Category Archives: March 2010

The Dim-Sum of the Matter…

你好 (nee-how) my Susitna Cafe’ friends!  We’re talking about travel here at the Cafe’.  I know, this is no surprise to you!

Do you like to travel?  I like to travel because I like to learn.  I like to learn what a place is really like.  You know, really get into “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.

Sometimes getting to “the Dim-Sum of the matter” during a short visit can be challenging, particularly when jet-lag is involved.  Last year, we traveled to Hong Kong.  We had anticipated some jet lag.  However, I experienced serious jet lag.

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, I was absolutely sure that my body was  located in Hong Kong.  However, my brain was located elsewhere.  Timbuktu perhaps?  No telling really…

Our planned Day 1 itinerary didn’t challenge our jet lagged minds too much.  We had planned a ride on the Victoria Peak Tram, the world’s oldest funicular railway.  All of our travel guidebooks had recommended it as a “must-do” activity.

After reaching Victoria Peak, we planned to walk amidst the nature trails and enjoy the views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong below.  And so, that’s what we did.

Upon arrival at the Peak, we refreshed ourselves with some strong Pacific Coffee at the Peak restaurant.  And, zoom-zoom!  Off we went to enjoy our walk and fabulous vistas!

The view of  Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong below was sooo impressive…Hong Kong appeared like a modern and westernized city!

Gee, it even looked like a big city in North America (you know, that place where my brain was located…or, was that Timbuktu?).

The Peak nature trails were lovely.  Much of the vegetation was semi-tropical and familiar to us.  Gee, it sort of looked like the same vegetation found in Houston, TX…

“R” really liked the trees along the Peak trails.  According to the horticultural signage in the Park, the trees were identified as rubber trees.  Hmm…we hadn’t seen any rubber trees like that in Houston, TX…

So we walked and wandered amongst alot of rubber trees.  Although still feeling  jet-lagged, I experienced a brief moment of clarity during our walk.  I thought “Hmm…if you can find something different, like a rubber tree, amongst so much familiarity, then our distant view of Hong Kong might be like a wonton wrapper”.

I’m sure that you understand what happens to a person when you walk around and see alot of rubber trees pondering these sort of thoughts my Susitna Cafe’ friends.  As you can imagine, we had reached a decision point during our first day in Hong Kong amongst all those rubber trees.  We decided that this is “where the rubber meets the road“!  Tee-hee 😮

So, at that point on our first day in Hong Kong, we decided to break-away from our planned itinerary and dive-in to “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.  There was no time to lose, so we headed down into the heart of the city to see what was inside the Hong Kong wonton wrapper…

Upon arrival at street level, Hong Kong  appeared very modern and westernized just like our view from atop Victoria Peak.  I think we were still on the edge of the wonton wrapper…

We saw big and western style malls full of fashionable shops…

You know, a funny thing happens when you travel and explore…the more you explore, the more you discover what’s behind the wrapper (wonton wrapper that is…).  Here’s a peak inside the Hong Kong dumpling…an Asian junket amongst a modern and westernized backdrop wrapper…

After seeing the Asian junket on Victoria Harbour, we were excited to really get to “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.  So we explored further.  All of a sudden, we noted that the signage in our surroundings began to change.  Instead of modern and westernized signs, we saw neon multi-lingual signage printed with both western and Chinese characters…

As we delved into the dumpling even more, the street signs changed again.  Now there were more Asian influences…

Soon, our exploration led us to the heart of the dumpling…an evening Ladies Market where we experienced all kinds of tasty ingredients…

This is a vibrant place where locals and visitors enjoy the tasty dumplings…

A place where the friendly ingredients meld so nicely together…

Well my Susitna Cafe’ friends, as you can see, we had a wonderful first day in Hong Kong!  Sigh…there’s just nothing like getting to “the Dim-Sum of the matter” when you’re traveling!

Susitna Cafe’ Shrimp Dumplings

Ohhh…I love yummy dumplings, don’t you?  Although you can use store bought wonton wrappers for these dumplings, homemade tastes so much better!  Ohhh…they’re even better when we incorporate tasty herbs too!

Herb Wonton Wrapper Ingredients

2 cups organic unbleached flour, plus extra for pastry board

1/2 teaspoon gourmet salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup cilantro & chives, chopped fine

cornstarch

Combine flour and salt on your pastry board or countertop.  Make a well in the center of your flour and salt mixture.  Next, add egg and water into a mixing bowl.  Whisk until mixed.  Pour the egg and water mixture into your flour well.

Mix and knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball.  If the dough sticks to your pastry board, then add a little extra flour to the surface.

