Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
So, if you know me, you probably know that I've been applying to law schools. Well, the results have started coming in! I am now officially accepted into Vanderbilt Law School, and I'm almost definitely accepted into Duke Law. It's still sinking in, I knew I'd get into some schools, but I'd also geared myself up for the possibility of getting rejected... now I'm not sure what to do with myself.
Cadence and Kate are very proud, though. And I'm proud of myself, too; I'm just having some trouble letting myself feel it. Either way, in a few months, Cadence and I are going to have an awful lot of reading to do!
Friday, February 20, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Making JiaoziJiaozi, or Chinese dumplings, have always been an important part of my childhood. I remember "helping" my mom roll out the dough - usually by playing with the dough until it dried out - and having eating contests with family and friends. It was often a big event, getting together - the adults sitting and talking as they assembled the jiaozi so that we could eat all the yumminess.
Since I've started cooking, I've made them three or four times, and I'm starting to hone in on a balance that I like. I even took notes - although, I was making a double batch this night, and may have been a little inconsistent with whether my notes were for 1 or 2 batches. Oh well. Feel free to play around with the proportions of the filling. I use Napa cabbage and pork, but you can use a different meat (beef is also popular) and other veggies.
Plan on a few hours of preparation time, at first, just to be safe. Making the dumplings can be a time-consuming process, but with practice, it will take a lot less time and work than you (or at least I) might think.
- 1 lb. Napa cabbage
- 1 t. salt
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1/3 lb. chopped scallions
- 1.5 oz. minced ginger
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 4T soy sauce
- 5T sesame oil
- 4T rice vinegar
- 1 lb flour (around 3 c. or you can use the cool kitchen scale your significant other gave you for Christmas), plus more for kneading between 3/4 c. and 1 c. of cold water
- Chop cabbage until fine. (This time around I tried using a food processor, and it was a bit of disaster - the cabbage got a little too fine, and the texture and water level got all messed up.) I suggest using a giant knife instead. Mix the cabbage with the salt in a bowl, let it sit for 10 minutes, then squeeze out the excess water
- Mix the filling ingredients, except for the pork, and season to taste. Definitely err on the side of too much flavor, at this point, because adding the pork and then cooking (at least if you boil) will result in loss of flavor. Alternatively, I suppose you could test the seasoning after you've added the raw meat, but I wouldn't recommend it.
- Add the pork and mix well.
- In a big bowl, stir the water into the flour and knead into a smooth dough. It's a bit drier a dough than I'm used to, but don't be put off if it doesn't seem especially squishy or anything. Just make sure it's smooth and definitely shouldn't be sticky. Let the dough stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Smiley face, optional.
- Roll the dough out into a long snake...
... and then cut into 50 pieces. Or you can split it, and do it in 2 batches of 25.
- Now, start squishing the pieces of dough.
- Then, roll them out into 2-3 inch circles on a lightly floured surface. Make sure not to roll them too thin, otherwise they'll break when you fill them and the tasty insides will try to escape. Repeat this until you've got a nice tall stack of skins, ready to go.
- OK, now we're ready to put these little fellas together. Pick up a skin and stick some of your filling in the center.
- How you actually pinch it closed is up to you, but here's how my mom taught me to do it: Pinch two sides together in the center, gather up the open ends, and then pinch it all together.
And hopefully you'll end up with something like this. Make sure it's pinched securely closed!
CookingNow it's finally time to actually start cooking these things. You've got 3 main options: boil, steam, or fry. I've never fried them, except when heating up leftovers, so I don't really have much input.
BoilingBoiling is simple and what my family usually does. Just fill up a big pot of water, bring to a boil, and gently drop a bunch into the water. Stir them gently so that they don't stick to the pot or each other. Once the water returns to a boil and they start floating, they should be about done.
SteamingWhat I've done the last two times is to steam them. We have a bamboo steamer, which I usually stick on top of a wok filled with water. You can see the setup below. You'll need to line the steamer with something, wax paper works really well, but this last time I tried using cabbage leaves. (That's why the green cabbage in the picture way at the top is there.) It worked surprisingly well, although it's tough to get the leaves to lay flat.
