A Cultural Cooking Adventure

Making Chinese Dumplings – a cross-cultural experience

“What are dumplings like in China?” I asked my backdoor neighbor from Shanghai. ”Are they like American Chicken and Dumplings, made from biscuit-like dough and steeped in gravy?” As a romantic suspense writer, I often show my characters eating food in other countries, but have never mentioned characters eating Chinese food in a restaurant.

Kathy smiled and answered my question by saying, “Come tomorrow at 2:00 and I will teach you to make some.”

After I knocked on her back door, she invited me in and showed me a bowl with a green and beige mixture. “That’s fresh ground pork and watercress from a Chinese market.”

She showed me how to spread a rounded teaspoon of the pork mixture on flour dumpling skins, thin four by four squares of dough. That part was easy. I moistened the top edge and folded the bottom over the pork. Then I had to flip the top 1/4th inch down, moisten the bottom left corner, twist the dough to the back, and pinch the tails together beneath the lump. The whole thing was supposed to look like a nun’s head with a cap hanging down the sides. It took me several tries to get it right.

She set a bunch on a container’s plastic top dusted with flour to keep them from sticking and set the whole thing in the freezer. When they were frozen, she slid them into the bag.

 On the stove sat a pan with chicken broth. When it boiled, she slid the dumplings into the liquid. When the dumplings finally rose to the top, she turned off the burner and added a bowl of cold water. “Now,” she said. “we must wait for the broth to boil and the dumplings to rise to the top again.”

After she pronounced them done, she gave me a bowl with plain dumplings, accompanied by magenta colored rice vinegar to dip the dumpling in. Her husband, Ted, an American who’d lived in Shanghai several years, gave me a spoon and handed me chopsticks. He then gave me a lesson on using chopsticks. One should be held steady, braced against my middle finger, while the other moves to secure the item of food. I tried to pick up the dumpling with the chopsticks, but had to settle for the spoon. I dipped the dumpling in the rice vinegar, made from sweet rice and took a bite. I was surprised to find it was tasty and not as sour as I expected.

As I ate the dumplings Kathy had served me in chicken broth, I stuck to using the spoon. These were good, also. I asked if the Chinese ever put any vegetables in the broth along with the dumplings, but Kathy said that was never done. However, the vegetables mixed with the pork might vary, according to what was available, like carrots, and she sometimes made dumplings with shrimp..

Now for the supreme test, preparing some for my husband. Kathy gave me a clear, plastic bag with nine dumplings we had made to take home. The next day I boiled beef broth and dropped in the frozen dumplings. Like I’d been instructed, I waited until the broth boiled, and the dumplings rose to the top. I turned off the heat on my electric stove, poured a small bowl of cold water into the pan, then turned on the heat to high. After the liquid boiled, and the dumplings rose to the top, I filled two bowls with the soup and two dumplings each. We had to wait a few moments until it was cool enough to eat, but they tasted good. 

My husband asked how I liked doing Chinese cooking, and I replied it seemed like a lot of work, but I enjoyed learning how dumplings were made in the southern area of China.

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Cover Reveal!

I’m so excited that I finally have a cover for Romancing the Doctor, which will be released in January.

Reporter Heather McKinley is thrilled to discover she’s finally pregnant, even though she’s divorcing her husband. She finds an injured dog beside the road and takes him to a vet, where she meets the vet’s interesting brother, brilliant CDC Researcher Daniel Whistler.

Daniel wants Heather, but he also wants to stop the spread of the mysterious virus that makes men and women infertile and even kills some people. He persuades her to travel to Atlanta with him and visit his CDC office, but he feels his actions in the past made him unworthy of her.

After Heather and her sister have miscarriages, Heather joins Daniel in a search for the cause of the plague and the man who set it in motion. They follow outbreaks of the disease in Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, and even on a Caribbean cruise ship, but can’t seem to catch the perpetrator. Then Heather disappears on the cruise ship.

Would you believe I wrote this book, and it was published before I even heard of Covid 19? I received the rights back from the publisher, and am re-issuing it in January with the same name, but a different cover.

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Holiday with a Royal Launch Party Today

Go to Carolyn Rae Author (Facebook) at 6-8 CDT for the Launch Party for Holiday with a Royal. Comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card. You’ll find a recipe for cheese puffs and interesting tidbits I learned while researching the Cordillera Royals Series.

