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Chinese Pork and Shrimp Wontons

My mom and my late grandmother both love wontons. As a child, we had wontons on a regular basis at home during the winter months. As a kid, I can't say I really loved wontons since I usually burnt my tongue trying to eat the little suckers; I am impatient when it comes to food.

I remember watching my mom and my late grandmother spend half a day making a big batch of wontons, most of which were frozen for future meals or for busy nights when dinners needed to be on the table quickly.

I never realized how easy it is to make wontons if you used packaged wrappers. Be forewarned though, making wontons does takes a little effort and time. The batch I made turned out 54 wontons and took me about an hour and half to make from start to finish. I made enough wontons for two meals that fed my family of three. You can also stretch the wontons by adding egg noodles to each serving, which reduces the amount of wontons you have to serve.

I have to say these wontons are absolutely delicious. The shrimp adds a nice texture to the wontons and my husband declared it the best wontons he has ever had. I'm delighted by his comment since my Mother-In-Law makes pretty darned good wontons. Since I spent my life eating wontons, I consider myself a wonton connoisseur, this wontons even met my high expectations. This is definitely a recipe I would remake over and over. I think these wontons would have made my late grandmother proud.

1 lb lean ground pork
1/2 lb finely minced deveined unshelled shrimp
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 egg
1-1/2 tsp sesame oil

1 package of wonton wrappers (look for wonton wrappers that are a little thicker)

Bowl of water
Cutting board
Baking sheet lined with parchment paper

1. In a large bowl, mix the pork, shrimp, green onions, ginger, soy sauce, egg and sesame oil. Stir until it is thoroughly mixed and the mixture resembles a paste.

2. Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Set up your wonton wrapping station: cutting board, and a bowl filled with cold water.

Top left clockwise: baking sheet with parchment paper, pork and shrimp filling, wonton wrapper, water, cutting board.

3. With a small teaspoon, spoon a teaspoon of the filling into the center of the wonton. Seal the wonton with water. There are two ways I like to fold my wontons:

Method 1:
Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of the wonton wrappers. With the tip of your finger, dip it into the bowl of water and paint two adjoining edges with water so it forms a "V".
Fold the wonton in half into a triangle, making sure to squeeze out any air bubbles, press firmly and seal. Create an indent in the middle of the triangle.
Dab a little bit of water on one corner of the wonton, fold and seal. Place the wonton on the parchment paper.
Repeat with the remaining wontons. Wipe up any water from your cutting board with a paper towel.

Method 2:
Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of the wonton wrapper. With your finger tip, brush half of the edges with water so it forms a "U".
Fold the wonton in half into a rectangle, making sure to squeeze out any air bubbles, press firmly and seal. Create an indent in the middle of the rectangle where the filling is.
Dab a bottom corner with a little bit of water, fold and seal. Place the wonton on the parchment paper.

Repeat with the remaining wontons. Wipe up any water from your cutting board with a paper towel.

4. Place wontons on the baking sheet, making sure to leave a little space between each wonton. Repeat with the wrapping the remaining wontons.

To serve:

Chicken, pork, seafood or vegetable broth
Sesame oil
Broccoli, bok choy or other green leafy vegetables
1 package of egg noodles (optional, see note below)
Green onions for garnish (optional)
Hot sauce (optional)

1. In a large pot, bring the broth to a boil. Add wontons to the pot, and reduce heat to medium. Cook the wontons for 3 to 4 minutes before adding in green vegetables (broccoli, shanghai bok choy) or chopped green onions. Add a teaspoon of sesame oil to the broth and cook until the broth comes back to a boil, the vegetables are crisp tender and the wontons float. Ladle some soup and wontons into each bowl. I find that each adult needs about 9 to 11 wontons for a substantial meal and 6 to 8 wontons for a light meal.

If you want to serve egg noodles with the wontons, cook the noodles in a separate pot according to package directions. Drain and divide noodles between each bowl. Ladle soup and wontons into each bowl. If you are serving egg noodles along with wontons, you can serve less wontons for each person. I usually serve 5 wontons per adult if I am also serving egg noodles.

