Little Dumplings

Last year, Caleb and I participated in a fabulous empanada-making class taught by our friends, Simran and Stacie of A Little Yumminess fame.

Not only did we make by hand a variety of delicious empanadas, we were also treated to a demonstration of one of their most popular recipes, easy-peasy dumplings. Following the demonstration, Simran handed out the recipe and we came away excited to re-create them at home. We had made pot-stickers and dumplings before, but I was impressed with how easy (hence the name) these were to make and how delightful they were to gobble up. It was also clear that this would be a hit with my dumplings.

After long last, it came time to make these bite-sized treats in our own kitchen. Hoping that it wasn’t too much of an undertaking for a weeknight, I shopped for the ingredients after work, picked up the kids, and drove home to embark on our dumpling making adventure. In no time, I had the ingredients laid out on the kitchen table, and Caleb and Sadie at my side ready to make some delicious dumplings. Caleb mixed all the ingredients in a bowl and Sadie assisted some. I placed the won-ton skins out on a mat and let the kids take turns using a tiny spoon to dole out the filling onto the wrappers. While the water was coming to a boil on the stove, Caleb brushed the wrappers with egg wash and both kiddos took turns folding and sealing the dumplings with their tiny hands. As busy as we were, it was a sweet sight to step back and behold.

We experimented with two different cooking methods – first steaming, then boiling. We were most successful with the boiling method – not too much water at a medium boil in a large pot. The dumplings didn’t stick together and they looked appetizing and ready to enjoy. We could hardly wait to eat them. Before sitting down to dinner, I made the easy dipping sauce from the recipe and placed it in individual ramekins. I found that tripling the recipe made enough to go around for my little soy sauce junkies.

Caleb and Sadie very quickly gobbled up their creations before I could even ask what they thought. It was evident that our easy-peasy dumplings were a weeknight hit. What a gratifying (and tasty) treat! Not just making these delicious dumplings, but having a great excuse to spend some special time with my kiddos in the kitchen, at the beginning of a busy week ahead. They clearly enjoyed taking part in the dumpling production and I appreciated how easy it was to pull together.

Make these at home (try pan frying for instant pot-stickers!) and let me know what you think! Click here for the recipe and for more inspiration, do check out my friend’s website: A Little Yumminess – it will very quickly become a favorite destination when in need of cooking and eating inspiration for your little dumplings.

A Dim Sum Celebration

Last Friday, my Caleb graduated from his Pre-K program in Berkeley. Not to sound too much like a proud Jewish mother, but I’ve been waiting for this day for five years and was teary-eyed when it arrived. It feels like just yesterday when we enrolled our 5-month-old in their infant program. In the blink of an eye, he has transformed into an intelligent, creative, kooky and curious five-year-old, well-prepared to take on kindergarten.

In the early evening, following the sweet graduation ceremony, we took Caleb out to the restaurant of his choice. Not surprising at all, he chose dim sum at our local favorite, King Tsin on Solano Avenue in Berkeley – a very family friendly restaurant that excels at dim sum. We spontaneously invited another Pre-K family to join us…a lovely family from France who will be returning soon.

Caleb and his friend, Prosper were excited to sit next to each other at the round banquet table. Prosper’s parents were caring for his little brother, Gaston on one end and Mateo and I were feeding Sadie on the other. The centerpiece of our table was a Lazy Susan (this one was not so lazy and a dependable workhorse) topped with steaming plates and bamboo containers of freshly cooked dim sum. Yum!

Prosper and his family are pretty new to dim sum, so it was fun exposing them to some of our favorite choices. We kicked off our meal with a dazzling bowl of sizzling-rice soup, which I mainly ordered for the boys because it’s fun to listen to the sizzle when the waitress pours the fried rice into the large bowl at the table. Prosper called the soup “magic” because he liked the sound and enjoyed eating the large shrimp bobbing around. We also ordered pan-fried pot stickers, steamed spinach dumplings, shrimp dumplings, Shanghai dumplings, green onion pancakes, sticky rice wrapped and steamed in lotus leafs, and Caleb’s favorite…steamed pork buns (char siu bao).

