Archive | April, 2011

Maple Syrup Dumplings

24 Apr

I came across this recipe from Saveur when a local shop, Cooks Shop Here posted a link on their Facebook page. It was the height of maple sugaring season in our area a few weeks ago and I was so excited to find some good recipes that used maple syrup. I have to say, my expectations were high – maybe unrealistically so. I have been debating about whether or not to post this recipe but in the end decided that even recipes that aren’t slam dunks still have the potential spark some discussion or new ideas for how to improve them.

Things that contributed to not feeling 100% satisfied by the experience:

The dumplings were a bit too dense.

It felt a little wasteful and expensive to use so much maple syrup. Nearly two cups of maple syrup would normally last a lot longer around our house when we’re just drizzling a little on waffles or whatnot.

This was all I ate for breakfast that day (and I’ll confess I ate more than the one sixth serving size). Sweetness overload! A couple small bites paired with some other complementary breakfast foods would have been better. Salty bacon and fruit salad perhaps?

The pan I used was a bit shallow so dumplings were not entirely submerged and required turning.

I enjoyed these dumplings but I think they could be better, although I’m not entirely sure what I would do differently. I would like them to be a little lighter and fluffier but they already have quite a bit of baking powder in them. What would you do?

Maple Syrup Dumplings – makes 6 servings

1 3/4 cups maple syrup (I used a good, local, medium amber syrup from a nearby farm)
1 1/2 cups flour
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, frozen
3/4 cup milk

Bring syrup and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Grate butter on large holes of a box grater into flour and toss to coat; add milk and stir with a fork until dough forms. When syrup mixture reaches a boil, use a spoon to drop large clumps of dough into syrup. Cover pot; simmer until dumplings are cooked through, 10–15 minutes. Spoon dumplings and sauce into 6 bowls and serve.

Check out more pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

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Cob Oven Adventure

19 Apr

In the fall our good friend Amy emailed us this article, The 36-Hour Dinner Party by Michael Pollan because she thought it would be right up our alley. Josh read it right away, fell in love with the idea, started enlisting friends to join us in this adventure and for months has been urging me to read the article and get on board too. The inspiration is this: Pollan, along with some friends built a single wood fire in a cob oven and cooked 4 meals over the course of a couple days.

I finally just read the article. And I am officially on board with this crazy and fun undertaking. Our friend Amy was right – as folks who love to cook, and better yet share in the cooking and the eating, this sounds like a totally cool project.

Anatomy of a Cob Oven - Image from urbanhomestead.org

One major difference though: Pollan conveniently had a friend with an already existing cob oven. So, seeing that we don’t know anyone with a cob oven, and seeing that we think it could be really fun to build one in our backyard ourselves (admittedly Josh is the one who is a bit more excited and confident about that aspect of this endeavor) – we’re going to take it one step further. For us, it’s not just about making a big fire and cooking for a couple days, it’s about making the whole oven in which to do all this fabulous cooking.

Some of you may be asking yourselves, “What the heck is a cob oven?” I was answering that question a lot this past weekend as I was explaining this endeavor to  friends. Cob is like adobe. It’s building material made of earth, clay, straw, and sand.  See photo above to get an idea of what they look like.

I bought Josh this book titled, Build Your Own Earth Oven for his birthday in February and we’re in the planning stages now. Wish us luck and stay tuned for more updates about this adventure. Eventually I would love suggestions for what we should cook in it!

RecipeHacking Challenge #5 Results

10 Apr

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this round of RecipeHacking and helped us get this off the ground again.We look forward to making this a regular feature here on Kitchen Dancing.

Have you been on the edge of your seats all week?! After careful consideration the winner is….

The Greek version of Shepherd’s Pie designed by Shawn!

Shawn really reinvented this recipe. It wasn’t just a matter of tweaking the spices or one small element. We loved the addition of olives, tomato, eggplant, and feta cheese. Plus we appreciated the different take on the potatoes – slicing them instead of mashing them on top. Way to go, Shawn! Bragging rights are yours and a small prize is on it’s way to you!

Honorable mention goes to Ethan Plunkett’s Argentinian version. In a way, Ethan RecipeHacked both Shepherd’s Pie AND Empanadas! Delicious!

Stay tuned for the next challenge!

Spring is here!

10 Apr

I wrote this on Friday but I’m just getting around to posting today…

We’ve had a few glimpses so far but today is the first day I feel like it’s really, truly spring.

Right now I’m at my parents’ house in Rhode Island, in the country. And it’s such a refreshing change from my neighborhood at home where we live on a busy street, where there’s always fast and noisy cars. Walking down the sidewalk there, whether it’s with my dog or with my son, I always feel like my guard is up because there’s no shoulder and the space between the zooming cars and the sidewalk is dangerously small.

Today my son, Toby and I took a walk down my parents’ quiet road. There are no sidewalks here because there’s really no need, there’s no traffic at all. It is so quiet and peaceful. We just moseyed along and listened to the birds. Toby was all set to get bundled up when I told him we were going for a walk and he seemed puzzled when I told him he didn’t need to today. We got outside and he cheerfully declared, “It’s warm out! We no need hats!” He’s only two and a half. He doesn’t understand the changing of the seasons yet. He probably thought it was going to be winter forever. And I admit, I was beginning to feel that way too.

Along our walk the road makes a little bridge over a brook and we spent quite a lot of time throwing sticks off one side of the bridge and then running across the road to see them come out the other side. This seems like it could get tedious, but instead of feeling like I was merely humoring my son, I was having just as much fun as he was.

We walked down to the lake and threw rocks and acorns into the water. Along the edge where the water was lapping on the sand, there were little red buds lining the shore that must have blown off a nearby tree. They felt so affirming somehow. No, it’s not a figment of your imagination, it really is spring. I enjoy reading this blog: Red Bird Crafts. Once a week the author focuses on some sort of treasure. She says, “It might be thrifted or found on a walk or whispered in my ear or discovered on a dark shelf in the basement. Something. Anything that makes me feel lucky and thankful. It doesn’t necessarily have to make its way home with me – it just has to be noticed. The idea is for it to cost very little and feel very big. After all, this isn’t about acquiring new things; it is about paying better attention to the world around me.”

I was remembering that today as I found these little buds. I felt like they were my treasure this week. They certainly fit her definition: they cost me nothing, were worthy of some special attention, and felt like something big – a message saying, “keep your chin up – it’s getting warmer, and easier, and more beautiful, and more hopeful.”