Side dish


My oh my, it certainly has been a while. In fact, this blog hasn’t received love since the beginning of the year. Now I could list you a whole bunch of reasons (some valid at that!) as to where I’ve been but it’s neither here nor there. What does matter is that I’m back just in time for the summer. Now while nothing may have shown up on here, I’ve definitely kept this blog ever-present on my mind and continued to take photos, try out recipes, go out to eat and thought about food in general so that when I did return there would be plenty of content to make up for it.

I’ve also endeavoured in running a tumblr featuring food that has taken up a lot of my time and effort. But while I love looking at food photography and showcasing the works of others on that blog, it’s time for me to get back to what I originally got into blogging for.

I’m often left responsible to make dinner each night for my family during the summer time and while I do get a lot of feedback and suggestions from my family, I’m often left to my own devices to somehow come up with something edible to put on the table. I had been inspired by a chickpea salad photo and decided to make my rendition. Chickpeas are so delicious and healthy. If you have the chance to cook them yourself, it would be even better but I never have enough foresight to soak them in advance to accommodate for my craving. So for those pressed for time like myself, canned chickpeas work just as well.

My parents had recently returned from a trip to the Philippines and they brought with them numerous cans of tuna and fish in various flavourings. In keeping with the inspiration photo, I decided to take a can of chick peas and picked one of the cans of tuna to combine to make a super quick and easy side salad. Having not previously tried any of these before, it was a tough decision as to which one would accompany the chick peas the best.

I ended up deciding on afritada which in Filipino food refers to a tomato based stew. Upon opening the can, I realized how much sauce/oil was in the can which worked in my favour as that allows sufficient coating for my chickpeas. I don’t know how easily you can find this particular product in your local grocery/asian grocery store but of course you can use any flavoured tuna. You could also use plain packaged tuna and add a dressing/sauce of your choice to toss in your salad.

To add freshness, feel free to add whatever vegetables that you like to accompany the chickpeas. I added cucumbers and red onion to bring freshness. I considered tomatoes but since the sauce was tomato-based, I opted out. Bell peppers, corn, carrots, fresh herbs…whatever you had on hand would be great. Don’t forget to season to taste and get creative with the salad.

My family had this alongside chicken burgers that night as a healthier alternative to fries or chips.  I’m not necessarily a big fan of tuna or canned fish in general but I thoroughly enjoy this. I also certainly loved the ease of this recipe combination. Try it out one night and of course, Happy Eating!

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The eating habits of a student can turn for the worse really easily and soon enough, you realize that you’ve spent the last few weeks chowing down on some seriously unhealthy food: pizzas, wings, chips, chocolate, baked goods. Even when you have the best intentions, you find yourself slipping back into those reliable favourites and that freshman 15 turns into a yearly 15 (yikes!). I try to combat it whenever I can by making something simple, delicious and fairly healthy (certainly a lot healthier than a bag of chips)

Cravings come often for me and some are fleeting while others stick around for a while. Eating corn was one of those lasting cravings. While grocery shopping one day I decided to pick up a can of corn just to add it to my pantry and from there got hooked. Generally speaking I’m a big fan of corn but it’s not easy to come by past the summer months hence the reliance for canned or frozen. But hey, the stomach wants what it wants and I ain’t about to start denying it the deliciousness of life.

Tilapia is another star of this dish. This fish is sweet, flaky and filling. I get the frozen filets from Costco at the beginning of every school year so I can stock up on fish in my fridge. One of my favourite ways to cook it is lightly breading it in seasoned panko crumbs and then pan-friend until golden brown. Balanced out with the corn and tomato salsa this was an extremely delicious dish.

Ingredients:

  • Filets of tilapia
  • panko crumbs
  • cooked corn niblets, room temperature (fresh, frozen or canned variety)
  • ripe tomato, chopped into cubes roughly the same size as the corn
  • spring onion, chopped
  • oil for frying
  • Ziploc bag for mixing
  • salt, pepper , taco seasoning mix

Recipe:

This is the method I went through to create this exact dish as plated in the picture. Substitutions and alternatives will be mentioned in the review section.