Now add the chopped herbs to your dough and knead to distribute herbs evenly throughout the dough.

Place the dough ball into a mixing bowl.  Set aside and cover with a damp cloth and let sit while we make the shrimp dumpling filling.

Shrimp Dumpling Filling Ingredients

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped and dried on papertowel

1 cup chinese cabbage, chopped fine plus some extra whole leaves to line your steamer basket

3 Tablespoons carrot, minced

2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped fine

2 Tablespoons chives, minced

2 Tablespoons green onion, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

3 Tablespoons oyster sauce (we use Lee Kum Kee brand with No MSG Added at the Cafe’)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Toss all ingredients together into a mixing bowl.  Stir to combine.

Now let’s work with our herby wonton dough again.  Begin by dusting your pastry board and rolling pin with corn starch.

Next, cut your dough into quarters.  Roll-out one of your dough quarters until approximately paper thin.  Cut the dough with a biscuit cutter.  If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, you may use a 3-4 inch diameter drinking glass edge dusted with corn starch too.

Now let’s make dumplings!  Place approximately 1 teaspoon of your shrimp mixture in the center of your cut-out dumpling wrapper.

Wet the edges of the wrapper, fold-over into a half-moon shape and seal.  You may pinch the edges for a decorative effect.

Or, at the Susitna Cafe’, we often pinch up the wrapper to form a little happy package.

Then we tie our dumpling package with a little chive bow…sigh

Once you have made all of your dumpling packages, pour about 3/4 cup of water into a dutch oven and place a steamer basket inside.  Heat the dutch oven over medium heat.  When you observe steam arising, place chinese cabbage leaves on the bottom of the steamer basket.  Place enough leaves to cover the bottom of the basket.  Now place your dumpling packages in the basket and be sure that they are not touching.

Place a cover on your dutch oven and steam for about 10 minutes or until your dumplings are semi-transparent.

While the dumplings are steaming, you can continue working your 1/4 pieces of wonton dough, filling them and forming the dumplings into the shape of your choice.  If the water is low in your dutch oven, add additional water and wait until the water steams prior to adding additional dumplings in the steamer basket.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauces.  You can make a quick dipping sauce with 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 ounce rice wine vinegar, 1 ounce cooking sake, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon chili paste, 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger and 1/2 Tablespoon cilantro, chopped fine.

It’s now time to get to get to “The Dim-Sum of the Matter…”



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Filed under March 2010

Spring Forward

Top of the mornin’ to you my Susitna Cafe’ friends!  We’re just chatting and enjoying our morning coffee here today.  As usual, I’m a wee bit late getting my first cup.

Seems like our routines in the wee hours of the mornin’ are about the same at our house in Houston, TX.  Here’s an example of our wake-up routine:

1.  Get nudged by cold, wet nose*

2.  Arise out of bed

3.  Take red-head outside

4.  Bring red-head inside

5.  Grind coffee beans

6.  While grinding, note that red-head has very sad Irish-looking eyes…

7.  Stop grinding coffee beans

8.  Feed red-head

9.  Grind coffee beans

10.  While grinding, note red-head looking at me followed by a glance at the front door…

11.  Grind coffee beans

12.  Note red-head pointing at front door with cold, wet nose as if he is pointing to something that I surely must agree is of utmost importance…

*Note:  This is not my red-headed husband’s nose

After the top of the mornin’ routine is done and we have alot of ground coffee beans (but, with no coffee to drink…sigh…), my red-headed Golden Retriever, Gus, takes “R” and me on a morning walk at a nearby park.

As we walk, Gus communicates to me as he usually does in his own very happy canine way.  This morning, however, he stopped during the walk to “speak to me” for a moment.  He not only stopped, but he also flopped onto the grass and pointed his cold, wet snoz downward.

I guess I wasn’t quite “listening”, so he made an effort to do so again.  He stopped, flopped and pointed his snoz downward to be sure that I understood the importance of his communication.

Well, I understood.  Today, he communicated, is a day to celebrate green…spring forward green…Irish clover green…

It was, indeed, a wonderful and inspirational walk this morning.  We saw spring forward green all around us.  We observed it on the park trail…

In the woods…

On the ground…

On the bushes and trees…

Yes, even in the Irish clover…

Sigh…when we were done with our walk, I decided to check and see if spring forward green might be elsewhere in Houston too.

So, I loaded up my Irish-looking dog in our car and drove to Georgia’s Farm to Market.  Upon arrival at Georgia’s, I was surprised to see a couple of leprechaun farmers from Richmond, TX.

