Category Archives: cooking

On this page:
  • Wontonomics: Dumpling numbers
  • Wonton movie marathon
  • Cooking: Warm lentil salad with sausages
  • Stocking up on chicken stock stock stock
  • International cooking
  • 524 wontons

Wontonomics: Dumpling numbers

Summary: Cost per serving: CAD 1.25-1.50, time per serving: ~30 minutes(!)

Since people were curious, here’s the rough recipe we used for the last batch of wontons:

Amount Ingredient Cost / source
generous knob ginger, peeled and finely chopped left over from previous
6+ cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped pantry
small handful cilantro, finely chopped from the garden
two bunches green onions, finely chopped CAD 1.14
1 large bag small shrimp, raw, unpeeled, 70/90 – peel and chop CAD 10.00
~2.5kg ground pork CAD 15.61
6 packages wonton wrappers CAD 8.94
soy sauce pantry
sesame oil pantry
salt and pepper pantry

Sauté the ginger and garlic, then mix everything together (except the wonton wrappers, of course). Set out a small bowl of water, a plate, and a teaspoon.

For each package do:

  • For each wrapper do:
    • Hold the wrapper in the shape of a diamond.
    • Place a teaspoon of filling a little above the middle of the wrapper.
    • Wet the top two edges, then fold the bottom half up to meet the top half. Press out air bubbles.
    • Wet one of the outside corners, and fold the two outside corners together.
    • Place the wonton on the plate.
  • Boil the wontons for about a minute and a half, then cool in a bowl of water. Sample a few for quality control. Drain and pack into small containers, 250-265g per container (15-17 wontons, average of 16.8g per wonton). Label and freeze.

If you want to quantify your wonton production, the easiest way is to count them as you’re about to boil them.

Each package contained an average of 70 wrappers (stdev: 5, mode: 74) and took the two of us roughly an hour to process and boil (~1.5-2 person-minutes per wonton). The cost per wonton worked out to $0.08 per wonton (maybe $0.09 considering the pantry ingredients), which means each serving costs about 30 minutes of labour (not including grocery-shopping) and less than $1.50 in raw ingredients.

Thirty minutes seems like a lot for a serving that disappears pretty quickly, but the time is both relationship-time and movie-watching time for us, so it works out. And the wontons are yuuuummy – much better than the frozen ones you can get in the store. (Texture! Flavour! Smug satisfaction!) We like them even more than the ones you can get in a restaurant. =) We usually have the wontons with udon noodles and soup, although we occasionally snack on plain wontons seasoned with soy sauce.

Lots of the freezer recipes we come across are geared to Western tastes, so we like collecting Asian recipes that freeze well too: wontons, Japanese croquettes, okonomiyaki, beef bulgogi… So nice to be able to pull something out of the freezer and enjoy it any time!

Wonton movie marathon

imageJuly 1 is Canada Day, so we have a three-day weekend. No big plans, aside from cooking enough to fill our freezer and spending some time hanging out with W-‘s family.

Yesterday, we biked to three libraries to see what they had in stock, picking up books and movies to help us pass the time during the long weekend. The haul included eight movies and one TV series, a bucketload of business books, and a number of comic books.

As the librarian scanned the last item in my pile (the 40th anniversary edition of Mary Poppins), she told me: “That’s going to put you over the 50-item limit.”

I puppy-dog-eyed my husband, who dutifully handed over his library card so that the remaining item could be checked out under his name. (Technically, we have access to each other’s account, so I could’ve checked it out without him. It’s easier to use his physical card, though.)

We unloaded the books, then headed over to stock up on groceries. Our favourite wonton wrappers were back, so it was settled: a wonton-making marathon.

We moved the dining table into the living room. We had to disassemble the table in order to fit it through the narrow door, but it was worth it. Last time we made a ton of wontons, we sat on the couch and leaned forward to work on the coffee table. The dining table was much better, ergonomically speaking. No back aches or neck aches.

The packages of wonton wrappers we get usually contain 74 wrappers each, although some have as few as 62 usable ones. We filled each wrapper with a teaspoon of the meat mix (pork, shrimp, green onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, pepper), sealed it with a dab of water, and folded it into the characteristic wonton shape. We boiled each set in two batches, cooled the wontons in water, and then scooped the wontons into our standard food containers: 15-16 wontons, roughly 260 grams. Naturally, we had to test some from each batch for quality control.

We used to cram the containers full before, but our consumption rate was way too high. (No one ever leaves extra wontons in the container.)

This is what we do with our long weekends. =) Fun!

Cooking: Warm lentil salad with sausages

“Eat more healthily” is a popular New Year’s resolution. It’s on our list too – a push towards eating more vegetables and less meat, exploring more variety, and developing kitchen skills.

Last Monday’s new recipe: warm lentil salad with sausages, which I found while looking for warm salads to enjoy this winter. Lentils have become one of our kitchen staples. W- makes rice and lentils in the rice cooker for a simple, filling weekday or post-gym meal. I wanted to find other ways we could prepare lentils so that we could play around with different tastes. I looked for a non-dairy salad that I could put together mostly with ingredients we usually have around, and the warm lentil salad with sausages on Epicurious fit the bill.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups French green lentils (13 oz), picked over and rinsed – replaced with 1 cup brown lentils and 1 cup green lentils, since that’s what we had
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 California bay leaf or 2 Turkish – 2 bay leaves of unknown provenance
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup) – turned out to be more than a cup of carrots, but no big deal
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic – Yeah, right. I put in five cloves of garlic.
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled – Didn’t want to get fresh thyme (it’s buried under snow), so I sprinkled some of the Italian seasoning we’re trying to use up
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil – didn’t measure, just drizzled into the dressing
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar – substituted apple cider vinegar, because that’s what we had
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard – substituted regular mustard
  • 3/4 lb smoked kielbasa or other smoked sausage (not low-fat), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices – substituted mild Italian sausages roasted at 400F, not sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

