Saturday, 24 November 2007

I'll be home for Christmas...and Chinese food

Posted by Bonita


Well, the school term is slowly winding down (thank goodness). After countless essays and a few midterms, I'm down to only one essay to complete and one midterm to write before finals come. With this in mind, I had a little time on my hands tonight to finally get back into the kitchen and make a real meal after having survived on miso soup, steamed tofu and salads for the past few weeks.

I usually have a tub or two of tofu sitting in my fridge as one of my staple ingredients. As I've mentioned in the past, I usually don't venture into cooking Chinese food, but I really wanted to try something new tonight. I found this recipe for a Braised Loquat-Shaped Tofu (枇杷豆腐), which looked really tasty and pretty easy to put together. I made a few changes from the original. Firstly, I substituted the ground meat with ground chicken and some shrimp and processed it in the food processor along with the tofu. Secondly, rather than deep-frying or pan-frying the tofu quenelles, I decided to poach them instead for a healthier option. The dish turned out really well. The tofu quenelles was still light thanks to my poaching method, and the chicken and shrimp added a nice flavour to the tofu quenelles. I also didn't have any dried mushrooms at hand, so I just added some button mushrooms instead. The chicken stock-based sauce, while really simple, was extremely tasty! I really nice, simple, light meal.


I also had some napa cabbage, so I "quick-braised" it and served it in a milk sauce and ham, a dish that my mom sometimes makes a home. Simple, home-cooking Chinese food. Yes, I'll certainly be home for Christmas and my mom's cooking in a few weeks, but until then, I'll just take comfort in my own version of Chinese homestyle cooking.

Braised Napa Cabbage with Ham in Milk Sauce
Serves 2
  • 10 to 12 large leaves of napa
  • 3 slices fresh ginger, peel removed
  • 2 slices ham, sliced or diced
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp chicken bouillon, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup milk
  1. Thoroughly wash the napa leaves and slice them, about 1/2-inch in width.
  2. In a wok or a large nonstick frying pan, heat some oil. Add the ginger and stir around for about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the napa and cook for about 10 minutes. If your wok or frying pan has a lid, put it on. Add some water to the pan if it seems to be drying up. When the cabbage has wilted down a bit, add the chicken bouillon and stir well.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the cornstarch and the milk. When the napa is cooked, add the ham and toss. Add the milk mixture and let it come to a simmer and thicken, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.

Monday, 12 November 2007

How to Get Rid of One Cup of Cream?

Posted by Andrew

Make another pasta dish, of course! With just a cup's worth of cream left in my fridge with a best before date fast approaching last Tuesday, I had to make something with that. So, without further ado I decided to make a modified version of Penne in Cream Sauce with Sausage. Instead of canned tomatoes I substituted with some sundried tomatoes, and since I didn't have Italian parsley I had to settle with some freeze-dried regular parsley I had in my pantry. I managed to get my hands on some sweet basil sausage for this dish.

I would say this was another successful attempt at a new dish. Perhaps due to the use of sundried tomatoes instead of canned with its juices the sauce itself wasn't as quantitative or runny, but it covered all the penne noodles just as nicely. Next time I could add a sprinkle of ground pepper to give it some pep, or alternatively I could use spicier sausage.

Friday, 9 November 2007

A little pick me up...

Posted by Bonita
Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

-- "My Favourite Things," The Sound of Music


It's that time of year again, the time when I'm moody, slightly pissy, really tired, perhaps even crazy and reevaluating my life and why I decided to be an English major. Yes, ladies and gents, it is essay season once again. It's been a tough week this past week, trying to churn out papers at a break-neck speed. Not surprising, I ended up getting stuck on one of my papers all week, which left me very frustrated and kind of down. However, I finally handed it in this morning (**sigh of relief**); one down, four more to go.

With my first paper done and out of the way, I decided to reward myself with a little pick me up. Everyone has that one comfort food they can count on. No matter how bad our day was, or our week, it'll never cease to bring a smile for those 20 minutes or so. The ultimate comfort food for me is pancakes. There's nothing in the world that's better than a stack of pancakes drizzled with real maple syrup with a side of something savoury like bacon, sausage or ham.

So yes, I took a break from the hectic paper writing to make myself some pancakes for lunch today. I make a slew of different kinds when I'm at home: banana, blueberry, apple & cinnamon, spiced, etc. However, my favourite remains to be banana. I normally would just add a mashed banana to our family recipe, but I had such a craving for buttermilk pancakes that I made Banana-Pecan Buttermilk Pancakes instead. I based the recipe off of this one, and just made a few changes here and there. Obviously, I added in a handful of chopped toasted pecans and the crucial vanilla. I also added a bit more baking powder. Pancakes were delicious and satisfied my craving, especially with a side of ham. What's great is that I had plenty of leftovers to throw into the freezer to satisfy my pancake-cravings instantly in the near future. And best of all, it brought a smile to my face, and made all the work I have to do this weekend a little more bearable.


Banana-Pecan Buttermilk Pancakes
Adapted from Everyday Food Magazine
Makes about 8
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp light-brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted and finely chopped (set aside a bit, to serve)
  1. Preheat oven to 200°F. In a bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pecans.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, vanilla and banana until combined. Gradually whisk in the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently mix until just incorporated.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, swirl some oil to coat bottom of pan. Working in batches, add batter in 1/4-cup portions; cook until golden brown and tiny air bubbles form evenly on top, 2 to 5 minutes.
  4. Flip pancakes, and continue cooking until slightly puffed, 2 to 5 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly). Transfer to a baking sheet; keep warm in oven while you cook remaining pancakes.
  5. Serve pancakes with maple syrup and the remaining pecans, if desired.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

My First Rosé

Posted by Andrew

Last Tuesday I continued my exploration with cream in cooking, and for now I'm still going the way of pasta. At first I thought I'd only make some shrimp linguine marinara, but having remembered that I had cream in my fridge I decided to try making a more authentic version of a rosé sauce. Toss in a bit of grated parmagiano reggiano, and hey presto! I had myself another nice dinner. Along with the shrimip I added some shredded onion and fresh basil, as well as about four cloves of garlic.

Next stop... trying cream and white wine. I forgot to add some white wine in my chicken stew tonight, but I know there'll be other opportunities to use that bottle.