Earlier this week, I had a hankering for Pad Thai. It’s one of those dishes I’ll occasionally order out, but had never bothered to try making myself. My method for attempting new dishes usually consists of reading at least a half dozen recipes, noting the ingredient and method similarities, and then adapting to personal taste and what is in the fridge. For example: pad thai typically contains firm tofu (which I love), but I had a smidgen of ground pork that had to be cooked. So that went in. I also had a bunch of mint and cilantro from some other dinners we’d eaten earlier in the week, so that got added. Finally, I am a firm believer in pre-seasoning proteins (in this case, shrimp and pork), so that step was added as well.
One ingredient I didn’t substitute was the tamarind (some recipes call for lime juice, but I don’t think it’s an adequate substitute). I’ve never worked with tamarind before, and the only tamarind the local Asian market had was the whole pods. I used the instructions here to turn it into a pulp. It was a fairly messy process, but the flavor was definitely worth it.
Adapted from Saveur | Serves 4
- 8 oz. dried flat rice stick noodles
- 3 tbsp. tamarind pulp
- 3 tbsp. palm sugar or light brown sugar
- 2.5 tbsp. nam pla (Thai fish sauce), divided
- 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tsp. Thai chili garlic sauce
- 2 tsp soy sauce, divided
- 2 tsp sugar, divided
- White pepper
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 8 oz. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3 oz. ground pork
- 2 tbsp. dried shrimp, soaked and chopped if large
- 6 stalks Chinese chives or 4 scallions, green part only,cut into 2″ pieces
- 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
- 1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
- 1 lime, quartered
- 1/4 c mint leaves, chopped
- 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
- At least 1 hour before cooking, marinate shrimp with 1/2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, and a pinch of white pepper. Marinate ground pork with 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, and a pinch of white pepper. Cover and refrigerate.
- Dissolve tamarind pulp in 1 cup hot water in a small bowl, then strain through a sieve into a medium bowl, pressing on pulp with the back of a spoon to push most of it through. Discard seeds. Stir sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and chili garlic sauce into tamarind liquid and set sauce aside.
- Soak noodles in a large bowl of hot water until pliable, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Cook shrimp until pink but not completely cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove and set aside.
- Add remaining 3 tbsp oil to hot skillet. Add onion and garlic and stir-fry until soft, about 10 seconds. Add ground pork and saute until mostly cooked, about 1 minute. Move ingredients over to the one side of the pot and add the lightly beaten eggs. allowing to set slightly and then stirring to scramble. When eggs are about halfway cooked, add dried shrimp, chives, half the bean sprouts, half the peanuts, the noodles, the sliced omelette, and the reserved sauce and stir-fry, tossing constantly, until noodles absorb most of the sauce and sauce thickens, 2-3 minutes. Garnish each serving with the remaining bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, and peanuts and serve with limes and sriracha.
Once upon a time, I had a breakfast routine: coffee and oatmeal, 85% of the time. It was great: healthy, filling, and fast.
Then I got pregnant, and suddenly I couldn’t stand the taste/smell of my breakfast standbys. It threw me for a loop because suddenly I had to think about what to eat for breakfast. Not exactly fun when you stop drinking (caffeinated) coffee.
Thankfully, there are still plenty of foods I find palatable. I’d be happy to enjoy eggs and toast every morning. The problem is that some days I have to rush out of the house early in the morning and don’t have time to cook. These breakfast cookies are a great grab-and-go option for those days. I tweaked a recipe I found online based on the ingredients on hand, and I think it’s one of those recipes that could be doctored according to your tastes and pantry. I plan to vary the fruits/nuts (cranberry and pistachios! cherries and walnuts!) for variety and perhaps tinker with the flour types. I’d imagine you could also substitute banana, pumpkin, or zucchini for the carrot as well. Also, I don’t care for overly sweet things (especially in the morning), so I did cut down the granulated sugar. But if you have more of a sweet tooth, you could add an extra couple tablespoons back in.
Healthy Breakfast Cookies
Makes 1 dozen cookies | Adapted from The Food Network
- 3/4 cup (98 g) whole-wheat flour
- 1/2 cup (50 g) cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup (50 g) dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon (18 g) granulated sugar
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 1 large carrot, finely grated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (90 g) rolled oats (not instant)
- 1/3 cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and drained
- Place rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Whisk together flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
- Combine butter, oil and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high speed, scraping down sides if necessary, until sugars have dissolved and mixture is light in color, about 1 minute.
