Pizzas

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Mmmm….

These are REALLY yummy – they have been a bit too “exotic” and spicy for the kids in the past, but I’m going to try them again tonight and see what they say. I’ll cut down a bit on the chile paste for them.

Thai Chicken Pizzas
(adapted from a recipe in the June 2004 issue of Cooking Light magazine)

Peanut sauce and chile paste with garlic may be found on the ethnic food aisle of most large supermarkets. Chile paste is quite spicy, so adjust the amount to suit your personal taste. The original Cooking Light recipe called for pita breads, instead of pizza shells. I know that the pitas would make the recipe healthier (lower carb), but the pizza shells are better – you can decide which is more important to you – for us, it depends on the day……

1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 Tbsp. peanut sauce
1 to 3 reaspoons chile paste with garlic
4 small pizza shells (such as 8″ Boboli)
2 cups sliced cooked chicken (I used chicken that was marinated overnight in Teriyaki sauce, then grilled)
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup fresh bean sprouts, optional
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine first 3 ingredients, stir well. Place pizza shells on a large baking sheet. Spread 2 tablespoons sauce mixture on each pizza shell. Top each one with 1/2 cup chicken, 1/4 cup carrot, 1/4 cup bean sprouts, and 1 tablespoon green onions. Sprinkle cilantro and shredded cheese evenly over each pita.

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Unbaked pizza.

Bake at 450 degrees for 8 – 12 minutes or until thoroughly heated and lightly browned around edges, or follow directions on pizza shell label. Remove from oven and cut each pizza into 4 wedges.

Yield: 4 (2 wedges each) servings.

I like to serve these with this Avocado and Mango Salad with Passion Fruit Vinaigrette from Bon Appetit. The passion fruit puree is hard to find, but you can mail order it from Amazon.com, or I have used a Welch’s frozen passion fruit juice concentrate blend (with apple and white grape juice in it, I think) with pretty good success.

The Way to a Teacher’s Heart is Through Their Stomach

Every year since Girl was in Kindergarten, I have prepared this meal as a “thank you” to the teachers. I usually prepare it for the last field trip of the school year (so they don’t have to worry about lunch packing in addition to trip-planning), but this year, that date got away from me, so I made it yesterday. Boy and Girl have both had a fabulous year (and Girl is leaving this school next year, so this was also a “goodbye” for her), so I expanded the list from just the classroom teachers (as I’ve done in the past), to include coaches, music and drama teachers, spanish & art teachers, etc. By the time the list was done, I found myself cooking for 21 very deserving educators. The entire menu was printed in the June 2000 issue of Bon Appetit and is also great for picnics. Click on the foods for recipes.

Deviled Eggs with Tarragon & Capers

Spicy Oven-Fried Chicken
This recipe calls for bone-in breasts, which are more flavorful than boneless, but are also more difficult to eat, especially in a “picnic”-type lunch where you might not have a proper plate, fork and knife. I prefer to use the boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You can marinate, bread and bake them according the regular recipe directions, or you can cut the breasts into smaller pieces and flatten them gently (like this), for even smaller (easy to pick up and eat with your fingers, like chicken strips for grownups) serving pieces.

Green Bean, Yellow Bean & Cherry Tomato Salad
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Macaroni Salad with Peas & Ham
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I always serve this lunch with “Triple Chocolate Peppermint Brownies” and Homemade Lemonade. This year, I served the lemonade in special water bottles that I purchased (and ran through the dishwasher beforehand) that have a freezable ice stick inside to keep the drinks cold.

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For the brownies, I use Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie mix (it comes in a box from Costco, with 6 individual mixes in it – 2 mixes makes a 9 x 13 pan) and add 10 chopped (quartered) York Peppermint Patties (the small ones that are about 1.5 inches across) and 2 or 3 drops of peppermint extract per bag of mix. Bake according to the normal package directions.

For Homemade Lemonade: Mix together 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice.

