Honey Sesame Vinaigrette

 
Summertime is too hot to turn on the oven to bake (though I’m tempted to bake a few new recipes I’ve been given). So instead, I’ve been experimenting with mixing homemade salad dressings. I decided to try changing one of my favourite marinades into a vinaigrette and am quite happy with the result.

Here are my semi-measured ingredients for 1 small head of romaine’s worth of dressing.

Ingredients
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sesame paste
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl, add in lettuce and any add-ons you like, toss & enjoy. If made ahead of time, the sesame paste and oil will separate and just needs a shake or whisk.


Mine was made with mandarin oranges, dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds. Next time I’m going to try other add-ons like chicken, shrimp, salmon, snap peas, carrots, mushrooms, edamame beans or berries….mmmmm…..

I love vinegar so if you find this too sour or even too sweet, either whisk in a bit of water or go easy on some of the ingredients. Maybe experiment with adding in some ground pepper, chilli flakes, herbs or a splash of sake.

Happy mixing!

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Baked Egg Sponge Cake


When I was little, my aunt used to make this sponge cake for parties. It’s light, fluffy and not too sweet, I loved it so much I’d rather have her bake this cake than a store-bought birthday cake. After attempting to make this a couple of times, I realize it’ll take some practice because it doesn’t taste like my aunt’s.  Her’s comes out with a moist top crust where mine is dry and….hmmm looks like I’m gonna need more than a recipe to get this right.

The recipe and directions are straight forward, but I`m sure there`s a trick to the mixing and the baking time.

In case you’d like to give it a whirl, here’s the recipe.

Tools
Large flute/angel food cake pan
Mixer (hand or stand)

Ingredients
1  1/4 cup sifted cake/pastry flour
8 large eggs
1/2 cup of oil
1/2 cup of milk
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar

Directions
1) Sift flour, preheat oven to 375F
2) Separate the eggs into whites and yolks
3) Mix yolks, oil, milk, sugar and vanilla for 20 minutes on high
4) Add flour into the yolk mixture (Step 3) a little at a time to avoid lumps with a wooden spoon, then set aside
5) Beat egg whites with cream of tartar for 5-7 minutes, or until stiff peaks form
6) Gently fold egg whites into flour/yolk mixture (Step 4) while making sure to blend together well with wooden spoon
7) Pour final mixture into flute pan and bake for approx. 45- 60 minutes or when toothpick comes out clean
*Do not place another pan under the flute pan (nothing should spill out) otherwise the bottom won`t bake
8) Cool cake upside-down (if your pan doesn`t have legs, turn the cake upside down and insert the centre of the pan into the neck of an upright bottle)

Mixed Rice w/ Veggies (Bibimbap)


Here’s my first try at making bibimbap which literally translates to “mixed vegetables/rice”. Usually when I eat it at Korean restaurants I’ll order the dolsot bibimbap version where everything is served in a super hot stone pot/bowl but this bowl is on the expensive side and I didn’t want to spend the money for something I can’t use often. Everything tastes good served in a regular bowl but I gotta say, there’s nothing like eating out of a sizzling hot bowl.

It’s really easy to make and a good way to load up on veggies. Based on the instructions the cashier at the Korean grocery store gave me, here’s how I threw it all together. There are many variations out there so go ahead and make it your own.

Ingredients
Veggies as desired – I used carrots, spinach, white & shiitake mushrooms and zucchini
Ground beef – can replace with ground turkey,chicken or Yves Ground Round
Soya Sauce
Sesame oil
Garlic powder
Pepper
Salt
Rice
Red pepper paste sauce

Directions
1. Wash, peel, chop/slice/Julienne veggies
2. Cook rice in rice cooker
3. Marinate ground beef with some soya sauce and sesame oil (I didn’t measure, but for 500g of beef I used approx. 2 tablespoons of soya sauce, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil)
4. Saute the beef on a non-stick pan until cooked, breaking pieces up, then set aside
5. Saute each vegetable type separately with a soya sauce or salt to taste, finish with a bit of sesame oil, set each aside separately
5. Put rice, veggies and meat into a bowl
6. Make an egg, sunny side up, and place it in the middle of everything
7. Put red pepper sauce on top, mix it all together and eat

Lemon & Herb Chicken


I love lemons and I love chicken so I’ve combined the two together in this chicken dish. Unfortunately, it was too tangy for my husband (who doesn’t eat any sauce besides gravy and soya sauce) but for me, I added more lemon juice as I was eating to give it more tang! So I’ll leave it with you to adjust to your own tastes. Play around until you get a combination of flavours you like. I’ll be trying this marinade in the summertime on the BBQ with chicken wings.