  • In a skillet, turn it to a medium heat and put enough oil to evenly coat the pan
  • In a large ziploc bag, fill it up with about 1/2 cup to a cup of panko crumbs. Season with salt and pepper and taco seasoning to crumbs according to tastes. Close and shake bag well to properly incorporate the spices into the crumbs.
  • Take a fillet of tilapia and place inside of bag. Shake to coat fish with panko crumbs evenly. (Essentially the shake-n-bake concept)
  • Once the oil has heated, place the fish gently into the pan. Turn over after a couple of minutes. Ensure that fish is cooked completely through and that it has turned opaque.
  • While that’s cooking, combine the corn, tomatoes and spring onions into a bowl. Season with pepper and some salt.
  • Plate together once the fish has finished cooking.

Review:

As you can see this is a totally simple recipe that I made on the fly one lunchtime. Variations come in every shape and form. Use whatever fish you’d like and season it however you’d want.  A lemon & pepper seasoning would go great with this as well. As for the salsa, use red onions if that’s what you’ve got on hand or opt out of them altogether. Chickpeas (another fav of mine) would be a nice addition to the salsa. Mix it up however you want with whatever you’d got on hand. Let me know what you decide to add to it or any other suggestions you think would go well with this. Also to clarify, the corn in my cooking prep was room temperature as I had bought already cooked canned corn so it was just a matter of adding it to the mix. However you can definitely opt to have warm corn with the tomatoes as that would work as well.

As for my opinion on my own creation, I adored it. Frying tilapia this way had already become a standard for me so the real novelty of this dish was the salsa. It only heightened my love for corn. A great balance of (semi) freshness to counteract the lightly fried fish. This would make for a great lunch or dinner for the family as it involves minimal cooking but great flavour. Try it out when you get the chance and as always, Happy Eating! :)

Rouxbe is an online cooking school that I came across a while ago. It has informative professional videos that demonstrate cooking techniques, information on food varieties and overall good source for food information. After watching the videos you can take quizzes and see your progress. Membership gains you access to more videos. I highly recommend checking out the site for yourself. Here’s a preview video of this specific recipe and their overall style of videos.

The video recipes are really wonderful and explain everything step by step. While looking over their recipes one afternoon I came across a rice recipe  that enticed me. I was fortunate to have all the ingredients and tried it out myself. Unless done in a Asian  fried rice manner,  most of the rice I’ve eaten has been plain to accompany as a filler for the rest of the dishes on the table. I also love anything with coconut in it (curries, soups, noodle dishes) so coconut infused rice sounded just as good. I followed the instructions, adjusting to my taste and equipment. The end result was amazing.

Recipe adapted from Rouxbe

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
  • 1 1/2 cups Cold Water
  • 1/2 cup thick coconut milk
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • small sprinkle of lemon grass seasoning (optional)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (1 cup)
  • 3 green onions (approx. 1/2 cup)
  • handful of crushed peanuts (optional)

Instructions


1. Heat up the rice cooker then add the oil and diced onions and sauté until translucent.

2. Then add the rice and sauté for a few minutes until the rice is coated in the oil and slightly translucent.

3. Add the cold water, coconut milk, salt and pepper and lemon grass seasoning. Place the lid on the rice cooker (making sure the rice cooker is still on, and has not switched to the warm setting).

4. Let cook for approximately twenty minutes, or until it switches off indicating that the rice is done.


5. Fluff rice with a fork to ensure no clumped mounds of it. Roughly chop the cilantro and green onions and fold into the rice along. The peanuts I have are home roasted and seasoned whole so I crush them myself with whatever I can find that’s heavy.

