Should I prune my avocado tree?

March 25, 2013

Avocado tree ready for pruning.

Avocado tree ready for pruning.

Yes.  You should.  I have never had a successful tree past 24″ if I didn’t cut back the tree to encourage multiple branches and a thicker stem.  However, I wouldn’t do it now (in the spring, when buds are forming and new growth is happening).  You may be tempted now, but don’t do it.  Put it on your calendar for the late summer or early fall, or whenever you can really see that the growth has slowed.  I pruned this tree in July.  (I tend to see the most growth on my avocado trees from March – June.)  If there is a compelling reason to do it now, such as the plant is dying, or it’s very tall, but very weak and thin, then use your judgement.

Start with a clean, sharp pruner.  I use a Felco Model2.  Not exactly cheap, but it does a great job.  I’ve had mine for 10+ years now, and it’s still going strong.

Getting ready to prune the avocado tree.

Getting ready to prune the avocado tree.

Prune the tree in such a way to leave many leaves, but prune enough above a leaf so that there are budding areas around the stem.

Leave some leaves on the plant, and cut far enough above a leaf stem so you're not too close to the budding areas between the leaf stem and the main stem.

Leave some leaves on the plant, and cut far enough above a leaf stem so you’re not too close to the budding areas between the leaf stem and the main stem.

Post pruning

This is what the tree looked like post-pruning.

 

New growth, new branches.

In a few weeks, you should see healthy new branches developing!

I really should have put this post out in the late summer, but I just couldn’t wait.  My big guy, Xavier, is in bloom, and I got my mind on my ‘cados and my ‘cados on my mind! (Xavier is not the plant in the pictures above, and as beautiful as his blooms are, I haven’t seen signs of a fruit yet — he is around 5 or so years old, I think.)  Due to a recent move, I got rid of a lot of plants (gave away or composted/otherwise disposed of, depending on the health of the plant, but I just pruned a few feet off Xavier to help him through the move), but Xavier is a true keeper!

Spring 2013 avocado blooms!

Xavier in bloom!

More blooms to come!

More blooms to come!

ALSO SEE:  How to grow an avocado tree from seed and How do you grow a mango tree


How do you make dumplings?

March 20, 2013

Pan fried and steamed dumplings

Pan fried and steamed dumplings

Dumplings can be filled with pretty  much anything.  My recipe for 50 pork dumplings is below.  I make 50 at a time because that’s how many wrappers are in a package, and they freeze and reheat well.  I don’t eat dumplings anymore because I don’t eat grains and am on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), but my family still loves them, so I make them.  At the end of this post, I have notes that include how to make burgers out of dumpling filling for my Paleo, SCD, gluten-free, and grain-free followers out there.

For 50 dumplings (plus extra filling to make 8 paleo /SCD Legal “dumpling filling burgers” – see end of post).

  • 1 package of Nasoya all natural Wonton Wraps (see notes at end as to why I recommend these specifically)
  • 1 lb ground pork (preferably pastured and/or organic)
  • 3/4 of a pound of green cabbage, shredded
  • 2 peeled carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 12-15 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, chopped (they’re even better if sautéd in butter or ghee first)
  • 2″ piece of ginger, peeled, grated (a microplane does a great job)
  • 5 scallions (mostly green parts), chopped
  • 2 large or jumbo eggs, beaten (plus one extra egg for dumpling filling patties at the end, if you want to make them)
  • 2 TBS coconut flour
  • 1 Tbs of fish sauce (preferably Red Boat fish sauce, due to no sugar, preservatives or extraneous ingredients)
  • 1 Tbs coconut aminos
  • Optional: 4 sunchokes, peeled and chopped (this is to replace the traditional bamboo shoots, which I think are gross when canned – if you could find fresh bamboo shoots, I would use them)
  • few Tbs of butter, ghee, or coconut oil for sautéing (bacon fat is also wonderful… I’m just saying… don’t judge me!)
  • a cup or so of rice flour to generously put on each layer of dumplings so they don’t stick together if you are going to freeze them.

It takes me just over an hour just to fill 50 dumpling wrappers, so set aside around 2 hours for initial prep, filling, and clean up.  It will be worth it when you have a freezer full of quick-to-cook dumplings!

You’ll also need a food processor of at least 8 cup capacity (or you can process in batches), large mixing bowl, smaller bowl, 10-12″ diameter frying pan with lid, flipper, and a little bit of water (both important for steaming and for wetting down the wrapper), a finger bowl, and if you’re freezing most of them, a freezer container with lid (the Pyrex 3 cup container is a perfect fit for approximately 12 of them, and the 6 cup is great for 20-24, depending on how full you fill them).