Ingredients:

4 chicken thighs bone-in & skin on
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian herbs or thyme, rosemary (whatever desired)
Kosher salt, coarse sea salt or pink salt to taste
Ground black pepper (or lemon pepper) to taste

Directions: 

  1. In a bowl large enough to fit chicken, whisk together lemon juice, garlic powder, herbs, salt, black pepper (approx. 1 teaspoon) and olive oil
  2. Put in chicken and coat it with marinade
  3. If desired, cover and refrigerate chicken over night (I was in a rush and just left it at room temperature for 30 minutes, turing 2-3 times), then preheat broiler
  4. Place on foil lined pan and place chicken in, and spoon some marinade over but saving some for basting
  5. Broil for 30 minutes or until almost cooked, baste and switch oven to bake until golden & done (or fry in non-stick pan on medium until chicken has some colour or done – 160F)
  6. If wanting to use leftover marinade as sauce, either simmer for 5-7 minutes in a small saucepan or add to pan while frying on stove top)
  7. Sprinkle with more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice before serving if desired

Happy Valentine’s Day!


I wanted to make cupcakes for people at work because I found these really cute cupcake cups. They’re supposed sturdy enough that muffin tins are necessary so you can just set them on a cookie sheet and bake them all at once.

The only thing was, I tried to squeeze too many on to one cookie sheet and when they expanded in the oven, some of them got squished and turned out triangular…..oh well.

I didn’t have a recipe for chocolate cupcakes so followed this one from Williams Sonoma’s website and topped it off with a basic frosting. It’s actually my first time baking cupcakes, turns out frosting them nicely was harder than anticipated. Hmmm….maybe I’ll just  stick to muffins…..

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/chocolate-cupcakes.html

 
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Vietnamese Crab Cake Noodle Soup (Bún Riêu)

After having that delicious bowl of Bún Riêu for in Oakland, it’s been on my mind. After talking to my husband about locating a good restaurant for it, I decided to make my own. He said I’d find most ingredients I’d need at this Vietnamese grocery store in an area of town recently designated as Little Saigon.

Prior to heading there, I Googled some recipes to get an idea on what ingredients would be required. I wandered the aisles a bit and got confused. I asked one of the guys stocking the shelves for some help and he started to put things into my basket. When he was done, I was armed with various jars and bags. He said all I needed now was the meats and eggs. So in the evening, I went to get the meats.

So using the instructions from the guy at the store and a couple of recipes online, I started to put everything together. Instead of making my soup base from scratch out of pork bones, I used a box of chicken broth, I’m not sure if it makes a huge difference but it saves a lot of work. A food processor with also save you some time but hand-chopping works too.

Ingredients

Soup:
6 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
4 teaspoons spicy crab paste
1 tablespoon dried shrimp, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4-6 Roma tomatoes, washed & cut into quarters
1 pack of fried tofu cubes

Crab cake:
1/2 pound ground pork (I used lean)
1/2 pound prawns (fresh)
3 tablespoon dried shrimp, minced
1 cup of crab meat, drained 
(crab can be frozen, canned or fresh. I used 2 cans of 120g)
1 can of mince crab in spices
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
few splashes of fish sauce
1-2 eggs

