When it comes to crafting, there’s always the question of whether a project will be time well-spent.
Case in point: a few months ago, I bought a few yards of minky fabric for a sleep sack I was planning to make. It seemed pretty worth it to me to spend a few hours making something that would save me a good $20 or $30. But just a few days later while I was out shopping, I found a bunch of adorable sleep sacks on sale for less than $6 each.
Those hours I was planning to spend sewing? Suddenly not so worth it.
I’m still deciding what to do with that minky fabric, but if I have any scraps leftover from whatever I do, I think I’ll be turning them into these easy DIY baby carrier teething pads. This sewing project takes just 10 minutes–and that’s even for those of us with limited sewing skills (like me!). That’s a time commitment I’m willing to take on regardless of how much money I end up saving.
Have you ever thought about how certain foods came to be? Like bread, for example–who would have thought to grind grains to powder, add water, knead it, let it rise, and then bake it in a hot oven? If you think about it, bread is a serious feat of engineering. It’s genius, really, the product of a brilliant mind, or maybe years and years of experience and innovation.
Cheese is another feat of brilliance. Who in the world thinks to add enzymes to milk, causing it to look like lumpy, inedible chunks before heating the curds and pressing and stretching them to create a delicious, ingenious food. Cheese is amazing! And I can’t get enough. But then again, who can? I especially love the extra-sharp, salty stuff–the sharper the better. And now that it’s finally starting to get cool enough to bake, I’m taking my cheese love out on the oven.
I usually try to write something in each post describing the food, to try to entice you into making it. But first, can I just say? Cheddar + dill = one of the best flavor combinations in the world. There isn’t a whole lot of other stuff that I absolutely love to put dill on, but with cheddar, it’s. Just. Fantastic. Do you really need more enticement than that?
Just in case you do, I guess I should probably explain how these cheddar dill scones are slightly crisp and firm on the outside, but incredibly light and fluffy on the inside. Or maybe I should talk about how buttery the dough is, or how each bite is a perfect little mouthful of umami, the savory bite of herbs and cheese melding with the undertones of tang from the extra-sharp cheddar.
You can take my word for it on how delicious these scones are, or you can experience them for yourself. In any case, it’s probably best for me to stop talking about scones now, before I start wondering aloud about the origins of this tasty concoction. Because if you think about it, scones are pretty brilliant too…
They say the color red makes people feel hungry. That might explain why nearly every fast food chain uses red in its logo, or why a can of coke is red on the outside. (It also occurs to me that large sections of red are featured on the flags of Italy, France, China, Thailand, Japan, and Mexico: all countries whose national cuisine I love. Coincidence? Probably, though I would love to have an excuse for eating so much Thai food.)
It also explains why just looking at pictures of these red oil wontons is making my mouth water. This has got to be one of my favorite ways to eat dumplings/wontons/meat wrapped in noodle-like skins. The sauce is spicy and fragrant, and bright with fresh herbs and garlic. Oh, what’s that? Your mouth is watering too? Then let’s get right down to it.
First things first: the chili oil. I like the brand Lao Gan Ma because it isn’t too spicy (at least not compared to some other chili oils I have) so you can use a lot of it without burning your mouth, and the flavor is excellent. Google it to find it online if you don’t live near a Chinese grocery store.
For the wonton part of this recipe, I used the filling from my shrimp and pork dumplings and folded it up into wonton skins. Since the sauce for this recipe is so intense, I didn’t want the filling to add any competing flavors. The shrimp and pork filling is wonderfully juicy, but the flavor is mild enough to complement the sauce. I made a bunch of wontons on the side while I was doing a big batch of dumplings, and froze them for later use.
If you don’t know how to fold wontons, don’t worry–it’s super simple, even easier than folding dumplings. Just spoon a bit of filling into the center of a square wonton skin and wet the edges with a bit of water. Fold one end over onto the opposite end, forming a triangle. Next, take the two points on the long side of the triangle and fold them on top of each other, pinching together to seal. No worries if they aren’t the prettiest things; they’re bound to get eaten up quickly anyway.
Raise your hand if you consider September the beginning of fall. Okay, okay, the internet is telling me that fall doesn’t officially begin until September 22 this year, but in my mind, fall begins on September 1. And even though nothing’s really changed since August 31, my body expects to be able to wear sweaters and scarves, to sip hot tea and bake apple pie.
Which is why I always have trouble when it’s still hovering around 80 degrees at this time of year. Seriously, 80s? I seem to remember years before when this time of year was comfortably 70-something degrees until it finally got cool and rainy around Thanksgiving. As a lifelong Southern Californian, this weather is confusing, to say the least.
These honey cheesecake bars are my way of coping with the heat. Actually, to be more specific, these honey cheesecake bars–frozen–are getting me through the hotter days. Because what in life is not made better by cheesecake? And especially when that cheesecake is just lightly sweetened with honey and a touch of lemon, sitting on top of a classic graham crust?
The freezing is technically optional, but there’s no other way I want to eat these right now. Unfrozen, these cheesecake bars are light and fluffy and perfectly tasty. But when they’re frozen, they’re lush and rich and deliciously cold, and in my opinion, even more refreshing on a hot day than a scoop of ice cream.
I don’t think I can overemphasize the importance of dumplings in our house. We make them in big batches, freeze them, store them in a few gallon-size freezer bags, and eat them over the course of a few months (though sometimes they only end up lasting a few weeks). They’re the perfect last-minute meal–ready in a few short minutes, and always hot, juicy, and delicious. Though they make frequent appearances on our dinner table, we’ve also been known to break them out for brunch on a Saturday. For us, any time could be dumpling time.
But perhaps the most important thing about dumplings for me is that as long as we have a some in our freezer, I know that my family won’t go hungry. Whether you boil or fry them, the preparation is so simple. Frying dumplings is something that my husband has completely mastered, which makes them all the more valuable to me.
Satisfying, ready in minutes, and husband-friendly: is it any wonder that I rely on these little guys so much?
These chicken-shiitake dumplings are one of our favorite kinds of dumplings. Fresh shiitake mushrooms make the filling burst with umami and a texture that is rich and meaty but still incredibly tender. A little ground chicken gives the filling some body, but without competing with the mushrooms for flavor.
And oh my, that flavor–if you’re as into mushrooms as we are, these dumplings are bound to rock your world. We usually eat dumplings with some kind of dipping sauce, but I think I like these best without anything extra so I can really enjoy that pure, fragrant, mushroom-y goodness. All day. Any day.