Happy Year of the Sheep/Goat/Ram! Lunar New Year Lucky Kale Dumplings

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I gave another healthy cooking lecture and demo last night to a lively group, and was thrilled and the level of excitement and interaction.  While it was a bit of a logistical error on my part to schedule the lecture on the eve of Chinese New Year, when I probably should have been celebrating with my family, I’m reframing it as no better way to begin a new year than with doing what I love– sharing my passion for healthy, delicious cooking with people.  I also got one of the Best Compliments Ever: “You could be the next Julia Child, of healthy cooking!”

Riding on the glee of this exaggerated praise, let me help you ring in your own bit of good luck for the Chinese/Lunar New Year in this somewhat confusingly named Year of the Sheep/Goat/Ram (your choice).  I’m sharing a healthy version of the Chinese dumpling or potsticker, which I have presented before in some of my classes.  As many of you know, I am all about kale, and so I came up with a kale filling for those of you who are looking for more ways to incorporate this superfood into your diets.

Like all New Year days, this is a day of renewal and celebration– and rest. Tradition dictates that no cleaning, cutting, or chopping be done on this day, so it’s a day off for home cooks. The Chinese New Year celebrations go on for an entire month, so if you don’t want to take any chances and do any cutting today, it won’t be too late in the next few weeks to prepare this recipe for a year of good luck, happiness, and prosperity.  Chinese tradition includes many foods which are associated with good luck and fortune in Chinese culture. These include dumplings (jiao zi), whose shapes resemble the gold ingots used as currency during the Ming Dynasty; sweet sticky rice cakes (nian gao), which symbolize the persistence needed for prosperity; and long noodles, for longevity. Whole fish and chicken (beak and feet included!) are served to ensure the completeness of the family’s good fortune. Many other traditional foods are served because their names are homophones for words such as luck and wealth in Cantonese and other Chinese dialects. Fish (yu), for example, sounds like the phrase meaning “having enough to spare;” garlic chives (jiu cai) sounds like a word meaning “everlasting;” and a word for oysters (hao), recalls the word for “an auspicious event.”

Besides eating, the Chinese New Year is a time for family reunions and celebrations. Hong bao, or red envelopes, filled with money are given to children, firecrackers are set off to chase away bad luck, and new clothes, preferably in lucky red, are bought to start the year off right.

Thanks again to all of you for your ongoing support.  If you’re new to my classes, please visit The Doctor’s Spicebox on Facebook (and please give me a “Like” while you’re there!) to visit the events page and for nutrition articles of interest.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, I hope to be able to cook with you in the future.  My next class, Veggie Love: Flavors of Asia, is sold out, so don’t miss your chance to enroll in the next class after that.  It’s at the swanky Draeger’s Cooking School in San Mateo on Wednesday 4/8 and is a wonderful menu to welcome spring: Spring Inspirations.  See you soon!

To another year of health, happiness and prosperity! Gong xi fa cai!

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The Doctor’s Spicebox Turkey and Kale Potstickers

dumplings symbolize good luck, packaged inside

Makes 4 dozen (serves 12 as appetizer, 4 per person)

Ingredients:

4 leaves of kale, minced (in mini prep)

2 scallions, minced

2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 lb. ground turkey

1 egg

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tsp ground white pepper

1 package prepared round dumpling wrappers

Technique:

  1. Mix all ingredients except wrappers in a bowl until well combined.
  2. To make each dumping, place a wrapper on a clean surface or your palm, and heap about a teaspoon or two of filling into the center.  (Wrappers vary in size and shape; don’t overfill or else you won’t get a good seal.)
  3. Moisten the inside edges of the filled wrappers using your finger or a chopstick dipped into a little water and fold over, forming crescents. Press them together, making pleats to seal. Make sure they are well-sealed, or the filling will fall out when you cook them.

To make potstickers:

  1.  Heat a tablespoon of canola oil into the bottom of a frying pan and place dumplings (standing up) into the pan, leaving a little room around each dumpling.
  2.  Add 1/4 cup of cold water, then turn heat to low and cover pan.
  3.  Cook on low heat for about 3 minutes, until water is almost evaporated, then add another 1/4 cup of cold water and repeat the process.
  4.  Dumplings are done when the water has evaporated and the bottoms have a nice golden, sticky crust (potstickers!)

Nutrition info per serving of 4 dumplings: 143 calories, 15g carb, 5g fat, 10g protein, 207mg sodium, 0g sugar

Dumpling Sauce

For dipping sauce: soy sauce plus any combination of sesame oil, chili sauce or oil, vinegar, minced scallions, minced cilantro, minced ginger. Here is a basic sauce.

Ingredients

3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1 ½ Tbsp Chinese black vinegar

½ Tbsp sesame oil

optional- 1 Tbsp finely minced scallions and 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger

Nutrition Info per teaspoon: 6 calories, 0g carb, 0g fat, 0g protein, 125 mg sodium, 0g sugar