Fair and Square

One of our favorite types of food these days is ramen. No, not the 10/$1.00 packs that come in all sorts of flavors, like chicken, oriental, and beef, but the actual kind that you are given in a restaurant, in a gigantic bowl filled to the brim with steaming hot broth, ramen noodles, pork (or fried chicken. fried chicken!), and all sorts of other ingredients that have me salivating right this second.

We’ve tried a handful of spots in the city over the past few months, and every time I’m feeling the need for some warm comfort food my mind goes straight to ramen. I can’t get enough of it.

Of course, while waiting for said ramen to make its appearance at the table, it’s never a bad idea to have an appetizer or three. Many of these ramen joints make killer meat skewers, but often times all I want is a freakin’ potsticker. Something about a little sheet of dough enveloping a bite of meat and veggies, and then steamed and served alongside some sort of amazing dipping sauce makes me so amazingly happy. So happy that I could likely eat a couple orders of them and call it a night, if it weren’t for the ramen making its way to the table.

But when you’re home, that’s another story. I’ve eaten potstickers only quite a few times.

Potstickers are those little treats that look so damn hard to make, but are in all reality, probably one of the easiest dishes to throw together, minus the time. You toss the filling into a food processor, which means your initial chopping skills really don’t matter all that much, as long as things are similarly butchered to smithereens. You put the filling onto pre-made wrappers. You fold them (which is what people think is so dang hard. It isn’t.), and then you steam them. The sauce is nothing but a handful of ingredients whisked together (and for that, there are thousands of choices, but I’m a fan of a spicy peanut sauce, I am). Then you’re ready to chow down.

Sure, they look intricate. And sure, it might take some precision and a little patience, but there isn’t much that can go wrong, even if the wonton shapes aren’t winning beauty pageants. Either way, what results are little pockets of delightful goodness that you, I promise, won’t be able to resist.

You can even take them to a potluck if you want. And when that potluck gets canceled without your knowledge, you can smile a little on the inside, because they just turned into lunch, which means you can eat like, 10 of them, instead of 2. That’s what I call winning – fair and square.

Shrimp & Ginger Potstickers w/ Spicy Peanut Sauce
makes 24 potstickers – 4 servings as a meal, 12 as an appetizer

time commitment: 1 hour

printable version

3/4 c Napa cabbage, shredded
1/3 c scallions, chopped (+ more for garnish, optional)
1/4 c carrots, julienned
2 T cilantro, chopped
1 T low sodium soy sauce
2 t fresh ginger, minced
1 t dark sesame oil
1/2 t salt
1/2 lb shrimp, cooked
sriracha, optional but totally not optional
24 small wonton wrappers
2 T cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 T canola oil, divided
1 c water, divided

1/4 c water
1/4 c reduced fat peanut butter
2 T low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 T rice vinegar
1 1/2 T chile paste w/ garlic (sambal oelek)
1/2 t sugar

combine 1st 10 ingredients (sriracha to your liking) into food processor and pulse ~4 times, or until coarsely chopped and mixed together.

working with 1 wrapper at a time, spoon 1 1/2 t of filling into the center. wet the edges of the wonton with a small brush and bring opposite corners together, pinching to seal. place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch/arrowroot powder.

heat 1 1/2 t canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 12 potstickers to pan and cook for 2 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown. slowly add 1/2 c water, cover and cook for 4 minutes. uncover and cook 3 more minutes, until the liquid evaporates. Repeat again with remaining oil, potstickers, and water.

prepare sauce by combining all sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and whisking until mixed.

serve potstickers with peanut sauce, garnishing with green onions, if desired.

Crowd Pleaser

Eat, drink, and be merry. That’s what happened this past weekend. Who am I kidding? That’s what happens every weekend. Except this time, we didn’t just spend it with a few people; we spent it with a condo-full of people.

There was a lot of chocolate involved. Also, cheese, but more on that later. We’ll be talking party food for a while in these parts.

I ‘advertised’ a party with ‘snacks’, and as a direct result of my inability to choose between all the things I wanted to make, we ended up with plenty of food, and good thing because most of it was put to good use. Cheryl and Luke were lucky enough to get to help out with some of the snack-making since they came in Thursday night, but they didn’t seem to mind being put to work. Me? I love having people to cook with, and as a result there was more time to chill, which was also nice. (as a side note, Luke also let me play with his ‘prime lens‘, which I promptly put on my wishlist.)

Of course, we’re talking about someone who gets a kick outta baking bread and cookies all day, and someone who didn’t seem to mind having to prep and cook all week so that all 12 items were ready well in advance of party time. To me, all of that makes perfect sense, and I didn’t regret an ounce of it (well, maybe I regretted making macarons for the first time on Saturday afternoon, but again, more on that later).

I realized early in the week that the snacks were cheese-heavy and chocolate-heavy. Is that a problem? No. I pushed through, and only adjusted a wee bit to add (rather than change because again, I’m silly like that) a non-chocolate cookie and a non-cheese savory snack. But people liked the chocolate – especially the puppy chow.

What’s not to like, right? In contrast to what you might think, puppy chow isn’t dog food, but if dog food tasted this good I’d seriously have to consider a new diet. Puppy chow is a dish that combines all of my favorite things: crunchy cereal, peanut butter, chocolate, and sugar. Also, butter.

This is a dessert I can totally get behind, 24/7. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s a crowd pleaser for sure. It’s also adjustable, with no extra effort, to varied diets – gluten-free, dairy-free, even vegan.

I should also add that if you do make it, hide it. It’s only slightly addictive, but when you’re making things in advance that bowl, no matter how well covered it is, seems to get opened on multiple occasions.

Puppy Chow
adapted from Fast & Fabulous Party Foods & Appetizers; serves a party

time commitment: less than 10 minutes

i’ve seen this recipe in quite a few places, and i remember first trying it when my mother in law made it. i don’t have her recipe, but i’m guessing it’s pretty similar to this one, which i found in a book my mom got me for christmas. thanks, mom!

printable version

1 stick vegan butter
1 c chunky peanut butter
1 12-oz bag vegan chocolate chips
1 box corn Chex
3 c powdered sugar

in a microwave-safe bowl (or in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly), combine butter, peanut butter, and chocolate and warm in 30 second intervals until melted, smooth, and runny.

dump 1/2 of Chex into a large bowl and cover with half of melted goodness. add the rest of the Chex and cover with remaining melted goodness. combine gently and mix together. dump contents into a double-bagged paper bag, toss in powdered sugar, and shake vigorously (which is why you need the bag doubled…) until sugar coats all of Chex. enjoy!