- Add egg, carrot and vanilla and beat an additional 30 seconds.
Add flour mixture and beat an additional 30 seconds.
- Add oats, raisins and walnuts and mix over low speed just until incorporated. Dough will be slightly sticky and less cohesive than traditional cookie dough.
- Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a 1/4 cup to measure, place balls of batter on a cookie sheet, leaving about 3 inches between cookies. Wet hands and use palm of hand to flatten cookies until about 1/4-inch thick.
- Bake for 12 minutes, until cookies are fragrant but still soft. Let cookies cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
This is one of those simple, homey dishes that is a snap to put together when you don’t have much time to cook / feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. While the taste is best if you can marinate the chicken ahead of time, you’ll still get good results if you do it even just 1/2 an hour before cooking. Serve with plenty of rice and some variety of Asian veggies, and you’ve got yourself a Hong Kong cafe-style meal.
Creamed Corn Chicken
- 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 slices ginger
- 1 can cream style corn
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 T oil
- Salt, to taste
- Sugar, to taste
- White pepper, to taste
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 1/2 t sugar
- 1 1/2 t shaoxing wine
- Dash of white pepper
- Dash of garlic powder
- 1 t cornstarch
- At least an hour before cooking (or overnight), combine chicken pieces with marinade ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.
Heat oil in medium sized pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, stirring frequently, and season with salt, sugar, and white pepper.
When ginger and garlic become aromatic (~2-3 minutes), add chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all sides are browned and chicken is nearly cooked through (~4-5 minutes).
- Add cream style corn and soy sauce. Lower heat to medium low, and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove from heat. While stirring constantly in one direction, add beaten egg. Adjust seasonings to taste. Remove ginger slices. Serve over rice.
Turnip cake (lo bak goh) is one of my favorite dim sum items. I love the crispy exterior, soft middle, and medley of savory Chinese tidbits — Chinese sausage, mushrooms, and shrimp. Lo Bak Goh is also a traditional Chinese New Year dish, so in honor of the upcoming holiday I thought I’d share this recipe. It’s surprisingly easy to make, and when you do it yourself you can adjust the amount of “goodies” inside to suit your preferences (i.e. more mushrooms, more sausage…I added some dried scallops this last time to make it even more decadent). You can also easily double or triple this recipe, though I recommend cooking up each cake separately to make the ingredients easier to combine.
A few tips: there are some weird ingredients, but all should be available at your local Asian market. When choosing daikon, look for short, heavy ones. When cooking the turnip in step 4, your turnip may give off a lot of liquid. If your mixture looks really soupy, hold back some of the liquid when combining with the flour mixture (you probably want about 1/2 – 3/4 c total – just enough to create a very thick batter). You can always add some liquid back in. Or if your daikon seems dry, add a tablespoon of stock or water to help everything come together. Finally, though extremely delicious, cooking turnip cake tends to let off…pungent odors. So you may want to leave ample time to air your place out if you’re planning to make this for company. 🙂
Chinese Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Goh)
Makes one 8-inch pan | Adapted from Christine’s Recipes
- 1 Chinese white turnip (daikon) – about 2 lbs.
- 170 gm rice flour
- 4 Tbsp wheat starch
- 1-2 links Chinese sausage (lap cheung)
- Handful of Chinese dried shrimp, soaked
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped
- 2 scallions, minced
- 3/4 c chicken broth
- 1 T vegetable oil
- Pinch of white pepper
- Salt to taste
- Blanch Chinese sausage boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes for cleaning and easy chopping. Drain well and finely dice. Peel the turnip and grate into thick strips (I used the large holes of a box grater). Rinse and coarsely chop dried shrimp.
- In a big bowl, mix the rice flour with wheat starch well.
- Sauté Chinese sausage over medium heat. Toss in dried shrimp and mushrooms, and continue to sauté until aromatic, 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
- In the same pan, add a tablespoon of oil and sauté minced scallions. Add grated turnips. Season with white pepper and salt to taste. Pour in chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover and cook until tender and translucent (~5-10 minutes). Remove from heat.
- Add rice flour and wheat starch to the daikon mixture and quickly combine into a thick batter. Add sausage, shrimp, and mushroom mixture and mix well.
- Pour the mixture into a greased 8-inch pan. Steam over high heat, covered, about 45 to 60 minutes. Check the water level and replenish, if necessary, with boiling water. To test for doneness, insert a chopstick into the middle. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked through. Let cool.
