Holiday Feast Dumplings

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When the fates conspired to have me miss Thanksgiving festivities this year, I vowed to make up for it afterward by fitting a feast of flavors into a holiday-inspired dumpling, a jam-packed shot of turkeycranberrysagerosemarythymepumpkinpie, a bite for which to be thankful.

But shopping for Thanksgiving-themed foods the day after Thanksgiving is a crapshoot. Scouring three separate grocery stores, I spied thai chili peppers, sea beans and durian fruit in abundance, but oh, what I might have done for one bunch of fresh sage.
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At the third stop of my sage-hunting safari, a sales clerk stumbled on me shoulder-deep into a shelf of the produce aisle, on my tippy toes reaching into the very, very back, surrounded by little bundles of sealed, unmarked plastic bags all askew and filled with not sage.

What was I doing, ma’am? Looking for sage. The sign says sage, but it looks like oregano. The sign says sage, ma’am? The leaves really do not look like sage at all. But the sign says sage, ma’am? If I could maybe open a bag, I could probably confirm the aroma, and… You can’t do that, ma’am? I mean, I guess it could maybe be something like baby sage.

I should not have said that. Given this excuse, the clerk insisted that was correct. And I went home with a bunch of fragrant, fresh and decidedly not-sage oregano.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Holiday Feast Dumplings
A Thanksgiving feast in one bite, these dumplings are herbaceous with a little kick. A dollop of jellied cranberry sauce adds a hint of fruity sweetness that makes these dumplings unique. You’ll find canned jellied cranberries for a steal after Thanksgiving, but, for goodness sake, buy your sage early. Makes 100 dumplings.

1 pound spicy ground turkey
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced*
1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced*
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced*
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced*
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 packages of square wonton wrappers
1 can of jellied cranberry sauce
*If you are using dried herbs, half these quantities.

Combine all ingredients, except cranberry sauce, in a bowl and mix until all ingredients are well combined.

To wrap dumplings, add slightly less than 1 teaspoon of mixture to center of dumpling wrapper. Top with a small amount of cranberry sauce. Total filling should be about 1 teaspoon. Then fold into your shape of preference. I learned a new shape today by following this great pictorial.

To cook dumplings, steam for 15 minutes. (You can find more information about using a bamboo steamer here.) Alternatively, toss your dumplings into some boiling soup.

J likes his dumplings plain, but I like mine with dipping sauce. To pair with these holiday feast dumplings, I combined a minced clove of garlic, fresh rosemary and black Chinkiang vinegar (i.e. my personal black gold, for which there is no substitute).Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Honey-Roasted Kabocha Dumplings

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One summer of junior high, during a month-long stay in China with family, my aunt and cousin discovered I loved dumplings above all else and promptly swept me away to a dumpling-specialized restaurant.

I remember it through a dreamlike haze. A lush separate banquet room. Plush red velvet seats. A lengthy, endless menu of dumplings galore that unfolded and unfolded and rolled across the floor. Plates of every dumpling I could imagine, some I couldn’t and some my aunt and cousin just didn’t know how to translate into English …The memory has grown grander as each year passes. It has also grown fuzzier except for one dish.

My aunt described it as an egg yolk dumpling. It was plump with a rich and creamy filling that was yolky, velvety and a vibrant yellow-orange. I’ve never experienced it since. I’ve never heard of it since. Even Google has failed me. It is my holy grail dumpling… my philosopher’s stone dumpling… my white whale dumpling…

These honey-roasted kabocha dumplings are not that dumpling, but they are pretty damn good.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Honey-Roasted Kabocha Dumplings
Inspired by my recent dim sum class, these dumplings get a touch of sweetness from honey that compliments the natural sweetness of kabocha squash and balances the salty, savory soy sauce. Kabocha – available at the farmers market this time of year – is a Japanese pumpkin with the taste and texture of a roasted chestnut. It adds a pleasant nuttiness and satisfying heartiness to your typical pork and leek dumplings. Makes 50 dumplings.

