Want Some Wontons

Wontons are a very popular dish all throughout China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Beijing, and Shanghai, as well as the rest of the world where people enjoy eating Chinese and Asian foods.  They have been around since the Tang Dynasty, which ruled China from the 7th through the 10th centuries.  At this time, they were primarily eaten by the emperor and the empress.  It wasn’t until much later when wontons gained widespread popularity with the people of China and other Asian countries.  The most popular way to eat wontons is in soup, although they are eaten in a variety of other ways in all parts of Asia as well.  One of the main reasons for their popularity is because they are the cheapest way to eat a filling meal, especially when they are served with noodles and/or in a broth, as part of a soup.

Wontons and dumplings are very similar, but they also have their own specific characteristics as well.  Wontons are made from a thin dough that is usually filled with a combination of pork and other ingredients, often times mixing different meats and vegetables together.  The word wonton has different meanings in both Mandarin and Cantonese.  The Mandarin word for wonton is “huntun” and means “chaos” because of the way the dough is wrapped and scrunches everything together.  In the Cantonese language, wonton means “swallowing the cloud” because of the shape of the wonton and how it floats in the soup broth.   Wontons can be fried or steamed, served in a soup or eaten by themselves.  Dumplings are made with a thicker dough and are usually only filled with one type of meat or only vegetables, and they are most often steamed.

So whether you are eating a little chaos with your meal or prefer to be ” swallowing the clouds’, both ways are very tasty and delicious.  As with any dish that is very popular in many regions of the world, there are always many variations of how to make them.  There is never only one right way to make them and there are always endless possibilities and variations.

As usual, I had some leftovers that needed to be used, so I turned them into wontons.  I learned to be very creative with leftovers many moons ago, because as is so often the case, I usually only have a small amount, which is too little to eat on their own, and I hate for things to go to waste, so I find other, creative ways of using them.  I served my wontons alongside my scallops and vegetable stir-fry, Scallops and Vegetable Stir-Fry with a Spicy Citrus Sauce to make a delicious dinner with a lot of tasty Asian influences.

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I had some leftover spinach and sausage (dried salami) mixture with rice and lentils that I combined with more spinach, garlic, onions and ginger to make my wonton filling.

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I sauteed the vegetables and sausage together in olive oil until everything was cooked, then I added the rice and lentils.

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Once the filling was made, I added about 1 TBSP of filling to the center of the uncooked wonton wrappers.

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Once the filling is in place, dip your finger into some water and just run it along the edges of the wonton wrapper.  Then bring all four corners together and pinch them together tightly, to make a little “purse”.  Make sure to pinch the ends tightly to ensure a tight seal.

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I like my wontons deep fried, so I placed them in the deep fryer for about 3 minutes, or until they were golden brown and light and crispy.  They had the perfect crunch.  I apologize for my deep fryer’s condition.  It is old and is very well used, but it still gets the job done.

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Scallops and Vegetable Stir-Fry with a Spicy Citrus Sauce

OK.  Sad to say, but my vacation is over.  It’s back to work and back to the kitchen once again.  Don’t get me wrong, I love both, but I also love my vacations, especially my dive vacations, too.

As much as we love Mexican food, we were ready for a dietary change.  We haven’t had Asian food in a while, so I thought it was time to do a stir-fry.  Stir fries are easy to make and are very versatile.  You can add whatever you like and leave out whatever you not like, but then that is my general kitchen philosophy, no matter what I cook.  My favorite types of Asian foods are usually Thai.  I love the sweet, spicy combination that is an integral part of the traditional Thai recipes.  I served my scallops and vegetables over wild rice, along with some fried won tons (tomorrow’s blog, so stay tuned) and a dry vermicello.  The dryness of the white wine paired very well with the spiciness of the dish.

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Scallops and Vegetable Stir-Fry with Spicy Citrus Sauce

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1-1 1/2 lbs sea scallops

1/2 can baby corn

1/4 red onion, sliced very thin

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

1/4 lb asparagus, cut into pieces about 1″ in size

1 cup orange juice

1/4 cup lime juice

2 TBSP honey

2 tsp spicy sambal sauce

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP ginger

1-2 tsp Chinese five spices

2 tsp Chinese hot mustard

red pepper flakes to taste

salt to taste

1-2 TBSP each, fresh basil and cilantro, chopped fine

1 TBSP cornstarch

oil and/or butter for cooking

 

Whisk the orange juice, lime juice, sambal sauce, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, Chinese mustard and Chinese 5 spices together.  Then add the chopped basil and cilantro and mix again.

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In a hot skillet or wok, add the oil and/or butter then add the scallops.  Cook for about 2 minutes per side or until the scallops are lightly browned on all sides.  Remove them from the skillet and set aside.

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In the same pan, add the vegetables, adding more oil if necessary and saute all the vegetables until the peppers and carrots are soft and the onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

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Once the vegetables are cooked, add the scallops back into the pan, along with the sauce.  Take some of the sauce and mix it together with the cornstarch then add it to the pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.  Serve over rice.