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Holiday with a Royal, Cordillera Royals, Book Four, release still on, but Launch Party re-scheduled.

Sometimes family and life get in the way of writing and sharing with you. My husband’s brother had a stroke, and we are leaving for Mississippi in the morning, so my Holiday with a Royal, Cordillera Royals, Book Four, launch party is postponed until next Saturday, October 23 from 5-8 (CDT)

Holiday with a Royal will still be released on October 16th, and Pretend Princess, Cordillera Royals, Book One, will still be free until tomorrow (October 16th).

You’re invited to join me on Saturday October 23rd from 5-8 CDT at my re-scheduled book launch party. Comment for a chance to win a prize.  I’ll include some interesting information about the Cordillera Royals and a recipe for Gougeres,  French cheese puffs, which are served at a restaurant in Cordillera Ciudad, mentioned in Forgotten Princess. I made some, and they were delicious.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter One.

Librarian Kelly Chandler, who wants to be a travel writer, is now stranded at the Tenerife Airport with her friend, Stephanie. 

He carried a briefcase, but his gold shirt and khaki shorts showed off a broad chest and powerful legs. “You look troubled, miss? I hate to see such a lovely lady in distress. Is there something I can help you with?” Mr. Handsome’s deep voice rolled over me like a wave splashing on the sand. Wow, he’d called me lovely, but why did he seem so concerned? He didn’t know me, and I was nobody special.

Mr. Handsome motioned to his bodyguard to step back, then stood tall and imposing in front of me. A touch of manly after shave wafted my way, and a smile lit up his face. “What a cute accent. Where are you from?”

I smiled. “Bedford, Texas.”

“I’m Mario Santiago, and Ernesto is my bodyguard.” He held out his hand for me to shake. “It’s so nice to meet you, Ms. Chandler. I’m here to change my flight, but let me see what I can do for you.”

I enjoyed the warmth of his hand and his captivating smile. He dropped my hand but continued to smile.

I glanced at my friend, now checking her phone. “This is my friend, Stephanie.” Unlike me with my hair in a ponytail and a slash of lipstick, her dark hair curled becomingly around her face, and her make-up was perfect.

She looked up, and her eyes opened wide. “Hi. I never expected to see you here.”
“I’m pleased to meet you again, Signorina Stephanie.”

Where had my friend gotten to know this dreamboat?

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Adapting to 2021 realities

As a volunteer at the mobile food pantry at our church, I miss greeting people as I hand out items such as potatoes, carrots, onions, or other vegetables, stacked on long tables to people from the neighborhood as they walk by. The last time, I helped, I pushed a big shopping cart, often hard to steer, and stocked it with items as I passed by. I stacked frozen chicken, yogurt, beans, rice, juice, canned goods, and milk in a large box. At the end of the line, men lifted out boxes, added some bread or cake, and then loaded them into the trunks of cars as they pass by. If any food was left, people loaded it into Mission Central’s truck to go to the food pantry that is open on weekdays.

Here I am with a box ready to load into someone’s car.

Sunday mornings are different also. I can attend church in my nightgown with Lifestream or get dressed, put on a mask and sit in person in the pews. Our church probably holds 1,000 people, but only 222 attended in person last Sunday, while 516 watched at home.

Last Thanksgiving we ate dinner in the family room. My husband, my daughter, son-in-law, and I got vaccinated. One daughter refuses to be vaccinated, and we hope she stays healthy, but she will eat at the table with us.

Me, my husband, my grandson, and my two daughters.
Thanksgiving Dinner

Publishing my books is different also. I used to attend group signings of romance books at stores and libraries. Now I show their covers online and hope a large number of people see the cover pictures and take time to read about the story. My next book, Holiday with a Royal, Cordillera Royals Book Four, will be released October 16th.

Heroine Kelly Chandler wants to become a travel writer, but she misses boarding the plane in Tenerife (an island in the Atlantic Ocean belonging to Spain) to go to Paris. She’s stunned when handsome Prince Mario manages to get the airline to hold the plane for her and she’s delighted to sit beside him in first class.

Check out Pretend Princess, Cordillera Royals Book One, now on sale.

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Despite Covid, life goes on, and I have news.

Here we thought we were getting the best of Covid, and along comes Delta and Mu. Three of my writer’s groups planned to do in-person meetings in September, but now only one is brave (or should I say fool-hardy) enough to open, but they will do Zoom in addition.

