Clean out the fridge dumplings on the menu for school tomorrow. Our csa box comes tomorrow so using up the odds and ends in the fridge now. These dumplings are filled w kale, celery, green onion, pea shoots, squash and tofu that I sautéed w garlic and ginger, seasoned w tamari and wrapped up and then steamed. The kids are happy to eat them at room temperature at school. Packed some fruit and will steam some soy milk in the morning for a warming drink before playtime outside
One of my kids came home upset from school the other day after another little girl in her class told her that her lunch was “not normal”. Although very confident in all other situations, she was overwhelmed and did eat her lunch at all. She came home so hungry, sobbed and then related what had happened and asked if she could just have something “normal”. We live in one of the most multicultural cities in the world so “normal” is a meaningless word but I also know that my kids are more adventurous eaters than some and I really just want them to eat a healthy balanced meal. A similar situation arose when my older daughter was in grade one so I wasn’t phased by this and we sat down and figured out what she would feel comfortable eating. I expected her to ask for pastas or a sandwich but she asked for dumplings and sushi!! I took a look in the fridge, (took a few steps to the right to shoot off an email to her teacher to chat with the kids about respect), and made some dumplings.
Dumplings are the greatest food and virtually every culture has their own version of them. What makes these vaguely Chinese dumplings amazing is that they are a vehicle for lots of vegetables and protein and allow you to use up the odds and ends that are in your fridge. I had a couple of carrots, some mushrooms, celery, tofu and some shallot in my fridge so roughly chopped them and sautéed them in a pan with some oil, ginger and garlic. After everything had cooked through I seasoned the veggies with some soy sauce – maybe a couple of teaspoons – and then tipped all of this into my food processor and pulsed it until it was uniformly and finely chopped. I gave it a quick taste and let set up an assembly line with my daughter for filling the dumplings.
I am not sure if it is her love of dumplings or little fingers, but she is a pro at dumpling folding (and dumpling filling eating while my back is turned). We set out the dumpling wrappers (I buy them in Chinatown and keep a couple packs on hand in my freezer) in a row, I scooped out the filling into each one, she painted the perimeter of the wrapper with some water and then folded up each bundle. I set up steaming basket and cooked them all – she ate a bunch and the rest went into my kids lunch boxes.
I packed some pomegranate airls, an orange disguised as a pumpkin and a will whip up a bottle of miso soup in the morning. Lunch packed and lunch drama resolved.
I have had a delicata squash sitting on my counter since last week. I was going to roast it and throw it into a kale salad but my menu plans changed and it didn’t get used. Delicata squash have sweet and richly flavoured flesh and best of all, they have completely edible skin so that you can roast slices of them in the oven and then immediately plate them up for a meal. Unlike many other winter squash, they are easy to slice and are also relatively small so that you aren’t obligating yourself to days of squash consumption. It turns out that the flesh of a single delicata makes just enough filling for a dozen tortellini – perfect for two hungry girls’ lunches.
I sliced the delicata squash lengthwise, scraped out the seeds and popped it into a hot oven to roast while I was busy making dinner. After about 30 mins, it had started to brown and soften so I pulled it out of the oven to cool. While it cooled, I sautéed some finely diced red onion, sage and garlic until the onions were soft. The squash was cool enough to handle at this point so I scraped out the flesh and mixed it with the onion mixture. I had a package of wonton wrappers in the fridge so opened it up and put about a 2 teaspoons of the filling into the centre of a dozen wrappers and sealed them up with some water. Finally, I cooked them in a pot of boiling water until they floated – this only took a couple of minutes – and then tossed them in a pan with some olive oil and sage. Relatively quick and a nice autumn lunch.
The pasta bundles are served up with some carrot coins, sliced pear, grapes, crackers and a few chocolate/beet/orange and oat cookies that I picked up on a cross-border shopping trip. The cookies are delicious and while I am usually reluctant to buy cookies, these ones appear to be made with ingredients I have at home so seem fine for the odd lunch.
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Today is the city-wide cross-country running meet so lunch had to power my big daughter through her run and also had to be easy to eat since they will be sitting on the grass or sand for lunch. Dumplings, as I have written before, are a great vehicle for all kinds of veggies. I ran down to Chinatown before school pick-up to get some dumpling wrappers, a selection of mushrooms and some fun fruit for lunches for the week. When we got back home and started to prep dinner (corn tortillas w mixed roasted veggies, tofu and the apple and tomatillo salsa I made last week) I realized I had half a box of spinach that could be mixed in with the dumpling filling and we all got to work.
