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Lighter Sweet and Sour Chicken

I am obsessed with this Sweet and Sour Chicken dish from the mall food court of all things! Shanghai 360 is fairly new to Ottawa. I think the first one opened at Bayshore or the Rideau Centre this past year when both malls got major overhauls. The chain is also in other Ontario cities I believe. But their sweet and sour chicken is like none other. It’s more sweet than sour with a sticky, red sauce which has a hint of warm spice to it. I have no idea what’s in it and I don’t care. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t lose any weight this summer! Heehee! It got even worse through December when I found myself at the mall quite a lot for Christmas shopping, so it was my excuse to have this once or even twice a week. I’ve been trying to restrain myself as of late, but I had it again last week and it’s totally worth the calories. It’s my mission this winter to try to recreate the dish at home. In an attempt to eat a little healthier, I started with this one from the latest issue of Cooking Light. Not even close. It’s a good dish but not exactly gourmet – something to put together on a busy weeknight. I’ll keep trying so stay tuned.


Steve threw some steamed broccoli on top because he’s not a fan of pineapple.

Sweet and Sour Chicken


2 large egg whites
4 tsp of cornstarch, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 Tbsp ketchup
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp canola oil, divided
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
3 green onions cut into 1 inch pieces
3/8 tsp kosher salt


1. Combine eggs whites and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add chicken to the bowl; toss to coast.

2. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon cornstarch, ketchup, and the next 4 ingredients (through to soy sauce) in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

3. Heat a large skillet non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pineapple, ginger, and onions to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer bell pepper to a plate.

4. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in pan. Add chicken mixture to pan, allowing any excess egg white mixture to drip back into bowl. Stir-fry 6 minutes or under chicken is browned and done.

5.  Add ketchup mixture and bell pepper mixture to the pan. Bring to a simmer; simmer one minute or until slightly thickened. Sprinkle with salt; serve immediately.

Serves 4. Calories: 324.

One-pot chilli with polenta cobbler crust

I recently started a new teaching gig at a community centre I used to work at, teaching a 6 week Inuit stencil printing course! Steve has been picking my daughter up from the babysitters so the first week I made this chilli in the slow cooker so that he could have some dinner when he got to my place. With the addition of the cinnamon it has a unique taste that reminds me a little of Moroccan food. I really like it. Steve thought it was a little too weird for his liking but oh well. I wasn’t home so I didn’t make the polenta cobbler but I have a feeling it would be amazing! Next time Gadget. I forgot to take a pic so this one is from the Delicious Magazine :(

Source: Delicious Magazine website

One-pot chilli with a polenta cobbler crust

1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp each ground cumin, ground cinnamon and chilli flakes
1 green chilli, diced
500g beef mince (ground beef)
1 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
400g tin chopped tomatoes
500ml beef stock, hot
180g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Large bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

For the cobbler topping
100g quick-cook polenta
200g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
100g finely grated Cheddar
1 medium free-range egg
200ml milk


01.Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole, add the onion and garlic, then cook over a low-medium heat, stirring, until the onion has softened and taken on some colour (about 5 minutes). Add the dried spices and fresh chilli. Cook, stirring, for a couple more minutes. Add the mince, season well, turn up the heat, then fry for 5 minutes to brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
02.Stir in the tomato paste, then pour over the tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the lid, skim off any fat, then stir through the kidney beans and coriander. Season to taste.
03.Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. To make the cobbler topping, mix the polenta, flour, baking powder, salt and cheese in a bowl. Mix the egg with the milk, then stir through the dry ingredients until combined. Dollop spoonfuls onto the chilli, around the edge of the casserole, about 3cm apart. Bake for 15 minutes, then serve.

Make ahead:

  • Make the chilli up to the end of step 2, let it cool, then put the mix in a sealable container and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight, put into a casserole, simmer over a medium heat for 15 minutes, then continue from step 3.