1 small kabocha squash (approximately 4 cups diced)
1/4 cup of honey
1 pound of ground pork
3 small leeks (approximately 1 cup minced)
2 teaspoons of ginger
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
1 package of wonton wrappers

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Then, dice your kabocha squash: Make sure to give your kabocha squash a good scrub. Microwave for 5 minutes to soften. Cut in half and then into wedges. Scoop out any seeds. Then dice into small pieces. Combine with honey, salt and pepper in a bowl, and mix well to coat. Spread onto parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast in oven for 20 minutes or until soft.

Mince leeks and ginger. Add to a bowl along with roasted kabocha, ground pork, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Combine everything well, smooshing the kabocha with your spoon.

Now wrap your wontons! (Bribe your friends, family and/or significant other to help by promising a dumpling feast.) Beat egg, and set aside in a small bowl. Put a small spoon of filling in the middle of a wonton wrapper. With your finger, brush egg along all of the edges. Pinch together two opposite corners. Bring other corners up to the middle, and pinch along seams to seal.IMG_5844
Line steamer basket with parchment paper and wontons. Fill a large skillet (large enough to fit the base of the basket) with enough water to hit just below the middle seam of the basket (i.e. just below the tray). Bring to a simmer. Place steamer baskets and lid in the water, and steam for 15 minutes.
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetEat hot with soy sauce, chili sauce/oil, broth or, if you’re feeling fancy, brown butter infused with leeks and minced ginger and finished with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice.

Dim Sum at the Brooklyn Brainery

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIMG_5316Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI did some learnin’ last month at the Brooklyn Brainery, where Diana Kuan (Appetite for China) taught a hands-on cooking class for some of my favorite eats: dim sum! In addition to walking away with some tasty recipes, I learned that…

1. A brush of honey makes Chinese barbecue pork utterly addictive. This was my favorite recipe of the class, and you can find it on Diana’s blog here.

2. Wrapping shu mai is way easier than other dumplings and wontons. I had always imagined shu mai were difficult to assemble, but you just squeeze them into a cup shape and do not need to deal with any intricate folds.

3. Bamboo steamers are not so intimidating. They are easy to use, lightweight and so pretty I’m storing mine out on a display shelf. Just fill a large skillet with enough water to hit just below the middle seam of your first basket, and bring it to a simmer. Then place your food-filled baskets – lined with anything from banana leaves to parchment paper – in the water to steam away.

Fall Finished Objects

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset As this stubbornly warm autumn finally gives way to some boni fide sweater weather, I have finally, finally, FINALLY completed my Acorns sweater nearly two years in the making (ok, mostly procrastinating). She sat in second sleeve purgatory for all of a year, and holy moly did she hold a grudge…. I discovered one of her button bands was longer than the other. Then I nearly unraveled her trying to undo the neckband to redo the button band. Then I knit her button band with the wrong needles and had to reknit it again.

But I finally did it. I did it! I blocked it! And it fits!

Inspired by several other yellow Acorns (like this one, this one and this one), my Acorns is knit in Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in Candlewick. These pictures do not do justice to this rich, glowy colorway that has a depth of subtle variegation – a warm yellow with touches of aged gold – and that truly shines in the reverse stockinette stitch. The color alone melts my heart, but the adorable acorn-detailed yoke and cuffs make this sweater oh so special.
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Just in time for fall, I’m on a roll casting off a couple other projects.

This Star-Crossed Slouchy Beret is one of my favorite free patterns and a go-to quick gift knit. This peacock tweed version, knit from a TuckerWoods skein from my Rhinebeck 2012 stash, will be going into my Christmas hand-knits pile.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Shawl I present you my last finished object? I’ve named this Different Lines shawl “Different Thrones” after its limited edition Game of Thrones-inspired yarn (Madelinetosh 80/10/10 Fingering in Lannister Gold and Stark Grey).

Fun to knit, beautiful to look at… I am actually not sure how to wear a shawl. If someone could please enlighten me, possibly by physically placing one on me as a hands-on demonstration, I am not sure if I can call myself a true knitter until I figure that out.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset
Is this right?

Sheep Christmas in 10 Photos

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Twas the weekend of Sheep Christmas, and all through Rhinebeck, New York, not a creature was stirring… except the sheep, goats, alpaca, llamas, rabbits and crowds and crowds of giddy fiber enthusiasts.