When the water starts boiling, it's time to start putting our dumplings in. Try not to overfill the steamer, as I did this time around, otherwise you end up with jiaozi that are stuck together and fall apart when you take them out. Close the steamer, and let them cook for about 10 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. Take them out, and consume! Preferably with a little dipping sauce - I like soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil, but experiment - spicy stuff can be good.
Especially if you're doing multiple batches, keep an eye on the water level so you don't ruin your pan.
Here's the finished product.
Let me know how yours turn out. And don't forget dessert!
This dish is Cadie approved.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Last month, Kentucky experienced a sudden winter storm. While it devastated most of the state, it was also decidedly beautiful. The first day coated every last detail in a thick layer of crystal clear ice.
The following day, the ice melted away and big, fluffy snowflakes fell, and left just enough cover to allow us to break out the sleds. Just enough. Just exactly enough.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Cadence, this month - really just this past week- I feel like you turned the fact of your growing up into a giant club and began beating us over the head with it. Not only have you added words like "read" and "octopus" into your repertoire, you also stopped taking milk at night in a single day, took an interest in your toys as things to care for [you were manipulating your beanie-baby tiger's paws to sign "more, please" and "Thank you," giving it milk, giving your puppy turns at nursing, and putting diapers on your big plastic ant with jingle-bell feet, and just this morning you were rocking and singing your new baby to sleep], you learned that taking the medicine in a single dose is better, even if it's unpleasant, than resisting it and making a 2 hour marathon of it, you were trying to help your young friend at peak-a-book to stand and walk, apologizing to the Rody when you knocked it over before picking it up and giving it big hugs and kisses...
This past week you've taken on more than your usual allotment of big adventures, and you're blasting through each one like it was nothing.
We went to Mammoth Cave on a whim last week...being off season, and right after the worst winter storm kentucky has had in ages, if not ever, we were the only ones on the tour...a 2 hour private cave exploration, at 19 months. amazing. You were cautious, quiet and observant (as ever), but you seemed to soak up the experience...you had a lot of fun! Because of closures, we also got to go on a tour that they don't usually give...what a cool thing for our adventurous little lady to go on!
When we were about a mile into the cave, our guide offered to give us an unusual experience: total darkness. He turned out all the lights/lanterns and we all just sat for a moment, soaking in the extreme silence and total darkness of being more than a mile from the opening. I was very impressed at your reaction...I was holding you, of course, and could feel you breathing, listening, looking...it was beautiful to experience your life in that moment.
You did get worried after a short while, but it was long enough for us all to have a moment of simplicity. And even then, you just burrowed into me, grabbed my arm, and gave a couple of quiet sounds indicating your fear...and the ranger turned the lights back on, and you were fine.
You loved the waterfall over the entrance, though as soon as we passed behind it a big sheet of ice fell from the hill above, and I was worried that the suddenness of the motion and sound was going to make you fearful of the experience...but the smiles, shrieks, and happy affirmations you gave everyone back at the visitors' center when they asked you if you'd liked it confirmed for us all that your silence was not from fear, but from your fierce concentration. And of course, as usual, everyone was so taken with you that you even got a vibrating stuffed ladybug book as an impromptu gift!
We were lucky, Bowling Green was not hit nearly as bad, we got the ice, we got the snow, but we never lost power...and, there was just exactly enough snow cover on the big hill behind the junior high school to let us break out the sleds we've held onto since we lived in more wintry regions.
I think it helped that the morning started out with a snowy episode of Kai-Lan, in which Tolee learns to sled...at first being afraid, but then progressing to the biggest hill. I think that, along with Mama and Baba talking about it, and Kelly telling you how cool it was gonna be was all the instruction you needed...the moment we arrived at the top of the hill, without waiting for me to tell you what was up, you demanded to be put in the sled and wanted to be pushed down.
I went down with you...I was somewhat terrified as we picked up speed, I could feel your little body tucked into my legs and chest and had a distinct feeling of being mostly helpless in the event of a crash - a new, totally humbling experience - it wasn't that I didn't anticipate that I would worry about you, but this is one of those you-won't-get-it-until-you-experience-it terrors, unique to being a parent and loving your child beyond any possible comprehension.
You, on the other hand, loved it so much you offed your nap for the day, instead demanding to go down with mama, now baba, now kelly, now this sled, now that sled, not the small hill! the big one! BIG ONE! Pepper gleefully played along, dashing after the sled and covering you in kisses at the bottom...And thankfully, the only crashes involved Kelly and Baba, and no one was seriously hurt...it was a grand day. You played so hard you melted down, but some rest and some hot chocolate later, you were a grown up girl, with the sledding notch firmly in your belt.
