Happy Christmas

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I guess it wasn’t just me who didn’t feel all that festive this Christmas. Kevin thinks having Christmas fall on a Tuesday had something to do with it, and I completely agree. Good for those people who took the Monday the 24th off, or even better, the rest of the year off. It was strange to work on Monday, take a day off to celebrate Christmas on Tuesday, and back to work on Wednesday.

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We spent Christmas Eve at my parents’ house and had a wonderful holiday dinner. My mother roasted a 2-pound chicken (which I forgot to take a picture of) and feasted on tonkatsu (pork cutlets) and other appropriately green side dishes like her famous spaghetti salad, string beans tossed in sesame, steamed Brussels sprouts, and spinach. The spread wasn’t very Christmas-y but everything was delicious. My father picked up a decadent chocolate cake from a bakery owned by a Persian family. He asked to have “Merry Christmas” written on a cake but the pastry chef didn’t know how to spell it, so we ended up having a cake that read, “Happy Chrisms.” I thought that was hilarious.

We were invited to Kevin’s sister’s house for an amazing prime rib lunch on Christmas day. I was so into gulfing down the food that I forgot to take pictures. The meat was perfectly cooked, and the green salad and the sweet corn casserole served on the side were absolutely to die for. She definitely knows how to cook! Thank you so much for the amazing meal and thoughtful gifts.

I hope you all had a happy Christmas, and getting ready for the new year!

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Sock It To Me

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I love this time of the year, but I’m having a bit of trouble getting into the spirit of the holidays for some reason. Christmas is only a few weeks away and I haven’t even begun writing cards, baking cookies, or started shopping – things I usually enjoy around this time of the year.  With the exception of the Christmas wreath on the wall and a basket full of Cuties (those little delicious mandarin oranges) sitting on the coffee table, nothing in the house sings the song of the holidays! But I’m surprisingly okay with it. In fact, I’m kind of digging this low-key, stress-free December days.

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One thing I’d love to do before the year ends is knit my first pair of socks! I think about hand knit socks a lot lately, and how much fun the whole process would be, if I only have the courage to begin (especially since I love knitting in the rounds with double-pointed needles). I’ve been studying patterns in sock-knitting books like how high school students study for the SAT, trying to decipher what the heck gussets are … and my mind still can’t grasp how it all works!

I don’t know why socks intimidate me so much but they do. That’s probably the reason why yarns I purchased from PurlSoho are still in the clear plastic bag that they arrived in last winter … lol

Welcome Winter with Chicken and Dumplings

I must admit that I usually spend December running around getting ready for Christmas, and forgetting the real beauty of the holiday season. So this year, I made a commitment to enjoy every second of December by indulging in the true spirit of the holidays – from the woodsy smell of a pine reef that hangs on the wall, to the sweet scent of homemade cookies that fills my tiny but warm apartment.  And most importantly, cherish the time spent with friends and family.

There is nothing better than starting the month by enjoying a warm and hearty bowl of soup. This is the Chicken and Dumplings that I made for my boyfriend when he was recovering from being under the weather the other day. When he told me that he wanted something light and easy for his tummy for dinner, the first thing I thought of was Chicken and Dumplings. The problem was that I had never cooked one before, so I searched through several recipes and came up with my own. This recipe was inspired by Tyler Florence but I modified it significantly to fit whatever ingredients I had in the fridge. The end result may not be as intricate as his, but it still provides a warm and delicious soup that I’m sure you’ll enjoy during the cold winter month!

Chicken and Dumplings
(serves 4 servings)

For soup
8 oz. chicken breast
5 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cups flour
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
6 cups chicken stock, total

For dumplings

1 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoon chive, chopped
Salt and pepper

Boil the chicken in large pot in 3 cups water (or more, if needed) in medium heat, with salt and peppercorn, until chicken is fully cooked, about 30 minutes. Take the chicken out, let it cook, and shred the meat with two forks. In the meantime, simmer 3 cups of store-bought chicken stock in a medium-size pot.

Note: I use 3 cups of store-bought stock and 3 cups of stock made when boiling the chicken. You can do all 6 cups of store-bough kind, or 6 cups of homemade ones, your choice. I find that 1:1 is the perfect combination and there is always at least 3 cups of leftover stock sitting in my fridge.

Sauté garlic, celery, onion, and carrots in a large Dutch oven with olive oil until translucent. Since the vegetables will cook more in stock, you don’t have to sauté them for too long, but I love mine soft and mushy.

Add 1/4 cups of flours to the vegetable mixture and cook for about 3 minutes (add more olive oil, if needed).

Once the flour is cooked, add the chicken stock (both store-bought and/or homemade, for a total of 6 cups) to the vegetable mixture, one cup at a time. Mix well while adding the stock to dissolve the flour. You don’t want little lumps in the soup! Add 2 tablespoons of milk and let it simmer in medium heat. Drop the shredded chicken and frozen green peas into the soup (I totally forgot to put peas in my soup so you won’t see the little green pearls in these pictures … bummer.) 😦

In one bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder, and set aside (dry ingredient). In a separate boil, bet the egg, milk, pepper, and baking powder, until well combined (wet ingredient). Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until well combined (be careful not to over mix!). Mix in the chives.

Scoop the dough with a spoon and drop it in the simmering soup. I personally like smaller dumplings instead of giant ones, because they are cute and easy to eat.

Let the dumplings simmer for about 5 minutes, until they are fully cooked. Because the dumplings have baking powder, they come out light, airy, and totally delicious!

Don’t kid yourself here … you won’t be able to eat just one, two, or even five delicious dumplings. I had six and am still craving for more! This is such a wonderfully warm and hearty soup for the cold winter months! 🙂