- Cut into pieces and fry both sides until golden brown. Serve hot, accompanying with chili sauce or with soy or oyster sauce.
I have always been a breakfast person. I could eat eggs any time of the day; and toast and jam is one of my go-to snacks. But for a long time, I didn’t care much for pancakes, usually finding them too sweet and dense.
But for some reason, last year I decided it was time to find a pancake recipe I liked. My criteria: they had to be fluffy and simple.
This recipe is both those things, and has now become part of our recipe repertoire at home. There are only 5 ingredients, there’s no buttermilk involved, and you don’t have to let the batter sit before using. Most times we’ll whip these up on the weekend, but these pancakes also show up occasionally for dinner. Usually I like them plain with maple syrup, but we added bacon once and can’t say I wouldn’t do that again.
Favorite Fluffy Pancakes
Makes ~6 large / 12 small pancakes | Adapted from Jamie Oliver
- 3 large free-range eggs
- 115 g plain flour
- 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
- 140 ml (scant 2/3 c) milk
- 1 pinch salt
- Separate the eggs, putting the whites into one bowl and the yolks into another.
- Add the flour, baking powder and milk to the yolks and mix to a smooth thick batter. Whisk the whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks. Fold into the batter – it is now ready to use.
- Heat a good non-stick pan on medium heat and add a bit of butter or cooking spray. Pour some of your batter into the pan and fry for a couple of minutes until it starts to look golden and firm. If desired, sprinkle your chosen flavoring (blueberries, bacon, bananas…whatever you like!) on to the uncooked side before loosening with a spatula and flipping the pancake over. Continue frying until both sides are golden. Continue with remaining batter, regreasing pan before each pancake.
Last week, David and I enjoyed dinner at Canoe to celebrate our first anniversary (yay!). It was a lovely meal, from the 54-foot high view to the attentive service. One of the highlights for both of us was the mushroom soup, which we ordered as an appetizer. It was earthy, incredibly mushroom-y, and — best of all for lactose-intolerant me — dairy free (except for a small garnish of creme fraiche). I am a sucker for anything with mushrooms (I haven’t met a mushroom I didn’t like; we even successfully grew some oyster mushrooms this summer) and was eager to replicate this soup at home. Fortunately, the Toronto Star helped me out by having this recipe in its archives. We tried it today and have declared it part of our soup cycle.
This recipe is fast (less than 45 minutes!), healthy, vegetarian (can easily be made vegan if you omit the yogurt/cream garnish), and most importantly — delicious.
Oliver & Bonacini’s Mushroom Soup
Serves 4 | Original Source
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped yellow onions (about 1 small)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Chopped leaves from 1 sprig thyme
- 6 cups (1.5L) diced assorted mushrooms (such as shiitake, oyster and king oyster — I used cremini, oyster and reconstituted dried shiitakes and used the soaking liquid as part of the water)
- Kosher salt + freshly ground pepper
- 4 cups (1L) water
- 1 bay leaf
- Truffle oil
- Chopped chives / parsley / cilantro
- Trimmed enoki mushrooms
- Plain yogurt / sour cream / creme fraiche
- In large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium. Add onions, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring, 6 minutes, to soften, reducing heat if onions start to brown. Add mushrooms in 4 batches, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper and stirring constantly. (This allows each batch to cook down slowly.) Add water and bay leaf. Raise heat to high; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Discard bay leaf. For coarse soup, purée using hand-held immersion blender. For creamy soup, purée in blender.
- Return to pot over medium heat. Taste; adjust salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight to let flavours develop.
- If desired, top each serving with a drizzle of truffle oil, sprinkling of chives, several enokis and a dollop of yogurt.
Makes 4 servings (about 4 cups/1L).
My sister-in-law introduced me to this lovely marble butter cake. I guess you can find this at some Chinese bakeries, although I’ve never personally come across it. This is basically a lightly sweetened pound cake, but with a finer texture (thanks to the icing sugar and milk). Perfect for dinner parties, coffee break, breakfast…ok, basically any time you just want a piece of cake!
This loaf comes together quickly and doubles easily; you could also split into mini loaf pans for Valentine’s Day gifts. Enjoy!
Chinese Marble Cake
- 2 sticks (220g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 7 oz (200g) plain flour/all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 7 oz (200g) fine or powdered sugar (confectioners sugar or icing sugar)
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 Tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease the a 8×5 cake pan and set aside.