Review

This is the final product. The original recipe calls for fried crispy onions which you can make at home or buy. I didn’t really want to go through that process so I opted for crushed peanuts for a textural difference and it went well with the coconut rice. It added a nice nutty element. Although liquid amounts are quite precise (straying from it might result in undercooked rice or to the other extreme, a coconut soup with rice), seasonings are yours to experiment with. Cilantro and green onions add freshness to the rice. You could experiment to put more spice into it as I might do at some point. I added lemon grass seasoning just because I had it on hand. Let me know how yours turns out and enjoy :)

UPDATED 01/12/09 @ 3:45PM — I forgot a few more dishes so for those who have already read this post, check the end to see even more food from the party

New Year’s is a huge event for my family because it’s a two fold celebration. In addition to the general excitement for the new year, New Year’s day happens to be my father’s birthday. My family throws an annual New Year’s bash, invite all of our family and friends and party from the afternoon until the wee hours of the morning. Because it is such a long event and there are more people than the normal get-together, there’s a pretty big spread on our table.

After a year of numerous parties, my family tends to feel like we’ve gone through the majority of the Filipino dishes out there. Therefore, we like to attempt to ring in a new year with different food that isn’t always typically seen at a Filipino party. When deciding upon the menu, we consulted a variety of sources for inspiration and recipes and came up with a menu that features some of our most favourite dishes, some experimental food and some tried and true Filipino food.

Recipes that I reviewed

Recipes from various sources

Click to see more food from the party!

(more…)

I know I am terribly over due for a post and I have several (decent) reasons. First is the fact that I went home for my Christmas vacation and although you make think that I would have more time to update since I have no school to distract me, its actual more time-consuming as there are more responsibilities and duties while at home. During the holiday season there are several parties to attend, a lot of shopping/errands to run and many attempts at cleaning the house. Second is the fact that although as readers, there are no new posts, I do work on the behind the scenes stuff. For example, I’ve really been working on generating more readership that is stable. I’ve been joining other blogging/food networks to promote the blog because my secondary goal for this blog is to gain a decent amount of readership. I think I’ve done very well for only 3 months of publication and I hope that things only get better from here on out. I also spend a lot of time uploading/editing photos. My lighting and camera quality are not always the best so I do take the time to edit photos to make them as appetizing as possible. I’m trying to do the research needed to improve my photography skills so that I can cut down on editing. So I’ve caught up on editing, done a good chunk of promotion and gained more readership so now its time to get back to what it’s all about; food posts!

We’re gonna go way back to feature the main party food for this Christmas season. This is what a Filipino feast is like during the holiday season, in particular my home for New Year’s. Warning: this post is picture heavy!

For the annual Christmas day party, our family friends take turn on rotation deciding who will host it. This year it was held at my uncle’s house in Whitby from lunchtime until dinner. It was a potluck event and everyone was required to bring something. My family had decided to bring shrimp & vegetable tempura. It was also our opportunity to open our gifts with everyone else. Shortly after, I fell asleep from just exhaustion of the past few days. I awoke in time to eat a little bit of dinner, picture taking with the family and then headed home. But back to the food. There were tons and I wanted to feature all of them.

This was a black forest cake made by a family friend who specializes in baking. I’m not a huge fan of black forest cake, primarily because I’m not a fan of cherries. However, I was informed by my all-cake-loving sister that it was delicious. It was a beautiful cake fit for the season.

This was the tempura my family had brought. We used shrimp, eggplant, sweet potato and green peppers. It was a hit at the party and there were hardly any left overs. My favourite is always the sweet potato. It wasn’t as crisp as it could be since it was cooked earlier in the day but it was still very delicious and very easy to make.

Click to see more photos!

(more…)

Now thanksgiving isn’t the most celebrated in my family. Being asian, my family doesn’t really relate to the “pilgrims coming to the new world, sharing food with the natives” stories and since they prefer a stir-fry over a huge turkey with all the fixings, the cooking for this event has normally fallen upon me. I’ve cooked thanksgiving dinner (or at the very least, helping out) for as long as I can remember and my parents will attest to it. It’s the one holiday where my family willing strays away from asian food and lets me get creative with the menu.