Nutritional info per serving

For 6 servings

  • Calories 566kcals
  • Fat 29.5g fat (11.2g saturated)
  • Protein 34g
  • Carbohydrates 46.2g (6.2g sugars)
  • Fibre 5.4g
  • Salt 2.1g

Rum-Chocolate Truffles

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and it’s inspired me to try my hand at making one of the most delectable desserts – chocolate truffles! I have made truffles before but it was quite a while ago. This book that I got for Christmas, “Baking with Less Sugar” had a great recipe in it for Chocolate-Orange Truffles, but I’m not a huge fan of that combination so I adapted it by skipping infusing the orange flavour and substituting with a Tbsp of Jamaican Rum! The flavour isn’t terribly intense, it just a little something lurking in the background that makes the truffles that much more delicious. Don’t be intimidated by this at all – it’s super easy to make and quite fun to roll the little chocolate balls before refrigerating.

I also had fun playing around with Steve’s Canon Rebel. I’ve really missed having a proper camera – one that I can adjust manually and doesn’t completely distort the proportions of the food the way most handhelds or cellphone camera’s do. And because I didn’t plan on eating the truffles right away I had time to set up a little scene and adjust the lighting as well. The process combines two of my greatest loves – food and art! :)

Note: If made as directed, these truffles have only 4 grams of sugar per truffle. 

Handmade truffles with rum

It’s my own painting and my hand drawn mug in the background. :)

Chocolate-Orange Truffles

Truffle Filling:
2265g / 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (about 70% cocoa)
249g/ 1 cup heavy cream (35%)
1 Tbsp. finely grated orange zest
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Finishing the truffles:
About 140g/ 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finally chopped (optional)
about 120g / 1 cup cocoa powder


1. To make the filling: Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and orange zest in a small saucepan over medium heat until the cream is scalded – that is , there are small bubbles on the surface of the cream and it almost, but not quite, comes to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the cream sit for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours. After the cream has infused with the orange, reheat the cream over medium-high heat until it is piping hot again.

2. Rest a fine-mesh strainer on the bowl of chocolate. Pour the cream through the strainer over the chocolate. Using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon (not a whisk, which will introduce bubbles  into your chocolate and make for a less-smooth truffle), slowly stir the chocolate and cream together using small circles in the middle of the bowl. You’ll want to stir all around the bowl to try to get everything to mix together. The more you stir, the more the chocolate will blend into the cream until finally all of the chocolate and cream will be one smooth mixture. When you take the time to stir the cream gently into the chocolate, you’ll get a smoother , silkier final product.

3. Once the chocolate and cream are well blended, stir in the butter and salt, again taking your time to stir-stir-stir until the butter is blended in. This is the base for the truffles, called ganache.

4. Refrigerate the ganache in a covered container overnight until it firms up. The next day, with a small spoon, scoop out rounded 1-Tbsp-size balls of ganache and roll them around in your hands until they are round balls. Place on a platter and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, to finish the truffles, if you want to coat your truffles in melted chocolate before you roll them around in cocoa, bring a saucepan filled partway with water to a very gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Place the bittersweet chocolate in a medium metal or glass bowl. Place the bowl over (not touching) the barely simmering water in the saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Alternatively, microwave the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until melted and smooth. Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and, one by one, dip them carefully in the chocolate by resting the truffle on the tines of the fork, lowering it into the chocolate, and using the fork to gently roll them around to fully coat. With the fork, lift up and remove the truffle from the melted chocolate and place back on the platter. Continue with all of the truffles until they are coated with a think coating of chocolate. Place the cocoa powder in a bowl. When the chocolate on the truffles is no longer shiny (it takes about 30 seconds for the chocolate to start setting) and is matte, carefully pick up each truffle one by one with a fork, place in the cocoa powder, and roll it around until coated. Remove the truffle from the cocoa powder and place back on the platter. Let the chocolate and cocoa firm up and serve.