Strawberry Lemonade Variation:
During strawberry season, I’ll run some fresh strawberries through my juicer and add about 1/2 cup of the juice to the the lemonade – Boy and Girl LOVE this!

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I packed the lunches in individual bags with an ice pack, with little containers (from a restaurant supply) of each food. The chicken is in foil. The brownies were packed in little ziplocs, with one of my favorite mints (Perugina Glacia) taped to the side (this menu has lots of onion, so I thought the teachers might appreciate that after eating!). I also included a small, disposable plastic plate (better than eating out of containers!) and one of those packets with napkin, plastic knife, fork and spoon and some salt and pepper (also from the restaurant supply). Next year, I’m going to try to find some individual lunch boxes or inexpensive coolers, because the cold lemonade bottles and ice packs made the paper lunch sacks disintegrate a little as they got wet from condensation.

Yes, I’ve already yelled at my kids this morning….

I tackled a big (OK, gargantuan and insane…….but also fun and rewarding) project yesterday and only got 4 hours sleep last night (more on the project later), so I had a bit of a short fuse at breakfast this morning:

Boy (in protracted, annoying voice): Yuh-uuuuuum!
(in response to candy “Dinosaur Egg” oatmeal)
Girl (in whiny, annoyed voice): STOH-OP!

Boy (in protracted, annoying voice): Yuh-uuuuuum!
Girl (in whiny, annoyed voice): STOH-OP!

Boy (in protracted, annoying voice): Yuh-uuuuuum!
Girl (in whiny, annoyed voice): STOH-OP!

Boy (in protracted, annoying voice): Yuh-uuuuuum!
Girl (in whiny, annoyed voice): STOH-OP!

Boy (in protracted, annoying voice): Yuh-uuuuuum!
Girl (in whiny, annoyed voice): STOH-OP!

I will leave out my seriously pissed-off interjection, shouted from the laundry room.
Tomorrow is the last day of school for Boy and Girl and we are in the midst of major end-of-the-year craziness (parties, ceremonies, projects, etc.), but I will get cooking and blogging again very shortly. Coming soon: Thai Chicken Pizzas and “The Way to a Teacher’s Heart is Through Their Stomach.”

Cream Cheese Chutney Spread

I haven’t made this recipe in FOREVER, but it’s really yummy – nicely sweet and tangy. The next time I make it, I’ll take a photo, but I wanted the recipe to be handy, for anyone that needed it (Staci). It’s great for “girly” gatherings (showers, etc.) or holiday parties.

1 8-oz brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2/3 jar Crosse & Blackwell Major Grey’s chutney
(Yes, it MUST be this brand.)
1/3 cup sliced green onions (the green part only)

Stir cheese and chutney together until fairly smooth (will still have some chunks – it doesn’t have to be completely blended). Stir in onions. The dip is ready to serve at this point, but is even better if you place it in a serving container at this point and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors meld. Serve with hearty-textured crackers (whole wheat or Triscuits are good).

Slave Labor

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If you’re going to force your children to help you demolish the old tile in your bathroom before installing the new tile, you should DEFINITELY make sure that they are wearing safety goggles.

Actually, they loved this (bang away at the floor and break stuff with hammers? what’s not to like?) and were very helpful…..

This is how we spent the day that Boy broke his arm – ripping out old carpet, padding and tile in the bathroom, then Hubby and Boy went up on the roof and cleaned the gutters. We needed a break, so Hubby took the kids for a bike ride (I chose to stay at home with a glass of wine). Would have been a fabulous day had the bike ride not ended with a trip to the ER…..

Polenta

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I used store-bought polenta for this (Frieda’s brand, with herbs), but I’m looking for a good recipe to try to make my own sometime soon. Cut it out of the tube and cut into half-inch slices. Fry the slices in a drizzle of olive oil until they’re lightly browned on both sides. Top with good quality (I like Rao’s) jarred sauce (or make your own, if you’re so inclined). Serve over sauteed spinach. This was popular with both Boy and Girl.