Directions
1. Peel prawns and save tails and heads. Mince the meat or grind in food processor
2. In a large pot, bring water and chicken broth to a simmer and add in prawn tails and heads, simmer low
3. Combine crab meat mixture together, add in 1 egg to start if you find the mixture too dry and not sticking together, add an extra, cover and refrigerate mixture
4. Scoop out heads and tails from broth
5. Using a bit of the broth in a small bowl, combine spicy crab paste and tomato paste until dissolved. Pour into broth
6. Put chopped dried shrimp into broth and bring to a boil
7. Take meat mixture out and slowly slide burger patty sized “cakes” into soup. Try not to stir the soup too much after this point or your cake will crumble
8. Add in tomatoes, tofu and a few splashes of fish sauce
9.  Make noodles according to the packaging (boil appox. 5-10 mins) rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking
10. When the cake floats, it’s almost done, you can break the cake up a bit to check – you can break of the cake a bit in the soup is fine
11. Serve with herbs. (This is what I was told to serve the noodles with but I’m not sure what kind of greens these are…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

You have to look kind of close but you cans see one of my crab cakes starting to float at the top

I prefer the thicker, round rice vermicelli (first photo and the green packaging), but my husband prefers the thinner rice stick vermicelli noodles (red packaging)

Breaded Chicken

I know this chicken looks kind of like Shake ‘n Bake but it’s not! I tend to make this when I don’t want to do too much prepping and have bread nearing expiry. You can customize it by adding your favourite herbs and spices to the bread crumbs.

I thought the chicken breasts I bought were quite thick so I sliced them in half and they cooked a lot faster. You can also do chicken thighs or pork chops, it’s up to you, I just find drumsticks too annoying to cook evenly.

 There are a lot of breaded chicken recipes online, but then again there’s a lot of everything online so I’m going to post how I made this anyways  🙂 

Ingredients
2 pieces of chicken breast
3-4 slices bread, toasted & crushed into crumbs or  approx.1 cup of bread crumbs
Herbs, spices, salt, pepper as desired
Milk

Directions
1. (Optional) slice each chicken breast in half horizontally and then pound slightly with rubber mallet
2. Mix in desired herbs/spices into crumbs (this time I used 1 teaspoon lemon pepper and ½ teaspoon salt)
3. Heat non-stick pan on low-medium heat and add in oil
4. Put a bit of milk into a dish and put in a piece of chicken (don’t use too much milk because it can’t be reused
5. Remove from milk and dredge into bread crumbs, press crumbs into meat
6. Place on pan to fry, flip when bottom is golden brown. It’s done when the internal temperature is 165F.

 *You’ll want enough oil to keep the breading from burning, for my 12” pan I used approx. 2 tablespoons. Add more oil if required, stay on low-medium heat.

**You can choose to bake the chicken instead if concerned about oil. The cook time and temperature will depend on your meat size. Typically, chicken is 350F for 20-30 minutes, uncovered.

Enjoy with veggies and your favourite dipping sauce, but the herbs and breading provides a nice flavour as-is.

Chicken Stuff with Sticky Rice


A while back we had an office potluck and our VP’s husband made this delicious sticky rice and chicken. Everyone asked for the recipe but seems like I’m the only one who’s tried it. I went on to YouTube to watch some videos on how to debone a chicken whole so I can stuff it. In theory, it all seemed straightforward, but about 30 minutes into it I got a little frustrated and decided I would just slice the chicken open and sew it back up after stuffing.

I thought I would be smart and debone & brine the chicken overnight but it made the meat a little to salty for my liking.  In case you want to give it a whirl, here’s the recipe.

I love sticky rice, it gives me the same stick-to-the-ribs feeling I get with a good mac n’ cheese .


Ingredients

Brine
1/2 cup of sea salt
8 cups water
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon peppercorn
1-2 pieces star anise

Chicken/Rice
1 raw chicken
4 tablespoons dried shrimp, soaked & coarsely chopped
6-7 shiitake mushrooms, soaked & minced pieces
1 cup sweet rice, soaked 6 hours or overnight
1 package chestnuts, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons ginger powder
2 tablespoons soya sauce
sesame oil


Directions

1. Debone chicken. Place into brine mixture for approx. 4 hours
2. Remove chicken from brine and dry with paper towels
3. Rub soya sauce and then ginger powder on to inside and outside of chicken
4. Mix shrimp into rice and steam for approx. 20 mins (or as bag directs) –
I used a rice cooker. Preheat oven 375F
5. Mix mushrooms and chestnuts into rice mixture and finish with splash of sesame oil. Let cool 15 mins.
6.  Stuff rice into chicken. Use butcher string to close up cavity
(or sew up in my case)
7.  Place on roasting rack, baking pan or glass pan – breast down for 45- 50 mins
8. Remove from heat, reduce to 325F, turn chicken over and bake for approx 10-15 mins
      **use meat thermometer to ensure thorough cooking**
9. When finished, remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before cutting chicken in half and serving in pieces