6. Alternatively, you can skip the outer chocolate layer and simply place the  truffles as they are directly in the cocoa powder and roll them around until coated. This variation is by far simpler and neater, and the results are still impressive and delicious.

7. The truffles can be stored in an airtight container at cool room temperature for up to 3 days.

Glazed Pork Tenderloin and Garlic Cream Cheese Smashed Potatoes

This menu is a great example of how I eat most of the time – partly healthy, and partly horrible but delicious! The pork was delicately flavoured and melt in your mouth tender. I think it’s because you cook it at such high heat (500F) But the potatoes were so rich and sinful that Steve christened them “potatoes you wouldn’t take home to your Momma”! lol I do believe they have knocked my other garlic mashed potatoes out of the top spot. But, ya you don’t really want to be making these more than a couple of times a year. I might make them again for Valentine’s Day actually and then I have to cut myself off. I was supposed to make “cauliflower popcorn” from the Family Cooks cookbook I got for Christmas, but I kind of forgot about it until it was too late so I’m going to give them a try on Wednesday instead.

Note: The photos are a little wonky because Steve has lent me his camera and I’m still getting used to it. I forgot it on “cloudy” setting but we were under artificial light. And I only have one photo of the potatoes but it’s super washed out. They don’t look like much but they’re insanely delicious!


Sweet and Tangy Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Red Potato Mash

(Cooking Light Magazine, Sept. 2015)

Using jelly rather than preserves in the glaze helps maintain a smooth texture, but you can use either. Instead of grape, try strawberry, cherry, red currant, or even jellied cranberry sauce.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 3 ounces)

1 pound small red potatoes
1/3 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 small garlic clove, grated
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons grape jelly
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallots

1. Preheat oven to 500°.

2. Place potatoes in a large saucepan; fill with water to 1 inch above potatoes. Bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain; return to pan. Mash potatoes to desired consistency with a potato masher. Stir in milk, butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. {the Cook’s Illustrated recipe I used is below}

3. Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon oil, thyme, and garlic; rub evenly over pork. Place pork on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray; bake at 500° for 10 minutes. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon oil, jelly, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Brush half of jelly mixture over pork; bake at 500° for 5 minutes. Turn pork; brush with remaining half of jelly mixture. Bake 5 to 8 minutes or until a thermometer registers 145°. Place pork on a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Cut across the grain into thin slices. Serve with mashed potatoes.

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories 327 Fat 9.9 g Satfat 4.1 g Monofat 3.9 g Polyfat 0.9 g Protein 27 g Carbohydrate 31 g Fiber 2 g Cholesterol 87 mg Iron 2 mg Sodium 482 mg Calcium 47 mg

Smashed Potatoes

Yields: 4 to 6 servings Prep time: 20 min Cook time: 45 min


2 pounds Red Bliss potatoes (about 2 inches in diameter), unpeeled and scrubbed*
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
Freshly-ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (optional)

* New potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes may be substituted, but the red skins of the Red Bliss potatoes give a wonderful contrast. Try to purchase potato of equal size. If only large potatoes are available, increase the cooking time by approximately 10 minutes.


In a large pot, add whole potatoes and cover with 1-inch cold water; add 1 teaspoon salt and the bay leaf. Bring just to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until a paring knife can be inserted into the potatoes with no resistance, approximately 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and set aside. Then drain potatoes of remaining water; discard the water and bay leaf. Return cooked potatoes to the pot and allow potatoes to stay in the pot, uncovered, until surfaces are dry, about 5 minutes.

While potatoes are drying, whisk the melted butter and softened cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth and fully incorporated. Add the 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, chives (if using), and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula or back of a wood spoon, smash potatoes just enough to break the skins. Fold in the butter/cream cheese mixture until most of the liquid has been absorbed and chunks of potatoes remain. NOTE: Add more reserved cooking water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the potatoes are slightly looser than desired. The potatoes will thicken slightly with standing. Adjust salt and pepper, if desired.