Pork buns were my favorite as a child and I have fond memories of my father walking with me hand-in-hand to the local dim sum counter in San Francisco’s Richmond District. I would step up on my tippy-toes and order a “char siu bao” over the steamy counter…so proud that I knew how to ask for them in Cantonese. Once received, I would carefully peel off the white paper from the bottom and proceed to gobble my bun down. I loved the sweet, stewy barbecue pork mixture inside, and what kid wouldn’t like that sweet dough? It warms my heart that Caleb is just as crazy about pork buns as I was when I was a kid. Such good taste my child has!

Leave it to a Jewish mother (“Eat, eat!”) to order too much food at our dim sum graduation banquet, but we all did a more than adequate job of polishing it off. After the dinner, both families hugged, congratulated our little graduates, and packed the kids into our respective cars to head home for bedtime.

I truly love exposing Caleb and Sadie, and others to the wonderful ethnic foods available to us in the Bay Area. I feel spoiled and very fortunate to have such an abundance of delicious things so readily accessible. It was this way when I was growing up in San Francisco and I think it’s even better now, since the diversity of the Bay Area has expanded. A good life, indeed. Congratulations, my Caleb!

A Cooking Class Adventure with Caleb

Last Saturday, Caleb and I participated in a wonderful parent-child cooking class together in San Francisco. The class, Empanadas and Dumplings, was taught by our friends through the blogosphere, Simran and Stacie who write a fabulous blog that I’m fond of, called A Little Yumminess.

Caleb and I rode BART into the City and arrived at the 16th Street BART Station just minutes before our class was to begin. I practically covered Caleb’s eyes as we hurried past a gaggle of friendly neighborhood prostitutes and drug addicts. Good times! I wouldn’t have done a double take in my twenty-something days when walking through the Mission, but now that I’m a careful guardian of two young children, I feel incredibly protective and don’t want the world to appear seedy through their eyes.

We let the wind blow us up the street to a cozy studio space in the Mission District dedicated to bringing community and food together, called 18 Reasons. We walked in to find about eight other families sitting around a family-style table waiting for class to begin. Sprinkled around the table were little bowls of empanada and dumpling fillings such as chocolate chips (yes…I caught Caleb’s hand in there a few times), banana puree, apple sauce, diced apple, as well as more savory fillings like chicken, ground beef with onions, queso fresco, black beans, and creamed corn.

Simran and Stacie had pre-made the dough and provided us with little balls to roll out at our workstations. Caleb was a master roller and had even volunteered to help demonstrate how to make the dough in front of the class.

After making a handful of empanadas, Simran did her demonstration of “Easy-Peasy Dumplings” and we tried our hand at those. Very similar to the potstickers Caleb and I have made together, and very yummy.

Our favorite part of the class was when the pre-made empanadas came out of the oven and we all got to pass baskets of sweet and savory hot pockets of goodness. There wasn’t an empanada that Caleb didn’t like (although his favorite…wait for it…was filled with chocolate), so I feel very inspired to make these at home with him sometime soon.

As we were getting ready to leave to head back to the East Bay, Caleb asked me “Momma, what other fun things are we going to do now?” I was pleased to hear that my little guy was having such a good time and that my idea to take him to a cooking class in San Francisco was well received.

I really enjoyed my special date with Caleb – riding into the City, walking over to the class through my old stomping grounds, running to the class hand in hand as the wind was pushing us up the street, and sitting next to my sweet-pea around a huge table, surrounded by other parents who are also passionate about exposing their children to wholesome, home-cooked ethnic foods. I especially enjoyed, riding back on BART with Caleb’s head on my shoulder and hand on my lap. We had fun talking all about the food that we had made together and gobbled up during the class. This was definitely a memorable food adventure and I look forward to our next one.

Recipe: Chocolate and Caramelized Banana Empanadas (from A Little Yumminess)