They had a pot of gold…

It was all so fresh, colorful and green sort of like a rainbow…

So I got some of the pot o’ gold from the Leprechaun farmers amongst their rainbow, and decided to spring forward green at the Cafe’ today.  Would you like to spring forward green with me, my Susitna Cafe’ friends?

Let’s cook a pot o’ gold to celebrate a wonderful green St. Patrick’s Day!  Well then, away we go lads and lassies to cook some Colcannon, an Irish potato and kale pot o’ gold dish.

Susitna Cafe’ Colcannon


Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 large sweet yellow onion, rough chopped

4 medium russet potatoes, boiled and chopped

1 bunch curly kale, washed & chopped with base stems removed

salt and ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter in frying pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion.

Saute’ until the onions are transparent.  Next, add the boiled chopped potatoes (with peel) and mix with the garlic and onion mixture.

Saute’ while mashing the potatoes with the back of a fork.  Potato consistency should appear somewhat chunky.  Slowly add chopped kale, a small bunch at a time, incorporating into the potato and onion mixture.  Saute’ and allow the potatoes to brown on the bottom of the pan.

The brown bits have alot of flavor, so continue to turn the potato and kale mixture over to brown some more.  Continue to do so until the kale is wilted and the brown bits are evenly distributed throughout mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

“R”, who has some Boston Irish heritage in his family, enjoys Colcannon with eggs cooked over easy for breakfast.  You may wish to serve Colcannon as a side dish to corned beef or as a main vegetarian meal.

Enjoy your pot o’ gold on this wonderful green St. Patrick’s Day!

Cook’s Note:  Try substituting chopped cabbage for the kale.  You won’t be disappointed!

Traveler’s Notes: Georgia’s Farm to Market is located at 12171 Katy Freeway, Houston, TX.  Don’t miss the farmer’s market on Wednesday and Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm.

I haven’t been to Ireland yet.  However, “R” has been there.  He tells me that the land is the greenist green you ever will see.  Someday, we are going to visit Quigley’s Point in Northern Ireland where his mother’s family originates.  We’re looking forward to this trip together in the near future…

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Mush On!

Hi!  Welcome to the Cafe’!  Today we’re talking about our heroes.  You know, the people that have influenced us in some special way.  Do you have a hero?

Well, my hero is Susan Butcher.  She’s the four time winner of the Iditarod Dog Sled race.  She’s up there on my heroes list with Sgt. Preston of the Yukon and his dog King.

Susan was an amazing athlete.  In fact, she is the person who influenced the Alaskan slogan, “Alaska…Where Men are Men and Women Win the Iditarod”.  Funny, huh?  Alaskans have such a funny sense of humor!

Oh, by the way, just in case you didn’t know, the Iditarod is a grueling dog sled race that starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome, Alaska, a total of over 1150 miles traveled in 10 to 17 days.  The trail was originally used, beginning in the 1920’s, when settlers traveled the thoroughfare following a goldstrike.  Later, the trail was used for transporting food and mail from location to location.  In the winter, travel was typically via dog sled.

Speaking of the Iditarod…what day is it?  Oh my!  The Iditarod Race begins tomorrow, March 6 at 10 am (Alaska time), in downtown Anchorage.  Oh Joy!  We’re just in time to watch the race start-up here at the Cafe”.  Just click here:

Anchorage Webcam

Don’t you just love those enthusiastic and happy sled dogs?  Here’s a thought…how about if we make some healthy doggy treats?  After all, our pups are about to run the “The Last Great Race on Earth” (or at least dream about it like my own dog does during his many naps…).

Well then…let’s Mush On!


Susitna Cafe’ “Mush On!” Doggy Treats

Ingredients*

4 cups whole wheat flour (plus extra for your work surface)

1/8 cup canola oil

1 cup baked sweet potato, mashed

2 ounces honey

1 cup water (approximate)

*organic ingredients are preferred

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Combine all ingredients, except the water, into a large mixing bowl.  Add water, a little at a time, while mixing ingredients with your hand or a pastry cutter.  Continue to add water and mix until mixture holds together and can be formed into a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface or pastry board.  Roll out dough with a rolling pin until approximately 1/4 inch thick.

Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.  Dog bone and heart shapes are always fun for your canine friend (and, on the most part, for you!).

Place onto a cookie sheet and bake until light golden brown (approximately 15 minutes).

Cook’s Notes:  Thanks to “R” for sharing his favorite dog treat recipe with us.  He’s a real doggy chef and musher for sure.

Traveler’s Notes:  Don’t forget to attend the March start-up of the “Last Great Race on Earth” in downtown Anchorage every year.

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Filed under March 2010