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The Best Part of Cozumel is Underwater

This is the last of Cozumel series for now.  And of course, I saved the best for last.  🙂  We dive all over the world, but mostly in the Caribbean.  Hands down, the diving in Cozumel is the best!  It has everything we look for when diving – beautiful clear blue/turquoise  warm water; a very healthy reef system; lots of marine life, both large and small; beautiful corals; gorgeous swim throughs and topography and oh so much more.  We encounter divers all the time, and everywhere we go, everyone agrees, Cozumel is the best.

Diving with Julio.  Julio, along with his partner Ishi, are the best divemasters in Cozumel.  They know the water like no one else.   They are so passionate about their diving and it comes through with everything they do.  Julio and Ishi are the ONLY divemasters  we dive with while diving in Cozumel.

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Cozumel is located in the Northwestern portion of the Caribbean.  It is the same reef system that runs through Belize and Roatan, Honduras as well.   The same fish and sealife is found all throughout the Caribbean waters.  When we dive these waters, it is like coming home to all the “familiar and friendly faces” and it is very comforting to see all my “old friends” from the sea.  This is a trumpet fish.  They come in yellow and blue as well.

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Beautiful French angel fish.

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A porcupine fish just cruisin’ along.

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Spotfin butterfly fish.

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A lemon ray.

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A big grande barracuda at a cleaning station.

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A friendly hawksbill turtle.  He was a big guy.  Usually turtles in the Caribbean are not nearly as big as they are in Hawai’i and the pacific waters, but we saw some very big turtles this trip.

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A large resting nurse shark.  He was probably about 8 feet long.  The nurse sharks are the “puppies” of the sea.  They are so friendly and gentle.  I love the sharks.  In Belize, I was dubbed the shark whisperer because they always came right up to me to say hi.

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A beautiful eagle ray.  We saw quite a few, very large eagle rays even though it is very late in the season for them.  I love the eagle rays.  They are so graceful and majestic.

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A very large green moray.  We saw a whole bunch of very large green morays.

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One of my favorites, a juvenile spotted drum.

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A school of French grunts.

DCIM100MEDIAI could go on and on and on, ad nauseam since diving and the life underwater is my passion, but I will not.  I will spare you all my fishey friends.  Even my own husband doesn’t understand this passion of mine.  He says I am “a frustrated marine biologist wanna-be”.  I definitely think he is on to something too.  There are plenty more dive trips in my future, which means there will be plenty more opportunities for me to share my other passion, without overwhelming you and/or boring you to death.  So I will leave you with a couple of fun pictures that are of a fish of a different kind.

The kiss.

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We found a hat at the bottom, and just couldn’t resist having some fun with it before bringing it back up to the surface.  And so ends my series on Cozumel.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed sharing with all of you.  Until next time ….

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Los Comidas de Cozumel – part 2

We were in Cozumel for a week, so there was a week’s worth of good eats.  I only got you through the first half of the week, and stopped when Larry got his bout of whatever bug was going around.  I did not want to overwhelm everyone with all the great foods; I wanted to give you some time to savor the flavors, and hopefully keep you hungering for more.

Casa del Mar is further south from where we stayed.  Larry wanted something relatively light, since this was his first real meal after his bout with the bug.  Casa del Mar is down towards the southern cruise terminals.  Their specialty is seafood, and very good seafood at that, though they offer other delicious dishes as well.

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Pan-fried grouper with a garlic-butter sauce.  YUM!

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Chicken and spinach with mashed potatoes.  Very tasty.

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A trip to Cozumel would not be complete without also including a trip to our favorite restaurant on the island, Jeanie’s.  It is spelled differently than how I spell my name, (I spell mine Jeanne) but that’s OK; I think good food just must be synonymous with the name.  🙂  Normally we get the big seafood platter for two, but this time we wanted something a little lighter, especially since lobster is out of season right now, and usually there are two lobster tails that come on the platter.  We have enjoyed this delicious seafood platter many times, and have had it as our Thanksgiving meal quite a few times too.  Jeanie’s is located at the very most southern tip of town, just before getting to all the shops and tourist attractions.

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The fisherman’s platter.

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The shrimp burrito.

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Larry had his bout with the bug earlier in the week, and I got mine later in the week.  Larry had a mild version compared to what I had, but of course, I never take the easy way for anything, so I had the grand version of whatever nasty bug was going around.  The part that bothered me most, even more so than being sick, was that fact that it was a HUGE inconvenience and cut my diving short.  You know I have something bad if it cuts into my diving time.  I was incapacitated for the next day and food was the absolute last thing on my mind.  Keeping it down was more what I was concerned about at the time.

We did, however, enjoy one last great meal on the island before our vacation ended and it was time to come home.  Our last island meal for this trip was at Ferrilli’s, a restaurant located right on the beach.

I played it safe, and just had pollo a la planchar, or grilled chicken.  I needed something safe and light on my stomach, and even at that, Larry still ate about half of it.