Though you could close up the dumplings by hand or fork, it is much easier and looks better when you use one of these dumpling presses. I got this one for $3 at Bowery Kitchen at Chelsea Market. If you’re not near Chelsea Market, here are some cheap ones at Amazon: $4.99 one, and a set of 3 for $4.99.

Dumpling Maker

This dumpling maker will save you a ton of time and energy. It’s the best $3 I ever spent!

First, process the cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, grated ginger, scallions (and sunchokes, if you added them), just until the mixture is fairly homogenous.

Then, place the processed mixture in a large mixing bowl.  Add the ground pork, flour, eggs, fish sauce and coconut aminos.  Mix it all together with your hands, like you are making meatballs (you’ve made meatballs, right?).  This way, you don’t overwork the pork, as you would if you put the pork in the food processor (plus, you’d need a bigger food processor).

Dumpling filling workspace

Setting up your workspace properly will make the arduous task of making 50 dumplings go just a bit faster and easier.  Ignore the juicer and the Kitchen Aid.  They just happen to live there.

Next, set up your dumpling-making station.  It will take a while to make 50 dumplings, so only have a little bit of your filling out at a time.  Take about two cups of the mixture out into a small bowl, and put your large bowl with the rest of the filling in the fridge with a cover on it (either a plate or pan lid over the bowl or some plastic wrap or foil).

Place about a tablespoon of the filling in the wrapper and with a wet finger, moisten two consecutive edges with water, fold it over and put it in the dumpling press.  If you don’t have a press, you can squeeze with your fingers, or press down on the edges of the folded dumpling with a fork.

Put the filling in the dumpling wrapper

Put the filling in the dumpling wrapper and moisten the edges, so when you fold it over, it will stick together.

Folded dumpling in dumpling press

Put the folded dumpling in the press and squeeze down, sealing and crimping the edges.

Finished dumpling

This is how the dumpling looks after it is pressed.

Dumplings fit perfectly in the 3 cup Pyrex rectangular storage dish with blue lid.  Don't forget to generously dust with rice flour between layers to prevent sticking.

Dumplings fit perfectly in the 3 cup Pyrex rectangular storage dish with blue lid. Don’t forget to generously dust with rice flour between layers to prevent sticking.

You can boil, steam or pan fry dumplings.  I like them best when they are pan fried with a bit of steaming at the end.  To cook your dumplings my way, heat up a frying pan over medium heat and melt a little less than a tablespoon of butter, ghee, coconut oil, bacon fat or whatever fat you’d like in the pan making sure you coat the whole bottom surface.  Place the dumplings in the pan, ensuring no overlap and turn the heat down to low.  Flip the dumplings, turn the heat back to medium, and let the other side brown (see first picture of this post).  Once both sides are browned, put a tablespoon or so of water in the pan and quickly put the lid on the pan to trap the steam.  This finishes cooking the dumplings as well as softens the consistency of the cooked wrapper a little.  Your dumplings should have an interior temperature of at least 160 degrees F or more.

NOTES:

  • On the wrappers:  I specify Nasoya wrappers instead of most other varieties because they do NOT have sodium benzoate, which I try to avoid when possible.  Tang’s natural dumpling wrappers would be my preferred choice, but they are hard to find.  If you’re looking to make your own gluten-free wrappers, these recipes look great and well-researched.
  • Making “dumpling filling burgers” to maintain your Paleo, SCD, gluten-free, grain-free lifestyle.  Obviously, don’t use the wrappers.  Also, don’t add the sunchokes if you are doing the SCDiet.  Take the leftover filling (around 3 cups, give or take), add another tablespoon of coconut flour and one egg to the mixture and hand-mix.  Form fairly thin burgers (you want them to be able to cook through completely).  In a separate pan from the burgers, with a separate flipper (so you don’t contaminate them with the rice flour/wrappers), sauté in butter, ghee, coconut oil, bacon fat, or your fat of choice  until browned on each side and to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees F .
Cooking SCD for myself and regular for the family

I’m cooking the dumpling filling burgers on the left and the regular dumplings on the right.

Browned dumpling filling burgers

Browned dumpling filling burgers

If you want to see how I ate these, my plate will be posted in a few days on Yummy Fixins!


Is there a better way to make chicken stock?

March 13, 2013

Yes.  I just got a pressure cooker (a Kuhn Rikon 8Q Family Style) which cuts my time down to 2.5 hours from 8-24 hours (the range is dependent upon whether I make bone stock, which takes longer).  That 2.5 hours includes all prep time, cooling, straining and cleaning up.  Also, it’s a lot cheaper to make your stock out of leftover (but high quality) chicken necks, backs, feet and carcasses instead of expensive parts.  However, be forewarned, a pot full of chicken necks can traumatize your husband for life.

Chicken stock made with necks

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

See my more detailed post on making stock pot (i.e., non-pressure-cooked) bone broth.


%d bloggers like this: