Filed under: Foodie Swellness

Foodie Swellness: Cooking for Chinese New Year

Braised mushrooms with sesame bok choy

Did you know that February 16th is Chinese New Year and it’s the Year of the Dog? While I haven’t celebrated in any formal way since I was a little kid, I will always use any excuse to cook and eat something delicious, and much of the new year revolves around food so I think it’s time to fire up the stove!

I find myself often craving Chinese dishes I grew up with, but I can never make them as well as my mom does. And while she has shown me how to make a few things, it’s hard to learn because it’s always, “add a little of this, a little bit of sugar, and that’s it!” I need precise measurements, Mom! In any case, I have been attempting to make more dishes I grew up with as I don’t get to eat my mom’s cooking often since she lives in another city. I now make congee and fried rice occasionally, my sister just recently taught me how to make wontons and I also made hot and sour soup for the very first time using a recipe I found online.

For Chinese New Year, I think I’ll make this recipe for Braised Chinese Mushrooms and Sesame Bok Choy (I made it recently to test it out first before making it for friends). It was surprisingly easy to make and the best part is that I didn’t have to make a trip into Chinatown for the ingredients because Real Canadian Superstore carries all of the ingredients at great value. And I know they’re authentic brands because I recognize them (brands such as T&T and Rooster) from my mom’s kitchen.

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So creating a dish for Chinese New Year, or just when I’m craving Chinese food with the best (aka mom-approved) authentic ingredients, is easy because I can just pick them up during my regular weekly grocery trip. I know my mom is very particular about the ingredients she uses, and I love that I can get everything she would use at an easy-on-the-budget cost at Real Canadian Superstore (because let’s face it: I’m way more likely to cook these dishes I love from my childhood if I can get the ingredients easily). Now, I’ll just have to hound my mother for more precise recipe instructions so that the dishes taste just right!

Oh, and here’s the recipe for the Braised Chinese Mushrooms and Sesame Bok Choy. I actually had all of the ingredients on hand except for the mushrooms and bok choy, so this dish cost me next to nothing to make.

Happy New Year, and happy eating!

(sponsored).

 

Leave a Comment February 8, 2018

Foodie Swellness: The ultimate hibernation meal, homemade “Hamburger Helper”

Homemade hamburger helper

Is this dish full of veggies and fibre? Nope. Paleo? Nuh-uh. A rainbow of ingredients chockfull of vitamins and minerals? Not really. It’s pretty beige. But sometimes, like when it’s colder than -30C out and a bomb cyclone is hitting the east coast, you just crave plain old comfort food.

I didn’t grow up eating Hamburger Helper. I actually am not sure if I’ve ever had it. I have always thought it looks delicious in commercials, though. Meaty, creamy, carby. So I suppose I should state that I am not sure if this tastes at all like the boxed HH.

In any case, my recipe is inspired by this one from Dinner Then Dessert, except I added milk to make it creamier and some spices. And the result is everything I wanted for my winter dinner (warm and hearty), eaten tucked under a blanket all cozy, while watching The Mindy Project. It’s the ultimate winter hibernation meal.

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Homemade Hamburger Helper

  • 1 pound large elbow macaroni
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups beef broth
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 to 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (depending on how cheesy you want it!)
  1. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, brown the beef in a large skillet.  Remove beef from skillet.
  3. Add butter to the beef fat in the skillet and saute onion and bell pepper for about five minutes.
  4. Add beef back to the skillet.
  5. In a bowl, mix the beef broth, milk and cornstarch together.
  6. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika and beef broth mixture into the skillet.
  7. Cook about three minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.
  8. Add the macaroni to the skillet and mix together gently.
  9. Remove from heat and stir in grated mozzarella.

I’d love to hear from HH fans if this is at all what the boxed variety tastes like. I like the idea of making it from scratch versus using the powdered ingredients and am so pleased with this stick-to-your-hones results of this meal. I rounded out my dinner with a glass of Cabernet but a nice crisp green salad would be a nice side (I just didn’t have anything for a salad in my refrigerator at the time).

Happy hibernating!

1 Comment January 5, 2018

Foodie Swellness: Gnocchi with bacon, spinach and mushrooms

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I find I need new and different tastes all the time.  What can I say, my tastebuds get bored easily. I’ve never understood how people can eat the same exact meals every week (well, of course I have some things I do eat regularly, like what I have for breakfast is pretty consistent).

But I do return to certain recipes a few times a year like this pasta dish, for one, and this frittata recipe will become a regular now. And I get pretty excited when I try making a new dish and it’s so yummy that I know it’ll be added into my annual rotation. Especially when it’s a super simple thing to cook but tastes so damn good. Like this gnocchi recipe.

The other night it was freezing cold out and after a few days of eating turkey, I was craving pasta. And then the idea of gnocchi popped into my brain. I used to rely on packaged gnocchi a lot as a fast meal to prep on nights I didn’t feel like cooking but I’ve fallen out of that habit. Well, hello old habit, you’re back in the rotation! Gnocchi always feels to me a bit fancier than pasta, is it just me or do you feel the same? I’ve never made gnocchi from scratch, but I have made gnudi (which is similar to gnocchi except it’s made with ricotta instead of potato), which was most wonderful!

A few quick searches online and I decided I wanted to use bacon as well since I had some in my fridge. I picked up the gnocchi and the other few items and I was ready to go. I think the stewed tomatoes with olive oil and garlic not only added a lot of flavour, it also helped me skip having to mince garlic, so hurray for even simpler prep! Here’s the recipe.

Gnocchi with bacon, spinach and mushrooms

  • 1 package of gnocchi
  • 5 slices of thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 19-oz can of stewed tomatoes with olive oil and garlic
  • two handfuls of mushrooms, sliced
  • half a bag of spinach
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon chili pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • pepper and Parmesan, to taste
  1. Fry bacon to desired crispiness in a large pan. Before bacon is entirely done, add mushrooms so that they’re cooked through.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, chili pepper flakes and balsamic vinegar and cook for about five minutes until flavours are blended. Season with pepper.
  3. In the meanwhile, cook gnocchi in a pot of boiling salted water until done (the gnocchi will float once cooked through). Add spinach and cook for about 30 seconds until wilted.
  4. Drain gnocchi and spinach and add to the pot with the sauce. Stir to combine.
  5. Grate as much Parmesan as you wish! I used Lupa cheese, which chef Massimo Bruno recommended.

Another great thing about this recipe is all the veggies it includes (I’m always looking for ways to eat more veggies). Plus you can easily swap in your fave veggies or use up the ones you have lurking in your fridge. Not a fan of mushrooms? Toss in some chopped carrots instead!

If you’re not in the mood for bacon, I think you could likely make this vegetarian by simply sautéing a chopped onion in a glug of olive oil instead of frying up the bacon to start the sauce (although that bacon fat likely adds a lot of depth of flavour to the sauce…). I haven’t tried it this way but I did consider adding onion to the dish.

Do you have any fave ways to make a quick meal with packaged gnocchi?

Leave a Comment December 30, 2017

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