Food is one thing I have thankfully never had to worry too much about with you...you are a total foodie, showing up at the WIC office munching on a spinach quiche (there was a day last week where you wouldn't eat anything but mini quiches...spinach, vegetable, and something with a complicated name that I have since forgotten, involving little chunks of what I think may have been prosciutto...) gobbling up such a wide range of foods it's hard to keep up, mexican, chinese, indian...whatever we put on your plate, you'll try. You only like cherry tomatoes fresh from our garden, no other ones, you're not particularly interested in lettuce, but black olives will disappear before our eyes and kidney beans are always a hit.
Chocolate is, of course, a favorite, but you tire of it before gorging yourself and mac & cheese is great but not for every meal. Ice cream is exciting, but so is a good home cooked dish when you're hungry and Baba's been cooking. I love that a favorite snack has become the organic popcorn with just enough oil for popping and a dash of salt...you drag the nearest grown up to the cupboard where it's kept, and declare "Pop!" with a grin, and I can't tell you how much this triumph of communication tickles me. Let's hear it for a healthy interest in food, especially since you always stop eating when you're full, even if its a chocolate bar in your hand. You're amazing.
***from the other room, I just heard Baba declare "Why do you have your foot in my pocket!?" I can only guess what's going on...these days, you're always doing something new and interesting. Is this really the same little creature we brought home from the hospital? The one with the blanket and cap? You're our amazing girl, little bug.***
Speaking of new and exciting...Yesterday, after peak-a-book, your friend Breanna's mom Angie suggested that, after our usual trip to Panera for breakfast, we take all you kids to Hopscotch, and indoor playplace/gym for young children, not too far away. Was that ever the suggestion of the century!
You, Breanna, Hannah, Ladrian, Kate (and a few others you'd met before but didn't know well) had the time of your lives in that place...monthly memberships and hours and hours of gleeful, out of this world, our children are not old enough for this but oh my goodness there they go excitement all around later, you had accomplished learning to climb jungle gym steps to go down slides, bounce in moonwalks, climb through an inflatable obstacle course...not to mention the big playhouse, padded gym shapes, costumes, magnet wall with letters and numbers, (you now recognize and can name the number 8. I don't know if you know what it means, exactly, but you know what an 8 is...)train tables, musical instruments, tunnels to crawl through.
But the most important thing, I think, was that this was your first time in true social interaction with other kids your age. I know that it is something that we have to let you do, and of course we can help you along the way, but setting you free into a zoo full of kids you don't know, kids who are not as nice as you, or who are less aware...
The social scene is never easy, and it is hardly ever completely fair, but I hope you can find a way to navigate these rough waters without closing off your heart more than is necessary. I watched as other kids would push on the slide, and how you thought they were helping-so after someone pushed you, you went back to the top and tried pushing someone in front of you - though it was clear to everyone that it was in a helpful way, I had to tell you that you shouldn't push...you seemed confused, but took it in stride.
And that girl you kept trying to play with kept pushing you down and crawling over you as if you weren't there...ooo, that riled the mamabear in me up...but you took the high road, and found something better to do...friends who didn't push. That, my dear, is an excellent choice...As you grow...leave those that would hurt you, stomp all over you, use you...leave them all in the dust, let them fight it out themselves. You're stronger and better than that, and don't need to waste your energy fighting their egos. And just as a example, hopefully to show that I'm not the mom who spins her child's actions to reflect what I want to see, you also would get to the top of the slide, and then turn and make sure no one else had been waiting, and sometimes even if no one had, you would step aside and guide them to the top, letting them go first, before plopping yourself down and barreling down that slide with the biggest smile...
You will make mistakes in your life, you will have periods of inaction, you will pursue things that won't pan out...but that, in NO way, means you are less of a person, less worthwhile, less lovable. Yes, it can kick you in the butt and get you going again, it can be motivation to get off your ass, take a break, try something different-and that's great. But you have to always give yourself credit for what you have done, even if it doesn't totally meet your own expectations. We can often be our own harshest judges. Learn to be a fair judge, my lovely one.