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Spicy Grouper

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Alas, our 2019 food adventures of Cozumel come to an end.  It’s back home from here; back to Jeanne’s kitchen (that’s Jeanne with 2 “n’s” and an “e” and no “i”).  I hope you all enjoyed eating your virtual eating tour of Cozumel with us.  Until next time ……

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Los Comidas de Cozumel

To me, the best part of traveling is experiencing the surroundings and taking in the culture of wherever you happen to be at the time.  That includes eating all the local and traditional foods of the area too, which is definitely right up my alley.  The foods in Cozumel are the traditional Mexican foods you see all throughout the country, but they have more of an emphasis on seafood than a lot of other Mexican foods coming from more inland regions or states.  Every region has its own style and recipes, which adds more variety to the menu, and just means there is that much more to try later.  We can’t try everything all it once now, can we? 🙂   We love Mexican food and eat it quite often.  We also love seafood, so for us, it’s all good, and all will be delicious.

Steak, chicken and fish tacos from and Blackened Grouper, accompanied with a tasty margarita from The Thirsty Cougar.  This was our first night in Cozumel.  We are up in the northern end of town.  The food was delicious and the margarita really hit the spot after a long day of traveling.

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Day #2 –  Once again we found ourselves in the northern part of town, in the main  plaza.  This time, we tried Dorados de Villa.   More delicious bebitas y comida that we really enjoyed.  This time, we feasted on pork fajitas and a Mayan pork dish called itacates, that was with a delicious salsa verde.

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Day #3 –  Larry started getting the bug and could not eat anything, so I sent him off to bed and stayed on the grounds of our hotel, rather than going anywhere else.  Whenever we go to Cozumel, which is fairly often, we stay at the Villablanca Hotel, located right across the street from the ocean.  It used to be right next door to the dive operators we dived with, but they since have moved.  They are still the only people we dive with when in Cozumel though.  We still like to stay at the Villablanca though.  It is a very nice family owned hotel with 50 rooms that was made for scuba divers.  They also have a very good family owned and operated restaurant right on the premises, named Chalos.

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This guy was NOT on the menu, he was just another guest; this time.  However, BBQ’ed iguana is a very popular dish all throughout the Caribbean, so if he isn’t careful, he just might be someone’s dinner soon.

I feasted on delicious pollo mole, or chicken mole.  I took some chicken soup and plain rice to Larry to help him feel better.  I will pause this post, Los Comidas de Cozumel, here to keep you hungering for more in my next post.  Desfruitas!

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This plate is a Frieda Kahlo design.  She was one of Mexico’s most famous artists, married to Diego Rivera, another famous artist of Mexico.

Colorful Cozumel

Good Evening Everyone!  I’m BAAAAAACK!!!!!  Did you miss me?  We were diving in Cozumel, Mexico.  Cozumel is small island about 25 miles southeast from the shores of Cancun.  Cozumel is our absolute favorite place to dive (dive pictures will come later.  I still have to download them).  It is the northern part of the same reef system as Belize and Roatan, Honduras.  The name Cozumel derives from the Mayan word Cuzamil, meaning land of the swallows.  Rumor has it that both Isla Mujueres (Women’s Island) and Cozumel were the first part of Mexico discovered by the Spanish Conquistadores, back in the 16th Century.  Back when the Mayans ruled supreme in Central America, Cozumel became an important seaport for Mayan trade because it was well positioned in the middle of routes to and from Honduras and Veracruz.  In the 17th century, Cozumel became the land of the pirates due to its isolation.  Other than the pirates and the Mayan women who visited the island to pray to the fertility Gods, Cozumel was relatively uninhabited until 1848, when settlers from the mainland sought refuge there from the Caste War, a fierce war that broke out when the Mayas decided to avenge the wrongs inflicted on them and their lands by the Spanish.  Up until 1961, Cozumel was then just known as a quiet little island for fisherman, but in 1961, the world was introduced to the underwater life of the island by Jacques Cousteau.  From that point on, Cozumel has been a scuba divers mecca.  We dive all over the world, and hands down, by far, Cozumel is our favorite place to dive.  Part of the reason for the attraction to the divers of the world is because the island quickly realized how valuable the sea and marine life was, and made most of the under water portion of the island as a marine park that preserves the wild creatures and fauna from the seas.  You can look and enjoy to your hearts content, but DON’T touch!  Life is very colorful in Cozumel, whether you are above the sea or beneath it.  It is filled with rich culture and traditions.

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The still sea plays a very important role to the locals.  It is still the primary source of income for a large majority of the local inhabitants.  A healthy marine life is vital to a prosperous life to all who live on Cozumel.  Cozumel is also one of the most heavily traveled areas in the world by cruise ships.  The number of cruise ships range from 0 on Sundays to up to 10 per day during the rest of the week.

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Tourism is the number one industry of the island.  1000’s of tourists visit the island every day.  Some just want to shop, some want to drink and party, and a vast majority want to scuba dive.

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