 

Don’t forget, you can save the bones to make stock! Freeze them until you’re ready to use.
Happy stuffing~

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork with Hard-Boiled Eggs (Thit Kho)

This morning my husband said he wanted to eat this dish his mom used to make, thit kho. It’s a caramelized pork and egg dish served with rice. Wanting to flex my cooking skills I Googled some recipes and we went to the supermarket.

While cooking and tasting I made some adjustments. The only thing was, I was kind of going in blind here as I’ve only had this dish once before.

Lots of the recipes online called for Coco Rico or coconut juice or coconut water. We were only able to find coconut juice but confused about pulp or no pulp I decided to try a can of Coke instead.  Here’s the recipe, it’s a bit of a mix from a few we found online and made some adjustments along the way.

Ingredients
2 lbs of pork (I used shoulder but pork belly is commonly used)
1 shallot, minced
4 tablespoons sugar
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning
black pepper, to taste
eggs, as desired
1 can of Coke or coconut juice

 Directions 
1. Blanch pork meat for 2 minutes, rinse with cold water
2. Cut pork into strips or cubes as desired (around the same size is easier to cook)
3. In a bowl, mix shallots, fish sauce, mushroom seasoning, black pepper and add in pork pieces (one receipe said to marinade for an hour, and one didn’t, so I didn’t)
4. Caramelized the sugar in a pot on medium, being careful not to burn it
5. Add pork once the caramel has reached a golden brown
6. Coat the pork evenly with the caramel
7. Evenly brown the outside of the pork and pour in Coke or coconut juice over (enough to cover).  Let pork stew being careful not to burn (low-medium heat)
8. In a separate pot, hard-boil your eggs (actually, I think next time I’d try to soft boil them so they’re not over-done)
9. Add to the pork mixture once eggs are done and peeled
10. At this point I had to add a bit more Coke, fish sauce and pepper since husband said there should be more sauce
11. Remove from heat when sauce has thickened to desired consistency (some recipes showed the sauce thicker and some more watery) serve with rice 
The pork was really tender and flavourful but I’d like more on the eggs next time. I think I might stew the eggs for a while first and add the meat after.
 

The nice thing about this dish was a lot of the ingredients were already in my kitchen. Enjoy!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here’s mushroom seasoning in case you don’t know what it is!

Don’t Waste Those Bones

Growing up in a frugal family meant little went to waste and lots were re-purposed. For instance, clothes that were too worn out to be hand-me-downs, were either cut up into rags or used to mop the floor, and paper towels for drying hands – unheard of. Of course one of my favourite ways to not waste something would revolve around food. It’s using the bones from those pre-cooked rotisserie chickens to make stock & chicken noodle soup!
 
Now, some of you might thing it’s gross but I’m not telling you to use the bones after people have eaten, just the body of the chicken – the parts that are usually carved. I think this works best with just the regular rotisserie chicken as I’m not sure if I’d like BBQ flavoured chicken noodle soup.
 
So I just put in the bones/body into a pot, fill water up to about 1/2 way up the body and simmer on medium for 30-40 minutes. Any excess meat can be picked off with a fork and the bones can then be thrown out. I usually add more water and keep simmering until you reached your desired amount of “chickeness” (if that makes sense). Add in some salt or soya sauce for taste.
 
I then bring the stock to a boil and throw in some macaroni (or whatever your preference is) once that’s going I’ll usually throw in whatever veggies I have left. Anything from leftovers, canned or frozen. You’ll have to add water, noodles, veggies, salt/soya sauce according to your own taste and preferred soup to noodle ratio, remember, you can taste in between because you’re not dealing with raw meat.

Next time I’ll make congee (rice porridge) with my chicken stock. This also works with your leftover holiday turkey bones!

So, think mom will be proud?