How I did it (although you should probably check out the real instructions if you want to try this):

  1. In a medium saucepan (after having gone through several options from the cabinet), combine the water, lentils, and bay leaves, bring the water to a boil, and lower the heat to a simmer. Chop the other ingredients, checking the saucepan occasionally.
  2. In a 12” skillet, drizzle some oil and sauté the onions and garlic for about a minute. Add the carrots and celery. Cook until slightly softened. Realize you’ve forgotten to add Italian seasoning / thyme, salt, and pepper; season the vegetables, mix them up, and cook them until softer.
  3. Check on the lentils and salt them too.
  4. After a few more minutes, the lentils should be tender. Worry about overcooking the lentils. Drain them and pick out the bay leaves as you see them. Mix the lentils and vegetables in the saucepan.
  5. Contemplate whether to make this a vegetarian dish or to put in the sausages as well. Decide to go with the sausages. Look up how to roast sausages; put them in a 400F oven, turning them when you remember.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar, if you have it), mustard (or Dijon mustard, if you have it), and salt and pepper. Add olive oil, whisking constantly, until it looks about right.
  7. Pour the dressing into the saucepan. Mix it in and taste it. Realize that it doesn’t quite taste sharp enough, so make up another batch of dressing and put that in too.
  8. Keep the lentils on low heat while waiting for the sausages to finish. Try it out before announcing the availability of dinner to others in the household.

I’m getting better at trying new recipes out. I can decide: I don’t have that, so let’s use this instead; hmm, this needs a little more bite; okay, this needs to be put on hold while I finish this. (Hooray for the Internet, though!)

My next steps in lentil awesomeness: buy lentils in bulk from Kensington Market or a good bulk food store, and experiment with growing them in our backyard. (Did you know that Canada is the world’s largest export producer of lentils, according to Wikipedia?) Buying lentils in bulk should work out cheaper than the fancy 500g organic lentil packages we get from The Sweet Potato. We’ve had fun growing peas and beans, so lentils might work out well in our garden too. Exciting!

Epicurious: Warm lentil salad with sausage

Stocking up on chicken stock stock stock

We save the bones from chicken quarters, turkey drumsticks, and other pieces of poultry that pass through our kitchen. They get tossed into the freezer, and when two freezer bags or so get full, it’s time to make a pot of chicken stock.

I joke about renaming winter to “baking season.” It’s soup season, too. Chicken soup to ward off the cold, leek and potato soup for variety, split pea soup with its pork cracklings… Chicken stock goes into stir fries and sauces too. Very useful to have around.

Since we’re trying to eat more vegetables and less meat, we don’t have that many bones to cook with—not as many as we would want if we’re having soup weekly. Fortunately, a large bag of chicken bones costs $1. The largest stock pot we have can fit two bags of bones initially, with a third squeezed in once the chicken bones settle.

2012-12-30 20.28.35

This is what all that stock looks like: three layers of containers, probably around 40 cups. There’s no room in the fridge (there’s a turkey defrosting) and the stock has to cool before we can freeze it, so W- took the containers to the shed, where they’ll cool (and most likely freeze, too). Side benefit of winter: free cold storage. Not quite a walk-in freezer (at least until it hits -18C), but decent at chilling things quickly.

I want to learn how to make vegetable stock as well. That’ll give me another use for all these vegetable odds and ends, and it might lead to other interesting soups along the way.

International cooking

I was thinking about going to the Canadian National Exhibition to watch the airshow with friends and check out the international showcase. Then again, aside from the indulgence of halo-halo from the food court and perhaps something from Bacon Nation… Was that enough for the admission fee and a long time in sun and crowd?

Afternoon at the fair, or a day of cooking? With a fridge full of fresh ingredients, new recipes to try, a stack of videos to watch during the marathon wonton-making session we had planned, and a husband who had already gotten a head start making a large pot of chicken stock – it was an easy decision.

I made cold spring rolls for the first time: shrimp, vermicelli, carrots, basil, cilantro, lettuce, and rice wrappers. I mixed up the peanut sauce using the last of our peanut butter and some other seasonings from the fridge. It was messy, but we’ll probably get better at the technique over time.

Then we made 236 wontons, whee! We had some of the wontons along with the leftover shrimp on top of the vermicelli, along with a reasonable attempt at a nuoc cham dipping sauce made without fish sauce (we’re all out).

I like days like this, getting the house ready for another good week. I’ll be away for two weeks, so I’ll miss these routines. =)

http://www.chow.com/recipes/10641-vietnamese-style-summer-rolls-with-peanut-sauce

524 wontons

We spent the afternoon making a quadruple batch of Jamie Oliver’s shrimp wonton recipe with way more garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Six and a half packages of wonton wrappers, two club packs of pork, three bunches of green onions, and four packages of shrimp make 524 wontons, although not all of them found their way into the freezer (we take quality control seriously!). We also cooked two packages of chicken as adobo and five packs of lamb as korma, so there’ll be plenty of home-made frozen lunches throughout the next few weeks. The freezer is full, the laundry is folded, and the computers are backed up. It’s been a good weekend.

We go on these cooking sprints from time to time. It’s so nice to be able to grab a container from the freezer and tuck it into my lunch bag so that I can savour it at work. It takes a fair bit of effort to prepare – we spend much of a day buying groceries and cooking food – but it’s well worth it, and the korma makes the house smell wonderful.

Life is good.