Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Two Words: Shrimp Rangoon

If Asian cooking had a junk food category, I’m pretty sure Rangoon would be right up there with the goold ol' American Krispy Kreme doughnut. What else is there to say about handy, little deep fried pastry pockets filled with cream cheese (and a little meat with seasoning), then dipped into some sort of sweet sauce? Well, anything, really, that’s cooked with cream cheese gets extra points with me, but that’s another topic.

I always eye these when we go out for Chinese food, or really any Asian restaurant that carries them, but I know better. I could eat about a hundred of them, and that’s not a good thing. Either for me or my aerobics instructor.

But Cuisine At Home just HAPPENED to have a nifty little recipe for shrimp Rangoon right on the back cover of issue #69. How convenient. And naughty!

Instead of the traditional crab meat, they subbed for shrimp, which is a plus for the cost factor. Of course they’re fried, but what the heck…2 more hours on the stair master is nothing, right? Right?!

Shrimp Rangoon
Makes 30
Recipe Source: Cuisine at Home, #69

2 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 T scallions, chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 tsp fresh lime juice
Salt to taste
¾ lb cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and diced
30 wonton wrappers (you can find these in the freezer section, near the pie pastry)
Peanut oil

Pulse cilantro, scallions, ginger and sugar in a food processor until minced. Add cream cheese, lime juice, and salt; pulse until combined. Transfer to a bowl and stir in shrimp.

Arrange a few wonton wrappers on a work surface. Place 2 tsp of shrimp mixture in the center of each wrapper, moisten edges of wonton with a finger dipped in water, and fold to form a half circle or triangle. Press edges to seal. Set aside, and repeat with remaining wrappers.

Heat 1 inch of the peanut oil in a dutch oven over med-high heat. Fry Rangoon in batches until golden on each side, about 1 minute total. Drain on paper towels. Serve with your choice of Asian dipping sauce (usually a sweet & sour sauce).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wine a Bit; You'll Feel Better!

Going on vacation is a lot like having a fiery, passionate, love affair. In the beginning, you can’t get enough of each other. Everything is so much more interesting, better, and exciting than what you have back at home. The food is better; the air is cleaner; the birds are singing. Everything is perfect and new. You even have your very own special coffee place and favorite Thai restaurant. But after a while, you start to lose your patience and things don’t look so shiny anymore. You long for the familiar. Your own bed; your routines; things you can count on. When it all boils down, there’s no place like home and family.

Hubs and I just got back from a wonderful, 5 day get away to northern Virginia. Specifically the Virginia wine trail. We’ve wanted to do this for a while, but our schedules, money, work, and the weather all got in the way. In the past 5 days, we’ve had more wine, smelled more flowers, explored more civil war sites, took more pictures, and passed by more southern Baptist churches than you could shake a stick at (or a snake). It was perfect.

We also discovered the Monticello Wine and Food Festival was going on the same time we were up there, so we checked that out too. It wasn’t what we expected though. It was almost as if the prestigious Monticello wine community had to comply with northern Virginia county fair committee venue guidelines. This left us wine snobs paired with "Sho-nuff Barbeque", a 4 person band playing “Le Freak”, and wine glasses sponsored by the Battleship Automotive Group. We had fun though. A vacation makes people more lighthearted. So does a couple of glasses of wine!

The best wine we found, by far, was the Cru from Kluge Estate Vineyards, which was wayyy at the base of the mountains and in the boonies. The Cru is an aperitif (dessert) wine that is first fortified with brandy, and then aged in seasoned whiskey barrels. It sounds harsh, but it is as smooth as butter and simply divine. We loved it so much that we bought 4 bottles of it (albeit small ones) and plan to order more for gifts.

Kluge also had a very lovely dining café that serves yummy things like gourmet cheese plates with truffled olives and crusty bread. We had our lunch on the front patio, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the sound of migrating Canadian geese. Most of the roads up there were the narrow, snaking-two-lane-white-knuckle types, with no shoulders and a scary, yet beautiful scenery below. It was worth the climb. And if you go to Kluge, further down the road is a winery name Wintergreen Vineyards. You have to go there just for the Raspberry Dessert wine alone.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Plastic Tubes and Pots and Pans

No, I'm not dead. I've been painfully busy (again) lately, but like I mentioned earlier, I have been making wonderful things!

I've been learning how to make wine!

Every few years I recreate myself and dive head first into a new learning venture. Sometimes it pays off (like canning and preserving or making cakes) and sometimes it doesn't (like getting an advanced degree in something I'm not even sure I like...'nuther story!). But any way it goes, I am always amazed at what I am capable of learning and doing for myself, and this time it's a doozy!

A few weeks ago, I started a lovely Strawberry Wine recipe from an amazing home winemaker by the name of Jack Keller. Jack lives in Texas. Everything is big in Texas. Therefore, Jack is big in Texas, and everywhere else home winemakers reach out to learn and gather information. He has quite a reputation in the winemaking industry and is fiercly passionate about wine. I often wonder how Jack can go to work at a "regular" job each week and manage to keep so much under his hat.

But, as hobbies go, sometimes it's better if they stay just that...hobbies. The potential slippery slope to making a living from a hobby is that one day you realize it's WORK. And then it's not so fun.

Anyway, check out his site at the link above. Read his blog too; you'll never know what you'll learn.

Here is my wine when I first made it. It looks like strawberry milk doesn't it?

Here's what it looks like after about a month of fermenting, clearing, and racking. Pretty isn't it?

I'll put it in some pretty bottles in a few weeks with some snappy labels. Snap! After that I started a 3 gallon batch of Banana Wine. Yes, Banana Wine!

It has a slight banana nose (scent), but tastes like a full bodied Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio. It's yummy! Stay tuned and we'll see how these turn out. They will need some time to age (anywhere from 3-12 months), so I won't even know if I'm good at this for some time! Patience grasshoppah! Some of you (and you know who you are) might even receive a bottle or two as gifts, but don't hate me if it tastes like rocket fuel!



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