Tag Archives: Dinner

So what’s for dinner?

Salad, apparently…

Before I would’ve thought that eating rabbit food for dinner is sad. I mean, why eat that when you can have gooey, cheesy pasta; homey, comforting dumplings; sweet, tender scallops; spicy, piquant noodles?

I like salad. I like it for lunch, as a side, as a snack. Generally I don’t think much about salad, I just eat it. For my health. But it’s often too boring to think about.

I wouldn’t mind thinking about it though, if all salads came with a juicy, garlicky piece of chicken smothered in honey mustard dressing.

And served with a big hunk of homemade crusty bread slathered with butter.

I wouldn’t mind thinking about that at all. For my health, of course.

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Steamed Fish

One of the simplest and purest way to cook fish is to steam it. It works best with the freshest fish you can find and with limited amount of time and perpetual laziness.

All you need is salt, ginger, green onions, and a splash of Chinese cooking wine.

I didn’t even have a steamer. I put a plate inside a very large cast iron pan filled with about half an inch of water but then it was a pain, literally, to remove the plate after the fish is done. I do not really recommend it, but if you have no choice, feel free to improvise with whatever pots and pans you have. Just make sure that the rim of the plate you use doesn’t block steam from rising with in the pot, or pan.

Step one, cut the ginger and green onion into strips.

Step two, salt the fish.

Step three, sprinkle the ginger and green onion strips onto fish.

Step four, splash some Chinese cooking wine on top. Not too much, you don’t want a drunken fish. Ha. Bad. Yes.

Step five, steam for about 10-15 minutes. I start counting time when the water begins to boil and steam begins to leak out of the side of the pot.

Step six, don’t burn yourself taking the plate out.

So hard right?

You can really taste the fish this way, and the aromatics are just right. Bon appetit!

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Filed under Chinese, Dinner, Seafood

Lady and the Tramp, Anyone?

I love Disney. Even with its subliminal messages and not so subliminal ones.

I love the simpleness of its romances. I cannot see spaghetti and meat balls without thinking of Lady and the Tramp. Of course, no real person, or dog, would slurp a strand of spaghetti without chewing through and breaking it. That makes the scene all more romantic. I like the film even though I honestly can’t remember anything else about it besides that scene, but I thought about it today while I thought, planned, and made dinner.

Simple spaghetti and meatballs.

Okay, maybe not that simple. I did use whole wheat spaghetti and ground flax after all. I know, I can’t leave anything well enough alone. But regardless of all my efforts at health-isizing this dish, it retained its heartiness. A true comfort food through and through.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and dig into the meat with your fingers. This helps to distribute the spices without overworking the meat and produces the most tender meatballs. Be sure to give the meatballs a deep golden brown, this contributes greatly to flavour.

The ground flax is not really noticeable in the meatballs, but you’ll that it’s there to give your meal fibre and Omega 3 fatty acids. I also used prepared pasta sauce to speed up the process, and also because I didn’t have any tomatoes. Feel free to substitute your favorite recipe for tomato sauce.

Cat’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (Be comforted in knowing that this comfort food is somewhat good for you)
makes 4-6 servings

3/4 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt
1/2 c. dried bread crumbs
a few dashes Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley
scant 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/3 c. minced onion
2 Tbsp. ground flax, optional
1 tsp. olive oil
1 24-oz jar of prepared pasta sauce (I used garden vegetable)
1 lb. spaghetti, whole wheat

  1. Place the ground meat, Worcestershire, herbs, pepper, onion, garlic powder, flax seed, and bread crumbs in a large bowl. Salt generously.
  2. Plunge all ten fingers into the meat and mix thoroughly. Shape into 24 meatballs. Wash your hands well afterwards.
  3. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan and brown the meatballs in batches, until well browned.
  4. Pour the pasta sauce into the pan and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Toss with the sauce. Serve piping hot and twirl away.