Unfortunately since the start of university I have either not been in the mood or didn’t bother to go home altogether for Thanksgiving weekend. My first year in university, I couldn’t be bothered to cook so my family went out for sushi (sushi for thanksgiving? yup and it was darn tasty) and last year I was too busy with school work to come home. But this year I wanted to bring the tradition back (plus its a way to convince my parents to buy really good ingredients and experiment)

This year the menu consisted of:

  • Phyllo wrapped baked brie with mushrooms
  • Oven baked sweet potato fries
  • Spinach balsamic bow tie pasta with feta cheese
  • Roasted garlic dip
  • Pot Roast with root vegetables
  • Traditional stuffing
  • (semi) homemade apple pie a la mode

The entire menu is a first for me, having never cooked any of it before. First up was the prep for the pot roast since that would take the longest… Recipe can be found here.

garlic and onions for sauteing

garlic and onions for sauteing

seasoning the meat with salt and pepper

seasoning the meat with salt and pepper

Now my family has done the turkey thing in the past but we end up with far too many leftovers than we know what to do with. Besides, we’re not really fans of turkey despite its healthy qualities. This does prose the dilemma of what to eat as a main course for thanksgiving. Some options we’ve explore in the past were Cornish hens, roasted chicken, lamb, oven baked fish such as salmon or tilapia. This year we were in the mood for some sort of stew with meat that was falling apart and would essentially melt in your mouth. It ended in  toss up between pot roast and beef goulash; the pot roast  won due to simplicity and familiarity.

beef

browned and seared

browned and seared

While the beef seared, I made a roasted garlic dip. It’s essentially 1 cup of plain yogurt, 1 cup of mayo ( my family uses 1/2 fat mayo) and 3 Tbsp of roasted garlic mix that I bought in a food shop at Niagara-on-the-Lake during a visit there this summer. Its created by Gourmet du Village and is a tasty robust dip. You leave it to sit for at least an hour to develop its flavours and is good with pretzels, pitas or for this dinner, baked sweet potato fries.

roasted garlic dip ingredients

roasted garlic dip ingredients

Back to the pot roast…

stew ingredients: red wine, tomato paste, mustard, bay leaves.

stew ingredients: red wine, tomato paste, mustard, bay leaves.

beef stewing in stock

beef stewing in stock

 After the stew came to a boil it was time to put it into the oven to slowly cook for 3 hours. In the meantime I prepped some other food. I prepared the cold pasta salad (recipe found here). I opted to use bow tie pasta instead of orzo just for a textural difference. It’s a pretty easy recipe to follow and then you can leave it in the fridge to marinate while you prepare other food.

some of the main ingredients for the pasta salad: bow tie pasta, spinach, red onion.

some of the main ingredients for the pasta salad: bow tie pasta, spinach, red onion.

final pasta salad

spinach bow tie pasta with feta

 I then watched my sister create a semi homemade apple pie. Semi because we used a pre-made mix for the crust because she wasn’t in the mood to make it from scratch. It’s probably a safer bet to stick to the mix anyways since we don’t exactly have a stand up mixer.

box pie crust mix

box pie crust mix

splitting the dough in half

splitting the dough in half

rolling the dough

rolling the dough

peeling, coring, cutting the apples

peeling, coring, cutting the apples

I failed to get photos of the rest of the prep which included the mixing of all the apples and spices and placing it in the pie pan. I was so busy scrambling to food prep for other thing such as the baked brie. I unfortunately didn’t take photos of that either until it was completed. Here’s the recipe.

final product of the baked brie

phyllo wrapped baked brie with mushrooms

While this was in the oven, I added the rest of the ingredients to the pot roast (root vegetables) when it got to its last cooking stage. I also roasted some sweet potato fries lightly brushed with olive oil and thyme and plated it with the roasted garlic dip.

final product sweet potato fries and roasted garlic dip

sweet potato fries and roasted garlic dip

I also made a quick boxed stuffing since stuffing is one of my favourite traditional food of thanksgiving.

stuffing mix

stuffing mix and chicken broth.

final product stuffing - photo credit to my father

stuffing - photo credit to my father

After 3 and half hours in the oven, the long awaited pot roast was ready and it looked good.
pot roast with root vegetables

pot roast with root vegetables

The full feast looked like this…
thanksgiving feast
full plate
While we ate we left the apple pie to bake and it turned out like this…
(semi) homemade apple pie