My big news is that Holiday with a Royal, Book Four in the Cordillera Royals Series will be released on September 30. Kelly Chandler, a redheaded librarian who wants to become a travel writer, gets stranded in the Tenerife Airport, but soccer star, Prince Mario Santiago, is there to save the day and join in her adventures in Spain.

Coming September 30, 2021

My other news is that an agent is interested in pitching Romancing the Vet for a movie. However, with most deals, it is wait and see. One member of my DFW Writer’s Workshop actually got her story made into a Hallmark movie, and she got to be an extra in one scene. I will be calling the agent today to see if anyone accepted a deal.

Besides writing, I have been helping out elementary kids by tutoring them in math and reading by Zoom. Our volunteers used to do it at a building in person, but only a few of the kids seem willing to do it in Zoom.

Another way I have found to volunteer is at the mobile food distribution at my church on the second Friday of each month. I “go shopping” by loading up a grocery cart with cans and cartons. Last time, this included a frozen chicken, containers of orange juice, tomato sauce, yogurt, eggs, bread, and other stuff. Men would load the boxes into waiting car trunks, and hopefully, that would feed a family for several days.

Here I am with boxes of food ready to load into cars.
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“Summertime and the Livin’ Is Easy”

That song by George Gershwin is the first one I learned as a member of my high school choir. He wrote it the year I was born for his opera “Porgy and Bess.” A Google search brought me Ella Fitzgerald singing this jazz inspired song, which still sounds good today. He wrote so much music in the few years he lived, making me wonder if he knew he would die young. I love listening to “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Late at night on January 3, George’s brother, Ira, read in the New York Tribune that “George Gershwin is at work on a jazz concerto.” That was news to George. Bandleader, Paul Whiteman, twisted George’s arm and asked him to compose a piano score, saying Whiteman’s band would arrange the rest. On a train to Boston to oversee rehearsals for his musical, “Sweet Little Devil,” he worked on the melody. Gershwin completed the two-piano score for Rhapsody in Blue and finished last minute changes to his musical by January 24, when the musical opened in New York.

Since summertime gets really hot in Texas where I live, I make things easy to adapt to the hot weather. I walk early in the morning while it’s shady and cooler. I do yard work an hour or less at a time. Bushes need trimming more often than in Michigan where I used to live, but in Texas I enjoy fewer really cold days in winter and many more days with sunshine. Hawaii’s national flower is the medium-sized yellow hibiscus, but these I pass by on my daily walk are bigger than my outstretched hand.

Back to music – I learned one important thing when my writer’s group, DFW Writer’s Workshop, had a chance to put on several cable TV shows. I can mention the name of a song in your novels, but I cannot quote the lyrics without getting permission from the creator. I get around that by writing about the theme of the song and how it makes the character feel.

Since I mostly prefer classical music, I have to ask other writers what music my characters would like to listen to. What songs do you like to hear?

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Taekwando black belt test

My daughter, Helen Williamson Elliott, a psychologist, has devoted herself to practicing and teaching TaeKwondo for many years. During the last year she has faithfully trained for her seventh black belt test. My husband and I drove about ninety miles to watch her and several others test.

For each belt level, there is a prescribed set of motions, showing fist motions and kicks, backward, forward, and sideways. When a person tests for the black belt, they must demonstrate the motions for each level they have earned, usually comprising four sets. Helen not only did that, but she also manipulated swords.

Not only do participants fight in bare feet, but they demonstrate how to disable an opponent with a big stick as well as overpower someone holding a gun on them. During the test, participants break boards and even cinder blocks as a show of concentrated strength. In this picture she is demonstrating how she wants the men to hold the board she plans to break. She broke several using kicks and her fists.

Not only can I be proud of my daughter, but I don’t have to worry about anyone attacking her.

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“Summertime and the Livin’ Is Easy”

That song by George Gershwin is the first one I learned as a member of my high school choir. He wrote it the year I was born for his opera “Porgy and Bess.” A Google search brought me Ella Fitzgerald singing this jazz inspired song, which still sounds good today. He wrote so much music in the few years he lived, making me wonder if he knew he would die young. I love listening to “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Late at night on January 3, George’s brother, Ira, read in the New York Tribune that “George Gershwin is at work on a jazz concerto.” That was news to George. Bandleader, Paul Whiteman, twisted George’s arm and asked him to compose a piano score, saying Whiteman’s band would arrange the rest. On a train to Boston to oversee rehearsals for his musical, “Sweet Little Devil,” he worked on the melody. Gershwin completed the two-piano score for Rhapsody in Blue and finished last minute changes to his musical by January 24, when the musical opened in New York.