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Filed under Comfort Food, Dinner, Meat

Happy Birthday Franklin!

Today is my brother’s birthday. We celebrated on Sunday with his church friends and a much-loved soccer ball cake. My mom and I cooked a lot of food for dinner today. It was a feast, as I’m sure my stomach will happily tell you. Here are some pictures, enjoy!

This is This is Braised Smoked Pork Shank. We purchased the pork shanks partially cooked and smoked, and braised it in soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and green onions. The soy sauce is probably why it turned out so dark, but looks notwithstanding, the meat was tender and wonderfully smoke infused.

This is Tofu with Fish Sauce. The tofu is panfried until crisp and then briefly cooked in the sauce. The sauce has nothing to do with fish. It’s simply a version of a sweet and sour sauce with Sichuan peppercorns.

I’ve never seen vegetable Asian noodles before, but today at the supermarket Franklin requested them so we bought it. It’s flavoured with spinach and reminds me of spinach pasta. This is Stir-Fried Vegetable Noodles with ground pork, mushrooms, and zucchini. The Chinese traditionally eat noodles on birthdays because the noodle’s length symbolizes a long life.

Mom’s specialty. Simply stir-fried shrimp. See it also here.

Baby bok choy with dried salted shrimp. It’s refreshing to have a simple vegetable dish in a multi-course meal.

This is a cold dish and makes a great appetizer. It’s blanched long beans tossed with soy sauce, black vinegar, and smashed garlic. Very addictive.

Chinese chives with squid. Both main ingredients are fresh-tasting and complement each other. The squid is tender;  the chives are vibrant. I realized that I may possibly like squid more than shrimp, perhaps because there is no shell to peel. Lazy me. 😉

The last dish is just peanuts roasted in the wok. This dish usually accompanies potent Chinese liquor such as Maotai. We didn’t drink with our dinner but included this dish because mom wanted to make eight dishes. Eight is an auspicious number in the chinese language because when pronounced, the word sounds somewhat like the word “to become rich.” So it wouldn’t do to have only seven dishes. Gotta have eight for my brother. The peanuts are wonderfully salty and nutty because of the low heat and long toasting time. Use high heat the peanuts will be burned. My mom rushed making this dish because we all wanted to start eating already.

What do you say? Isn’t Franklin a lucky boy?

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Filed under Chinese, Dinner, Meat, Seafood, Side dishes, Vegetables

Green Beans with Onions

If I could only eat three vegetables for the rest of my life I would choose:

  1. Broccoli!!!
  2. Green Beans or asparagus (although apparently asparagus makes one’s er, urine, smell funny…)
  3. Onions

And this dish has two of the vegetables on my list. Gotta be good right? At least to me it was. I like to cook green beans till they are a little soft, not crunchy at all. My dad claims that not well-cooked green beans, i.e. crunchy beans, are toxic, but I’m not sure he has actual proof for that. I just like the softer texture better.

I also used a little bit of bacon grease. I am fairly health-conscious, but bacon grease is good stuff. I actually have a tupperware of it in the fridge, mixed with Chinese sausage as well as Italian sausage grease. Might sound kind of gross to you, but a little pat of the thing melted in a wok does wonders on vegetables. You get a meatiness without using actual meat. Of course, if you are a vegetarian, skip.

This is terribly simple to make. Trim the beans, slice the onions. Melt the bacon grease, or add a couple tablespoons of oil. Add the vegetables and stir. Place the lid on and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring every few minutes. The beans will be tender and the onions soft. Great quick side dish!

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Chicken Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Carrots

Here is a fairly classic stir-fry combination, at least around my house. You get kind of a tri-colour effect, green-orange-white, which is very eye appealing. The key here is to marinate the chicken briefly with cornstarch added to incorporate flavour and to promote tenderness. If you just slice and fry, the chicken breast will dry out.

Another very important thing is to fry the chicken first, then the vegetables, then add the chicken back to the wok. This prevents the chicken from becoming overcooked.

I used about one tablespoon of a Korean sweet chili sauce. It’s not enough to get a discernible increase in the heat of the dish, but it does give an anonymous sweetness and very very subtle kick to the dish. Feel free to leave it out if you don’t have the ingredient.

Chicken Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Carrots
serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as part of a multi-course meal

1 lb. chicken breast, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Chinese rice wine
generous pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1 crown broccoli, broken into florets
2 medium carrots, cut on a bias into slices
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
2 green onions, sliced
3 Tbsp. oil, divided
1 tsp. Sichuan peppercorns
1 Tbsp. Korean chili sauce, optional
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Mix together the chicken, soy sauce, rice wine, salt, and corn starch with your fingers. Set aside for 15 minutes, while you chop the vegetables.
  2. Heat a wok on medium high heat. Add 2 Tbsp. oil when hot. Add the peppercorns and toast for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, and green onions. Fry for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  4. Add the chicken, stir-fry until cooked, about 5 minutes. Be sure to separate all the pieces. Remove from the wok and set aside.
  5. Reheat the wok with the remaining Tbsp. oil. Add the chili sauce and fry for 30 seconds.
  6. Add the broccoli and carrots, toss in a couple Tbsp. cold water. Stir well and cover. Cook 2-3 minutes and stir again. Continue to add little bits of water and covering the wok until vegetables are cooked crisp tender. Salt to taste.
  7. Add the chicken back to the wok and stir together. Heat 2-3 minutes until all is heated through. Serve with rice.

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My Stir-Fry Truths

If you’ve ever made a stir-fry, you know that it’s easy and quick and has great potential to be healthy. There are a few things, if applied, will make your stir-fries better. Or at least they did mine. These are my personal stir-fry truths, learned by hanging out with my mom in the kitchen over the years, as well as cooking on my own.

  1. Don’t be afraid to use a non-stick wok. Yes, I know, it goes against most stir-fry advice out there. And it is true that stainless steel holds a high heat than nonstick. I’m not arguing with that. But for most everyday uses, you don’t need super high heat anyways. As a bonus, it makes clean up so much easier. (Ever scrubbed that stubborn layer of
    “fried-on” rice?)
  2. Do use a wok though. It makes the stirring part of the stir-fry easier.
  3. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try out new combinations of meats and vegetables and aromatics. You never know what tastes good to you until you’ve tasted it.
  4. But do learn the classic combinations. They don’t fail. Try garlic broccoli, celery with dried shrimp, tofu with Chinese cabbage, eggplant in fish sauce (which has nothing to do with fish), etc.
  5. Use aromatics! Very important! They go a long way to flavouring your dishes! Green onions go with almost everything. Ginger is good with meats and seafoods – it removes the unwanted “fishiness” or “xing” as Chinese people know it. Garlic is a wonder and your gift to a stir-fry, makes everything tastier. (And good for you too!)
  6. Heat the oil until hot, so hot that foods sizzle and spatter and spit. Just keep your face and arms out of the way. (The add oil to hot pan rule applies here too.)
  7. Go easy on the oil, a couple tablespoons or less is plenty for vegetables. Meats require a tad bit more. Make it healthy! You will be happier too.
  8. Cook the meat and veggies separately in most cases. This avoids overcooking either.
  9. Don’t be afraid to add a little bit of water if foods are burning. China doesn’t have conveniently packaged chicken stock when my mom learned to cook so I didn’t learn to use it either. I find that chicken stock sometimes interferes with the flavours because stir-fries typically uses simple flavours. Cover to cook faster if needed.
  10. Go easy on the soy sauce. It doesn’t belong in every dish.

These are the main things that I go by. I hope that they will help you. Stir away! If you prep food ahead of time, i.e. chopping veggies and slicing meats, which come in handy on the nights when you came home late, you can give Rachael Ray a run for her money on the 30 minute dinner!

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