(semi) homemade apple pie

Meal review:

Overall the meal was incredibly delicious. The stuffing was a little salty as expected from a boxed mix so I’ll definitely be making that from scratch next year. It was a shame since stuffing is really one of my favourite things. The pot roast was incredibly tender and my family couldn’t get enough. Even before finishing her meal, my sister was already thinking about eating the pot roast the next day. The pasta salad was ok. It needed more cheese and more dressing, an easy adjustment considering its a cold pasta that only gets better with time.  The sweet potato fries were a little more soft than one would like but still very very delicious. I just need to turn up the heat of the oven to get crispier fries. The dip is a no fail thing so you can’t mess it up. The baked brie was my favorite thing of the entire night. It was the only thing that I put specifically on the menu for me to eat but it seems like my family enjoyed it more than me and ate the majority of it with a request from my sister to make it again soon. The apple pie turned out really well which I was happy about because I did have some hesitations about the filling and if it would meld together properly. We ate it while still warm with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt. The meal was a success and one of my most favorite thanksgiving dinners that I can recall. I already have ideas of what to cook for next year. I can’t wait.
So let’s start with my first meal after being truly inspired to start writing this blog. After 2 days of being completely consumed by food blogs I decided to debut my cooking adventures with one of the most widely celebrated food events of the year; Thanksgiving. But before we get to the thanksgiving meal itself, I wanted to showcase the yummy  lunch we had beforehand which included:
  • Sichuan style Dungeness crab
  • steamed blue crab
  • simple tomato & green onion mix
  • toasted baguette for dipping
  • peach yogurt, granola and fresh raspberries parfait
Asian recipe book

Asian recipe book

chopping up dungeness crab

chopping up Dungeness crab

The recipe came from one of my family’s favorite recipe books (of which I do not know the name) It has TONS of picture and lots of yummy recipes that my family use time and time again. If I remember, I’ll get the recipe and name of the book next time I go home. Truthfully though, my family just take the ingredients and improvise with the amounts according to taste.

onions and garlic

onions and garlic

yummy goodness

yummy goodness

some of the main ingredients: ginger, chili garlic sauce, sichuan spicy sauce

some of the main ingredients: ginger, chili garlic sauce, sichuan spicy sauce

 My father added a scrambled egg and corn starch mixture to thicken the sauce, and green onions for aesthetic purposes.

addition of a scrambled egg

addition of a scrambled egg

delicious final product

delicious product

In addition to the Dungeness crab, we bought some blue crab to steam. Its one of my favourite things to eat especially when they’re in season. We had them the night before and they were super delicious and filled with lots of meat.

cleaning the crab before steaming

cleaning the crab before steaming

crab after steaming

crab after steaming

On the side we had toasted baguette to soak up all the Sichuan sauce with the crab instead of rice. We also had a tomato & green onion mix which is a traditional side for crab to add a touch of freshness to the meal and cleanse the palate. Sometimes our family opts for a vinegar and minced red onion mix to add a touch of tanginess to the meal. toasted baguette for dipping the Sichuan sauce.

toasted baguette for dipping the sichaun sauce

toasted baguette for dipping the Sichuan sauce

tomato & green onion mix

tomato & green onion mix

For desert we kept it light and simple with a peach yogurt with granola and ripe raspberries. Now I’m not the biggest fan of raspberries because they tend to be tart/sour but these were so unbelievably sweet and perfect. I wish we had more (although I had munched on them since the moment I came home). Definitely satisfying after all that garlic and chili sauce.

freshly washed

freshly washed

sweet and ripe

sweet and ripe

peach yogurt topped with raspberries

peach yogurt topped with raspberries

Meal review:

The crab was incredibly meaty and cooked perfectly. Because the sauce from the Sichuan was heavy enough, it was a nice change to eat just the bread beside it. The yogurt was refreshing and the raspberries were a perfect match. It was god hearty meal without being too heavy; just enough to tide oneself over until dinner.

After cleaning up, on to the start of thanksgiving meal prep….