Since summertime gets really hot in Texas where I live, I make things easy to adapt to the hot weather. I walk early in the morning while it’s shady and cooler. I do yard work an hour or less at a time. Bushes need trimming more often than in Michigan where I used to live, but in Texas I enjoy fewer really cold days in winter and many more days with sunshine. Hawaii’s national flower is the medium-sized yellow hibiscus, but these I pass by on my daily walk are bigger than my outstretched hand.

Back to music – I learned one important thing when my writer’s group, DFW Writer’s Workshop, had a chance to put on several cable TV shows. I can mention the name of a song in your novels, but I cannot quote the lyrics without getting permission from the creator. I get around that by writing about the theme of the song and how it makes the character feel.

Since I mostly prefer classical music, I have to ask other writers what music my characters would like to listen to. What songs do you like to hear?

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A Visit from Vicki Batman

I’ve invited vivacious, sassy Vicki Batman to share some words on my website.

Can you join me for a walk?

I adore Spring. February brought a big snowstorm just when I began looking for signs of flowers. Each day I discover something new and different. I walk my dogs and photograph specimens with my trusty phone–flowers, stems, grass, and dandelions. Dandelions are vital as Jones, my Malti-poo chomps on them. Last year, he ate forty-two, a record tasting. Maybe he needed fiber.

When we bought our current house, I wasn’t familiar with the flowering quince already planted in my front flower bed. Neither was Handsome, who wanted to yank it out. But I talked him out of doing so to see what would happen. What happened was pure delight—masses of salmon-colored blossoms visited by teeny tiny bees. I arrange branches in a vase.

Next comes the bulbs—daffodils, tulips, iris. I’ve never had much luck with daffodils and tulips, which is a shame because I love them. At a house I visit in Colorado, the back garden has masses of daffodils and tulips. Large flowers fill my cupped hands.

My grandmother grew iris. She was generous with her rhizomes, and mom planted deep purple, lavender, and white ones. When Handsome and I moved to our current home, the next-door neighbor told us about their back garden, created by the prior owner, iris specialists. I’m pretty sure a lot of us in this addition were recipients of their irises.

Daylilies look cheerful, come in all colors and sizes of blooms. They are pretty hardy, which is fine by me. I can grow these! Every day is a new day in the daylily bed.

Long ago, I received a catalog from a supplier of antique roses. These were salvaged from dilapidated yards, along fences, wild, free, and hearty. I grow climbers and one with a tiny flower. I also have a large pink rose propagated from one my grandmother grew. I feel so fortunate to have this memory of her and her green thumb.

What is your favorite flower?

What’s blooming at my house? A new book-Temporarily out of Luck, a romantic comedy mystery: Great job. What man? And murder. Newly employed at Wedding Wonderland, Hattie Cooks is learning the industry from a woman she greatly admires. When her former brother-in-law is found dead in his luxury SUV, all fingers point to Hattie’s sister, who is planning her own I Dos.

Detective Allan Wellborn is caught between a rock and a hard place—Hattie’s family and investigating the murder of a well-connected Sommerville resident, the same loser who was once married to Hattie’s sister. Determining who’s the bad guy—or gal—isn’t going to be easy and sure to piss off someone.

Can Hattie beat the clock to find out who murdered Tracey’s ex before she is charged with the crime and her wedding is ruined?

Find loads of fun at: https://www.amazon.com/Temporarily-Luck-Hattie-Cooks-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08T7YSSRJ/

Author bio: Funny, sweet, and quirky, Vicki Batman’s stories are full of her hallmark humor, romance, and will delight all readers. She has sold many award-winning and bestselling romantic comedy works to magazines and most recently, three humorous romantic mysteries. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practitioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Cat fancier. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome Hubby.

Find Vicki Batman at:

Website: https://vickibatman.blogspot.com/p/more-about-me.html/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vicki-Batman-sassy-writer-of-sexy-and-funny-fiction-133506590074451/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickiBatman/  

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/vickibatman/  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4814608.Vicki_Batman/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/vicki-batman    

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