I look forward to the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival all year: The rainbows of yarn and fiber. The soft hay scent of the barns. The charming and friendly goats, the sweet and fluffy sheep, and the terrified and terrified angora rabbits. The knitters, crocheters, spinners and weavers bedecked in all their wondrous handmade glory. The cider donuts. Definitely the cider donuts.Processed with VSCOcam with g1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f3 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f3 preset
Scruffy sheep become snowy white with a wee trim.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
One of my favorite Rhinebeck sweet treats is a warm apple crisp a la mode. Every year.Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset
I spent the day oohing and aahing at richly dyed yarns, but the prettiest colors were Rhinebeck’s autumn leaves.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThis year’s haul included… Jill Draper‘s Hudson yarn in a green-leaning turquoise (Peacock) and a warm brown (Brown Butter)… a sparkly, deep red skein from Bittersweet Woolery… Cephalopod Yarns‘ Skinny Bugga in a neutral-tone gradient that bestirs my heart… and a shawl pin carved in the prettiest of woods by Stephen Willette.

New yarn glows with the excitement of possibilities. For the Skinny Bugga, I’m itching to cast on an ombre Hitch sweater. The sparkly red wool is destined for ruby red slipper socks, so I can click my heels together and whisper. There’s no place like Rhinebeck.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

NYC Yarn Crawl + Pumpkin Lasagna

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On a yarn crawl, one chooses between alpaca, leicester and silk instead of ales, lagers and stouts. There are no IPAs, but there are INCs and K2TOGs and abbreviations galore. There are no drunken Santas, but there are plenty of wool-happy fiber fiends clad in handknits fit for the North Pole. Yarn crawlers, knitters, crocheters, can be shy… unless they’re asking to touch that skein of yarn poking out from your shopping bag… which is to say they sometimes go for it and do not ask at all. It’s okay. It’s yarn crawl.

On this the fifth NYC yarn crawl, and my very first yarn crawl, knitter-in-arms K and I visited two Brooklyn yarn shops that have been high on my wish list of places to see. Brooklyn General Store in Red Hook is a healthy trek but, like many gems in Red Hook, worth it for the adorable and homey haven of all things handmade; in addition to the bountiful shelves of colorful yarn, the store bursts with embroidery supplies, endless printed fabrics and a heck of a lot of charm. La Casita Yarn Shop Cafe in Carroll Gardens is perhaps the quirkiest yarn shop I have ever visited; in addition to the wine bar in the back, fun little touches – like apothecary jars filled with candy-colored skeins, a giant knit robot and a yarn-bombed bench outside – make me want to come back and knit on their couch forever.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetMy yarn crawl haul: A squirrel knitting kit. Madelinetosh Pashmina in Onyx (a black with the slightest variation that makes Madelinetosh solids so special). And a special order of Zauberball Starke 6 in 2092. The latter two will join forces to become the heartbreakingly lovely Hekla sweater.

After a fiber-filled October afternoon, we crawled back to my apartment for more grandma activities, knitting and cooking up a dinner that was stubbornly autumnal even if the weather was stubbornly hot and humid.
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Pumpkin Lasagna
This lasagna is rich, earthy and slightly sweet. The creamy, cheesy richness cuts the bitterness of kale, whose earthiness also compliments that of the pumpkin and portobello mushrooms. Serves 6.

2 medium-sized leeks
1 bunch of kale (10-15 large leaves)
1 large portobello mushroom
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups pumpkin (2 15-oz cans)
1 cup cream
1 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk
9 no-boil lasagna noodles*

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Halve and slice the white and light green parts of the leeks. Roughly chop kale, removing thick stems. Chop portobello mushroom. In a large skillet, heat oil, and then saute leeks and mushrooms until leeks get soft, stirring ocassionally. Add kale, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sage and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and mix to combine. Continue to saute until kale starts to wilt. Set aside.

Combine pumpkin, cream, 1/2 cup parmesan and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sage and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

Pour milk into bottom of your lasagna dish. Lay out 3 noodles in dish. Spread 1/3 pumpkin mixture on top of noodles. Spread 1/2 kale mixture. Layer 3 noodles. Spread 1/3 pumpkin mixture. Spread remaining 1/2 kale mixture. Layer 3 noodles. Spread remaining 1/3 pumpkin mixture. Top with 1 cup of parmesan.

Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for 15 minutes more.

*Having accidentally purchased normal lasagna noodles for this meal, an emergency call to K’s mother saved us from a trip to the bodega or from handling wiggly, wet boiled noodles. Simply assemble lasagna as usual, ensuring there is approximately 1 inch of space between the noodles and the edge of the dish. Before the lasagna goes in the oven, pour 1 cup of water into this gap. Skip the foil.

Charred Broccoli

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Dear broccoli,

I charred you this weekend. It just started out as a ploy to lure J into your appreciation club, to show him that you were more than the mushy, over-boiled and (I’m sorry to say this) smelly reputation you had earned throughout his life as a stubborn vegetable hater. But even I – who was raised on all vegetables lightly sauteed in soy sauce and so all lightly kind of the same pleasant salty flavor – was not prepared for the taste-bud-exploding experience of…

Charred broccoli.

We love you, charred broccoli. Even J is now firmly on the broccoli bandwagon. You are both crunchy and tender. You are slightly sweet. You are smoky with little crispy bits.

Charred broccoli, I could eat a bowl of you with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or roasted garlic and a squeeze of lemon or just a dash of salt and pepper. I could eat you warm or cold on top of a salad. But most recently, I like you best tossed with spinach pasta and a simple brown butter sage sauce, whose nutty and earthy aroma makes you shine even more.

With love and admiration,
LysaProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetCharred Broccoli and Brown Butter Pasta
This earthy, nutty dish celebrates the coming of fall. The flavors of this simple recipe will really sing with the best ingredients, so find some local broccoli at the farmers market while it’s still in season (through November). Serves 4.

1 large head of broccoli
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces of spinach spaghetti
4 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts (optional)
8 to 12 fresh sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Break one large head of broccoli into small florets. Combine florets, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl, and mix until broccoli is coated. Spread on baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes.

Cook spinach spaghetti in boiling water until al dente. Drain.

Melt butter in a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, and continue to cook until it starts to turn a golden brown and smells fan-freaking-tastic. Remove from heat, and add sage leaves (and hazelnuts).

Add pasta, nutmeg, parmesan and charred broccoli, and mix everything until combined.

Pom Pom Quarterly

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Confession time. For years and years, I was a knitter who didn’t really like knitwear. Knitting was about the process, the making, the transforming of one long colored strand into a thing. It wasn’t about the wearing. That part was for friends and family on whom I foisted – er, gifted – my colorful, cabled and even fun-furred creations. Really the problem was that I was knitting from the dusty, dowdy knitting pattern books I unburied from my basement. I hadn’t considered that knitting could be modern, stylish and cool.

As I eventually discovered Ravelry with its wealth of searchable online patterns, Wool and the Gang with its sleek fashion focus, and a number of blogs – like this one and this one and this one – written by knitters just like me, I felt something click. Knitting was still fun and therapeutic as it had always been, but now it also reflected my aesthetic and personality.

I felt this connection again upon recently discovering my new favorite read. Pom Pom Quarterly is a smart and creative UK-based knitting magazine filled with super cool patterns and gorgeous photography. Pom Pom also writes about music, fashion, food and art. Flipping through my first issue (Issue #6, Autumn 2013), I felt elated, then indignant my life could have been Pom Pom-ed 5 issues sooner, then elated again and now anxious to subscribe and track down the first few issues. I suppose I like it a little bit.
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Pom Pom’s Dark Kirsch Cherry + Black Pepper Truffles recipe inspired my snack for when friend and knitmeister K visited for a knitting girls-night-in this weekend. In place of kirsch, I infused dried cherries with bourbon for these luscious and decadent treats.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Pom Pom is also inspiring my to-knit list. The mixed textures and color combinations of their Briolette sweater make my heart skip a beat.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Knitspiration