To Freeze:
Freeze wontons in a single layer on a cookie sheet for at least 3 to 4 hours. Once the wontons have frozen completely, you can place them in a Ziploc bag or freezer safe container. The wontons can be frozen in a freezer for up to 2 months. To cook the wontons straight from the freezer: place the frozen wontons directly into boiling broth and allow it to cook 2 to 3 minutes longer.

Source: Slightly adapted from China Sichuan Food


Greek Pasta Salad with Shrimp, Feta and Roasted Veggies

The first time I made this salad, it was in the middle of August, the hottest time of the year here in Vancouver. I have no idea what prompted me to make this salad and deciding to roast the vegetables in my oven instead of turning on the BBQ.

As my house heated up, roasting veggies in my oven seemed like a really bad idea. I was sweltering from the heat, questioning my sanity. All was good once I took a bite of this pasta salad; then it all seemed worth it.

If you want to make this pasta salad in the summer, I would HIGHLY recommend grilling your vegetables and the shrimp on the BBQ grill. Or even better, grill extra vegetables and shrimp for dinner and use the leftovers in this pasta salad the next day.

I have made this recipe a few times since, and used my oven to roast the vegetables once the weather cooled off. It makes a nice, light, but satisfying meal that doesn't weigh you down. The roasted vegetables really shine through with the simple Dijon vinaigrette. You can substitute chicken in lieu of shrimp but I have to say that shrimp and roasted vegetables are a winning combo!

This pasta salad tastes delicious served either warm or cold. I find that it tastes best if it is allowed to sit for an hour or so for the pasta to absorb the flavors of the vinaigrette. Make sure to keep this salad chilled in the refrigerator.

2 medium zucchinis, sliced into 1/8" rounds, or half moons
1 lb cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces (optional)
3 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

1 lb wheat or gluten-free pasta (rotini, penne, or rotelle pastas all work well)
1 lb shrimp, unshelled and deveined
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 small red onion, finely diced

Dijon Vinaigrette
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Toss zucchini, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers in olive oil, salt and pepper. Broil in the oven on medium for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and slightly charred. (An even better idea is to grill your vegetables on the BBQ, especially in the Summer!)

2. Cook the pasta according to package directions until it is al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

3. Pan fry the shrimp in a tablespoon of olive oil until the shrimp is pink and cooked through. Set aside. (You can also skewer the shrimp and grill it on the BBQ.)

4. Mix the ingredients for the vinaigrette: rice wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.

5. Toss the roasted veggies, pasta, shrimp, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and red onion with the Dijon vinaigrette. Serve warm or cold.

Source: Slightly Adapted from Allrecipes


Sloppy Joes

Meals at dinner time can become repetitive for most families, mine especially. We have our usual favorites: Parmesan Crusted Sole Fillets, Hellmann's Parmesan ChickenFried Rice, Chow Mein, pasta, homemade hamburgers and pizzas.

Hamburgers were on the dinner rotation until I decided to switch it up and make sloppy joes instead.  Believe it or not, until I made this recipe, I have never had sloppy joes! I had no idea what I was missing out on.

This recipe was a hit with all of us, especially my little man, who loves ketchup or any foods with lots of ketchup. Saucy, hearty and filling, this recipe is sure to please even your pickiest eaters. I served the sloppy joes on a toasted hamburger bun with a salad on the side. You can also serve it with roasted potato wedges if you are feeling rebellious.

1 lb lean ground beef
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 - 1-1/4 cup chopped bell peppers (I used yellow and orange bell peppers)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp prepared yellow mustard

3/4 to 1 cup ketchup
1-1/2 tsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

4 to 6 Hamburger buns

1. In a medium non stick pan, brown the ground beef over medium heat. Drain off any liquids and fat. Add in onion, bell peppers and cook until the onions and peppers are soft.

2. Add in garlic powder, mustard, ketchup and brown sugar. Mix thoroughly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Source: Slightly adapted from Allrecipes