Place in a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Variation: Garlic-Rosemary Smashed Potatoes 

Add 2 peeled garlic cloves to potatoes in saucepan along with salt and bay leaf in step 1. Melt 4 Tbs butter in 8″ skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary {I used a couple of pinches of dry} and 1 minced garlic clove and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Substitute butter-garlic mixture for melted butter, adding cooked garlic cloves to cream cheese along with butter-garlic mixture. Omit chives.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated cookbook.

Ham + Smoked Cheddar Breakfast Bake

I’ve been trying to get rid of the Christmas weight and it hasn’t been easy, especially on the weekends. This past weekend I really wanted to do the breakfast bake thing that I had hoped to do over the holidays so I went through my cookbooks to try to find one that fit in an 8×8 pan. Then I discovered I don’t have a metal 8×8 pan! lol I do have my new brownie pan so I made one inspired by a recipe in the Cook’s Illustrated cookbook. For fillings we chose smoked cheddar, ham, and bacon. We didn’t have any breakfast meats available so Steve went to the grocery store and by the time he got back, we were running out of time. A couple of shortcuts ended up making things a little problematic. I forgot to toast the bread first which I think lended to it’s overly wet texture the first time I took it out of the oven, so I suggest not skipping that step. And I was short on time so I only chilled it for 30 minutes and took it out for about 10 minutes before putting it in the oven. I don’t think it quite had enough time to come up to temperature because when we took it out after 55 minutes it was still too wet in the middle. I put it in for another 20 minutes and it was much better. When we reheated it the next day it was even better. The flavours were lovely. Next time I would try adding some shallots or green onion to the mix, but other than that, I think this one’s worth putting in the extra effort next time.

Note: You can play around with the meat, cheese, veggie combos, just pay attention to the egg to bread ratio. C.I. original recipe has, 1 1/2 cups half and half, and 1/2 cup dry white wine reduced to 1/4 cup. I used all half and half and omitted the wine.




Breakfast Strata

8-10 slices supermarket French bread (½-inch thick) or Italian bread (6 – 7 ounces)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces ham steaks, and a half a package of bacon
Table salt and ground black pepper, 3 shallots diced (optional)
6 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, grated (about 1½ cups)
6 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves or about a tsp of dried

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 225 degrees. Arrange bread in single layer on large baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, about 40 minutes, turning slices over halfway through drying time. (Alternatively, leave slices out overnight to dry.) When cooled, butter slices on one side with 2 tablespoons butter; set aside.

2. Cut the ham steaks into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside. Cook bacon either in a frying pan or in the oven, until just cooked. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Transfer to medium bowl with the ham and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Butter 8-inch square baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter; arrange half the buttered bread slices, buttered-side up, in single layer in dish. Sprinkle half of meat mixture, then ½ cup grated cheese evenly over bread slices. Arrange remaining bread slices in single layer over cheese; sprinkle remaining meat mixture and another ½ cup cheese evenly over bread. Whisk eggs and parsley in medium bowl until combined; half-and-half, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread layers; cover surface flush with plastic wrap, weigh down (soup cans or juice boxes are great), and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

4. Remove dish from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Uncover strata and sprinkle remaining ½ cup cheese evenly over surface; bake until both edges and center are puffed and edges have pulled away slightly from sides of dish, 50-60 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes; serve.

Vietnamese Chicken Bowl

After all that holiday indulging we thought we’d end the weekend on a healthier note with an Asian inspired dish. Both Steve and I love Vietnamese food, especially the noodle bowls, but he has yet to find a restaurant that lives up to his favourite place in Montreal. (Apparently everything really is better in Montreal ;)) We had the idea Sunday night to try making the dish at home. This recipe is from Ricardo Magazine and if you’re already a fan of Asian cuisine you probably have most of the ingredients on hand. The only thing we had trouble finding was lemongrass. I substituted with the zest of the lemon and found the final chicken had a touch too much lemon flavour for my liking so the next time I will add half and see how that turns out. If you plan ahead for the marinade, this recipe is quite quick and easy. Steve actually did the cooking this time and he did an amazing job! I couldn’t stop inhaling this stuff! And it’s satisfying without leaving you feeling bloated and icky. I’m definitely trying this one again.


