Vegetable Dumplings with Lemongrass Dipping Sauce
with Lemongrass Dipping Sauce
by author Reed Alexander,
KewlBites: 100 Nutritious, Delicious,
and Family-Friendly Dishes
This fall, on September 3rd, I’ll be releasing my first-ever cookbook, KewlBites: 100 Nutritious, Delicious, and Family-Friendly Dishes, nationwide, published by Rodale Books. President Bill Clinton calls it a “valuable guide for a new generation,” and I hope it will help transform the way families around the country cook and eat together.
Several years ago, I was an overweight teen who was uncomfortable with how I looked and felt. As an actor, I spent long, protracted days on set that required me to operate at high-octane levels with a full load of energy—not to mention the piles of homework, travel, and activities.
Something had to give. The question was, what? There was no panacea, no comprehensive how-to guide to help me strategize and drop the pounds. I found nothing from a kid’s point of view—and nothing that felt right for me.
As a longtime food lover with a somewhat incessant sweet tooth (raising my right hand here—I admit it!), I knew that if I just deprived myself of my favorite culinary creations—from apple pie to pasta and meatballs—eventually I would veer off track and return to my old ways: out-of-control eating habits, nominal exercise, and a complete lack of knowledge about nutrition and wellness. But without a game plan, I was lost.
[I’ll let you in on a behind-the-scenes secret we always invoke on set: improvisation. Soon, I discovered that it’s just as important at the stovetop as it is in the studio!]
My first step was to transform my kitchen from a place where I unpacked the take-out delivery order into a destination that would become my home-away-from-home (or, more accurately, my-home-away-from-the-living-room). I armed it with all the trimmings of a science lab, down to the test tube spice rack!
I began experimenting with my favorite dishes, embarking on supermarket safaris for new ingredients, and tinkering with classics like Deep-Fried Chicken Nuggets to figure out how to morph once-in-awhile guilty pleasures into healthy foods we can eat every day. In other words, to “boil it all down”—no culinary pun intended!
Now cooking became a fun and dynamic race where passing the finish line meant serving up a delicious meal to my family and myself: a full slate of lightened-up takes on our must-have’s that we couldn’t resist.
Simultaneously, I found ways to make exercise less of a chore, even when on the road without access to a gym. I was taking early morning bike rides, playing tennis, and inviting friends over to taste some of my new culinary concoctions.
I ended up losing fifteen pounds, but rather than a good-bye to that weight, I thought of it all as hello to a treasure trove of tips, information, and knowledge about wellness. Here was everything missing from the void that had left me floundering when I first began my journey.
I realized I could provide an upbeat and dynamic angle to the conversation surrounding childhood obesity in this country, which has perhaps never been so formidable an opponent as it is today. This was the impetus and motivation behind the birth of my website KewlBites.com.
Since then, I’ve been able to engage in a worldwide conversation with readers who tune into the site to discover a constantly-growing library of all-new recipes, the 101 on exercise, and to hear from their favorite A-list celebrities who open up about their secrets for eating nutritiously and staying fit.
I’ve teamed up with President Bill Clinton’s Foundation and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to launch a special menu of healthy recipes in more than 15,000 public schools in all fifty states, cooked and served to over 30 million students every day, and have had the honor of working with the White House and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to make this message a priority.
I’m a firm believer that it all starts with building healthy habits. That’s why the newest centerpiece to the KewlBites table is my forthcoming, debut cookbook KewlBites, which take this topic to a new level. Kicking off just in time for the back-to-school season, it’s an amazing new platform to have a tangible piece of KewlBites in your kitchen, and to serve delicious meals that your family can cook and prepare as a team. You’ll find insider advice for navigating the grocery store, savoring healthy snacks, and even indulging in mouthwatering desserts.
It includes plenty of delicious, healthy recipes, including one of my all-time favorites, featured here. I promise, they’ll take you right to your favorite dim sum diner in the heart of Hong Kong!
VEGETABLE DUMPLINGS WITH LEMONGRASS DIPPING SAUCE
These Vegetable Dumplings are my take on classic Dim Sum. I had so much fun creating this recipe. It features envelope-shaped dumplings made from wonton wrappers, which become translucent when steamed—a great cooking method that requires no fat. Once cooked, the vibrant colors of the vegetables show through ever so slightly. Mini masterpieces!
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 large egg whites
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated carrots
½ cup finely grated red Napa cabbage
½ cup shelled edamame
½ cup diced water chestnuts
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
¼ cup cilantro leaves
1 package miniature (2-inch) square wonton wrappers (35 total)
Lemongrass Dipping Sauce
In a food processor, pulse the broth, soy sauce, sesame seeds, ginger, garlic, egg whites, salt, and pepper until smooth.
To make the filling, in a mixing bowl, combine the carrots, cabbage, edamame, water chestnuts, bell pepper, and cilantro. Pour about half of the mixture from the food processor over the vegetables.*
Place a single wonton wrapper on a work surface and lightly brush the edges with water. Spoon 1½ teaspoons of the filling in the center, draining excess liquid before adding to the wrapper. Fold one corner of the wrapper over the mixture followed by the opposite corner, to create an egg roll–shape that is open at the sides. Fold the remaining two corners over each other and press down firmly to seal the wrapper tightly. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling to make a total of 35 dumplings.
Fill a large sauté pan with high sides with about ½ inch of water. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Place dumplings in a single layer in a metal or bamboo steamer lined with parchment paper and place the steamer in the pan. Cover and steam the dumplings about 12 minutes, until the wrappers are glossy and slightly translucent and the vegetables are tender. Carefully remove the dumplings to a plate. Repeat to steam all the dumplings, refilling the pan with water as necessary. Serve with the dipping sauce.
YIELD: 6 servings (about 6 dumplings each serving)
LEMONGRASS DIPPING SAUCE
1 cup cilantro leaves
½ cup thinly sliced lemongrass stalks
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup water
In a food processor, pulse all the ingredients until smooth. Serve alongside the dumplings for dipping.
YIELD: Approximately 1 cup