- Sift together flour and the baking powder together. Add in salt and mix well. Set aside.
- Use an electronic beater to mix butter and sugar until well combined or pale yellow in color. Add in the first egg. Beat well after each addition of egg until creamy. Scrape down the sides and add in vanilla essence. Fold dry ingredients into the mixture and mix well. Finally, add in the milk.
- Divide the batter into two portions. Stir the cocoa powder into one portion and mix well. Transfer the plain batter into the greased baking pan. Shake it lightly to distribute evenly. Pour the cocoa batter in the middle of baking pan, and lightly swirl the cocoa batter in an “S” shapt with a butter knife. Do not overmix.
- Bake until golden brown and cooked, about 40 minutes. Insert a cake tester in the middle of the cake to test doneness. Remove from the oven and let cool on the wire rack for another 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and serve immediately.
For the last couple of weeks, my husband has been raving about the Starbucks Oat Fudge Bars — these rich, chewy, chocolatey confections that are unique to Canadian Starbucks stores. There are a number of copycat recipes floating around, so I decided to try recreating these babies for myself. It’s super easy and quick — this comes together in less than an hour. I did cut down slightly on the sugar and swapped in dark chocolate to make them a little less sweet, but they are still decadent. If you’re feeding a crowd, feel free to double the ingredients and bake in a 9″x13″ pan. Enjoy with strong coffee or a glass of milk!
For the fudge layer
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup butter
For the oat base
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups oats
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.
- Make the fudge. In a small pot over medium heat, combine the milk, chocolate chips, and butter. Stir until melted and set aside. OR, combine ingredients in a microwave-safe container and microwave until melted (microwave in small increments and stir often).
- Using a stand or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugars. Add the egg and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients.
- Press 2/3 of the mixture into the prepared pan. Add a layer of fudge and finish with the rest of the oat base dropped by spoonfuls.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.
Roasted veggies frequent our dinner table. Broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, corn, onions, carrots — the possibilities are endless. Usually I just toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper; but when I ran across this recipe from the Toronto Star the spice combination was intriguing. The Mediterranean flavors are bright, bold, and complex; we paired it with spice-rubbed salmon, but I can see it going well with roasted chicken or grilled steak too.
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup water (more if needed)
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1-1/2 tsp sesame oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 large head cauliflower (~3 lb.), cut in medium florets
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted, lightly crushed
- 1-1/2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted, lightly crushed
- Chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves or cilantro for garnish
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- For tahini sauce, in medium bowl, combine tahini, water, lemon juice, oil, and salt to taste. Whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste. Set aside.
- Spread cauliflower on a foil lined baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil, and roast to desired brownness (30-45 min.).
- In serving bowl, combine couliflower and tahini sauce to taste. Toss well. Cauliflower should be well-coated but not too wet.
- Spread cauliflower on platter. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, coriander, and parsley/cilantro.
I love the idea of mini cakes because they’re so cute and festive and don’t require a cupcake pan. I’ve had my eye on these rainbow mini cakes on Molly Yeh’s blog. I decided to try my hand at a simpler, two-layer version (mostly because I was too lazy to go out to buy matcha powder for the green tea layer…next time).
I like a huge cake to frosting ratio (i.e. waaaaaay more cake than frosting because I don’t really like frosting, except for the carrot cake cream cheese variety) so I left my minis naked. But the frosting recipe definitely makes enough for you to frost the tops and sides if you so choose.
Mini Chocolate and Red Velvet Cakes
Make one portion each of the chocolate, red velvet, and buttercream recipes below. Freeze cake layers for at least one hour, or overnight. Use round biscuit cutters to cut out rounds (I used 2-inch and got about 20 mini cakes total). Frost and decorate as desired. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.
Magnolia Bakery Super Rich Chocolate Cake
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
- Scant 1/2 cup boiling water
- Preheat convection oven to 350 degrees or conventional oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
- Whisk together eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl. Whisk the egg mixture into the sugar-flour mixture by hand until combined. Whisk in boiling water just until combined. The batter will be watery.
Pour batter into parchment lined 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes in a convection oven or 25 to 30 minutes in a conventional oven. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Southern Red Velvet Cake
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 3/4 cups vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1/2 tablespoons red food coloring
- 1/2 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9″ x 13″ dish with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
- Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the cake from the oven. Invert onto a plate and then re-invert onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Yield: enough for 2 dozen cupcakes or 1 (9-inch) layer cake