Vietnamese Style Grilled Chicken Bowl

Nuoc Cham Sauce
5 ml (1 tsp) sambal oelek
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 ml (2 tsp) sugar
Juice of 2 limes
60 m l (1/4 cup) fish sauce (nuoc mam)
30 ml (2 tbsp) water

2 stalks lemongrass or grated zest of 1 lemon
15 ml (1 tbsp) peanut or canola oil
5 ml (1 tsp) toasted sesame oil
125 ml (1/2 cup) chicken broth
8 skinless and boneless chicken thighs

200 g (7 oz) rice vermicelli, soaked in boiling water and drained
1/2 iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
1/2 unpeeled English cucumber, cut into thin strips
125 ml (1/2 cup) toasted salted peanuts, chopped

Nuoc Cham Sauce
In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients. Set aside.

Cut the stalks of lemongrass into small pieces and finely chop in a food processor.
Add the peanut oil, sesame oil, broth and half the nuoc cham sauce. Mix thoroughly.
Pour the marinade into a glass dish or sealable plastic bag. Add the chicken. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or seal the bag and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. When in a hurry, marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Preheat the grill, setting the burners to medium-high. Oil the grate.
Grill the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until cooked through. On a work surface, slice the chicken and set aside.

Divide the noodles, lettuce and cucumber into bowls. Add the chicken and sprinkle with the peanuts. Drizzle with the remaining nuoc-cham sauce.

Fast Sugar Cookies

My little girl is now the perfect age to enjoy making cookies with me, especially if they are for Santa! She kept saying, “I really hope Santa loves our cookies!”. She was so excited and felt so proud that they turned out wonderfully. And the great thing about them is that they use the basic ingredients and only need a 10 minute chill in the fridge. And for the frosting, I didn’t have any meringue powder on hand so I used a recipe for Decorator’s Frosting from Betty Crocker. It doesn’t exactly taste great on it’s own. My daughter tried some and screwed her nose up at it! lol But when it’s on the cookie in small quantities you can’t notice it. The cookie recipe was actually for Valentine’s Day and are called “Sweetheart Sugar Cookies” so I’ll keep this one in my back pocket for February.

Because of the simple ingredients and the short chilling time, this cookie and icing combination is going in the All-star folder. 



Sweetheart Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons meringue powder
Pink sanding sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg, beating until blended.

2. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended.

3. Divide dough into 2 equal portions; flatten each portion into a disk. Cover and chill 10 minutes.

4. Place 1 dough disk on a heavily floured surface, and roll to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with a 3-inch heart-shaped cutter. Place 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets. Repeat procedure with remaining dough disk.

5. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Let cool on baking sheets 5 minutes; transfer to wire racks, and let cool completely (about 30 minutes).

6. Whisk together meringue powder and 2 Tbsp. water. Brush cookies with mixture, or dip cookies in mixture, and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

For jumbo cookies: Cut rolled-out dough with a 4 1/2-inch heart-shaped cutter. Bake at 350° for 15 to 17 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Makes: about 1 dozen.

For bite-size cookies: Cut rolled-out dough with a 1-inch heart-shaped cutter. Bake at 350° for 8 to 11 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Makes: about 20 dozen.

(I made various sizes and shapes and it was about 2 1/2 dozen and they took about 12 minutes to bake.)

Decorator’s Frosting


2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk or half-and-half


1 Stir together all ingredients until smooth and spreadable. Tint with food color if desired. This frosting is also perfect for gingerbread cookies.


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