I started by prepping the veggies for lunch and dinner. The dinner vegetables – mushrooms, cauliflower, carrots, celery and squash – all went into the oven with some olive oil and salt and pepper to roast. The lunch vegetables – carrots, celery, mushrooms – were diced up finely and sautéed in a pan with some grapeseed oil until there was some colour on the mushrooms. I folded in some diced tofu, the baby spinach that I had minced up, a few teaspoons of soy sauce and some minced garlic and ginger. The kids had been foraging in the pantry and found a package of brown rice noodles so we rehydrated them, chopped them up a bit and folded them into the filling mix.
The kids love making dumplings and the only requirement I have is that they make themselves half a dozen moon-shaped dumplings each to pack in their lunches. Once they have done that, they can create any shape or size dumpling they can conceive of and they don’t hold back! We end up with letter-shaped dumplings, tiny dumplings for their stuffed animals and all kinds of other creations. We cook all of these up for a snack to tide them over until dinner. To assemble the dumplings, each kid sets up a station with a stack of wrappers, a bowl of water and spoon. I transfer the filling to a bowl and put it in between them and they set out to work. This is usually pretty messy but I had no idea how much messier adding noodles to the dumpling filling would be! We had tiny noodle bits all of the floor and stuck to the side of cabinet where they were working and hours later I was sweeping them up in adjacent rooms! I vowed to myself that we would not use noodles again until they both declared that these were the best dumplings that we had ever made.
I cooked up their lunch dumplings in the same skillet that I had cooked the filling in (I wiped it out first) filled with a bit of water and teaspoon of oil. I brought the water to a boil added the dumplings and covered the pan for 3 or 4 minutes until the dumplings were ready. In the meantime, I cut up some fruit (mango and dragon fruit), washed some sugar snap peas and pepper rings and mixed up a little dipping sauce with some soy sauce, rice vinegar and a tiny bit of maple syrup. I had a package of tofu jerky that I divided and added at the last minute along with some little panda cookies. I wish I had made myself a lunch like this! Happy 26th day of school!
Making dinner and lunch was a team effort this evening. The kids were keen to get their hands dirty when I told them that I planned to send dumplings to school with them tomorrow and little did I know that their little fingers would be so adept at folding and crimping. I could not have dreamed of better kitchen helpers! Dinner was a quick stir fry of the veggies pictures on the left – greens (pak choi and chard), king emperor mushrooms, shallots, garlic, ginger and some smoked tofu served along with a cedar planked salmon.
Dumplings are a terrific vehicle for all kinds of foods and more often than not, my kids will eat something in a dumpling that they will not eat if it is just served on its own. I sautéed the veggie mix – mushrooms, garlic and ginger first, along w a handful of chopped green onions and then the tofu and greens. Next, I tipped the mix into the food processor and pulsed it until it was pretty finely chopped but stopped well before it was a puree. I added a bit of soy sauce, tasted the mix and adjusted the seasoning and then transferred it to a bowl.
This is when the fun began – we set up the dumpling assembly line and the kids took over. I gave them a little ice cream scoop – it measures out a tablespoon at a time – a bowl of water and a stack of dumpling wrappers that I picked up in Chinatown yesterday. We frequent a place in Chinatown where they make up dumplings before your eyes and if we are lucky, we are seated by the counter where a team churns out intricately folded packages in record time. It would seem that the kids have been paying closer attention than I realized.
Making up the dumplings is a quick three step process: Add a scoop of the filling to the centre of the wrapper and brush the edge of wrapper with water. Carefully fold the dumpling in half and then crimp the edges of the dough together while also squeezing out any air.
Before I knew it, they had used up all of the filling we made and had found the second package of wrappers in the fridge. From there, they filled dumplings with some leftover brisket from Sunday night (not enough for lunch but enough dumplings!) and then some of the mango I had cut up for their lunches.
Lunch is half a dozen of the tofu, chard and mushroom dumplings, some edamame in their shells along with slices of some lovely red carrots, some mango and blackberries, a few sheets of cut up nori and a soy dipping sauce. A peach jelly rounds out lunch 12!