IMG_3440The weather was actually CRISP today. Crisp like cool air. Crisp like ripe apples. Crisp like crunchy red leaves that will soon be here. I wore long sleeves. All of my knitty senses are tingling with anticipation for wool weather, which is opportune given the growing pile of half projects I’ve promised to complete. I’m feeling inspired by the changing seasons and by my vibrant new skeins of Wool and the Gang cotton in Yellow Mellow and Coral Crush… Do they radiate summer sunset or autumn leaves? How apropos! I am also feeling inspired by these beautiful things:
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This is the world’s prettiest pom-pom. I wonder if there are tiny pom-poms inside.
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Even though I still think my pointy sticks could beat a blunt hook in a street fight any day, I’m enamored with the street art of a local crocheting yarn bomber.
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My newest favorite knitting read is One Sheepish Girl, where everything feels cute and a little whimsical. The photos are artfully curated, and the posts – about everything from fiber artists to prominent knitters/designers to her own crafty projects in a variety of mediums – are interesting, educational and inspiring.

I have always imagined machine knitting as a giant robot that spits out polished sweaters tags and all, so this “making of” video gave me a new appreciation for machine knitting and clothing in general. Speaking of Chanel, living their Fall 2013 ad is my new life goal… Knit. In. Space.
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Brooklyn Tweed’s asymmetrical Coal Cardigan and Knitty’s Spicy Trail from the East are just a couple of the new patterns at the top of my Ravelry favorites. The popular Featherweight Cardigan never really peaked my interested until I saw kbeihl’s project in RED. Now I want, want, want.
footie_socks_knitting_patterns_docprofThanks to Fringe Association, I’ve also started adding lots of sock patterns to my list. I don’t knit socks. I don’t even wear socks. But now I want to do both.

My Knitting Rules + Works In Progress

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2013 has been the year of breaking rules for this strict knitter. The same part of me that logs everything (EVERYTHING) in my planner, that must immediately organize “assorted color” push pins into monochromatic bunches (ok, neat stripes) on my bulletin board, that squeals with delight when pulling out the embossing label maker (I haven’t labeled the cat yet and only partially because the labels don’t stick to her fur)… That’s the part of me that follows two basic rules to keep my knitting hobby in check and prevent endless unfinished projects.

First. You get one shelf for yarn. One. Shelf real estate is precious in this home of book lovers. It isn’t cheating to nudge the top shelf up notch by notch as needed as long as no one else suspects. It also isn’t cheating if you hide skeins of yarn on top of, behind or between books. It is cheating to clear an entire second shelf and start stacking fiber with abandon. This has happened… in part due to…

Second. You can work on two projects at a time. This used to be one project at a time, but as avid knitters know, you need one fun project with a new stitch pattern or intricate cables for knitting cred and one lazy project with lots and lots of garter or stockinette stitch for movie nights and subway commutes. If you want to start a new project, you have to complete one first. This also ensures your stash of yarn is consistently transformed into finished objects.

I haven’t been very good at this.IMG_4835
Exhibit A: Glaring at me from the ceramic yarn bowl on the coffee table is this Star-Crossed Slouchy Beret in a dark teal tweed picked up at last year’s Rhinebeck Festival. I only have a few rounds to go. I have for almost a year now. This was meant as a Christmas present for a friend, and she will receive it for the holiday this year. I promise.
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Exhibit B: Stuffed inside my tiniest project bag (that I assume must have TARDIS-like “bigger on the inside” capabilities) is a Different Lines shawl that I have dubbed Different Thrones. I coveted these limited edition Madelinetosh skeins in Game of Thrones-inspired colorways, which would make for the perfect project while watching the show. Then the season ended. In June.IMG_4832
Exhibit C: Snoozing at the bottom of my knitting basket is this Acorns sweater. I love this sweater, especially in Madelinetosh’s radiant Candlelight colorway. I really do. But I’ve been suffering from second sleeve syndrome since 2012.IMG_4837
Still, I am determined for this finally to be my Rhinebeck sweater, so Acorns, wake up!IMG_4838
Exhibit D: Smirking at the top of the pile is my latest project and indiscretion, which should not yet exist if I’m following the rules. And yet it does. Wool and the Gang’s Quarterback Dress is the ultimate movie night knit. It is a marathon session of stockinette that would actually be terrifying if the completed dress were not so stylin’ and the fuzzy Midnight Blue alpaca not such a pleasure with which to knit. It also doubles as a cat pillow.photo (12)My goal this fall is to tackle these projects one by one. Starting… NOW!