Chinese steamed egg custard

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I’ve been trying to get my little man to eat his eggs, but regardless of the style – scrambled, boiled, puréed, fried, steamed – he spits them right back out. Recently, I found that making a sugar-free version of crême brulée got him to eat them, which is all well and good when I have time to nurture the eggs from pot to oven. And then, my momma came to visit and showed me the REAL way of making Chinese steamed egg custard. The eggs come out silky smooth like soft tofu and for our guy, he seems to prefer things with a smoother texture.

The greatest part is that this custard takes all of 10 minutes to make with most of it in the steamer with a timer on. In other words, it requires little to no supervision… unlike the crême brulée.

I like using whole cow’s milk or goat’s milk for my custard, as it’s for my baby, but the recipe typically uses water. If you’re making this for yourself, you can flavour the custard with a splash of sesame oil, soy sauce, and sprinkling of chopped scallions or chives.

Ingredients (for a single serving):

  • 1 egg (duck or chicken)
  • water or milk
  • sesame oil for seasoning
  • Optional: soy sauce and chopped scallions or chives

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Ratatouille: a simple classic

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With holiday entertaining just around the corner, I love this ratatouille for its simplicity, presentation and better yet, low maintenance. All you need to do is slice, stack, and bake. The majority of the time spent for this dish is in the baking, which frees you up to do other things – like preparing other parts of your feast or getting ready to look your best! Either way, it’s a win win.

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)

  • 1 Japanese eggplant (you can use regular eggplant too, I like the Japanese eggplants as they’re bigger in girth, which works better for stacking)
  • 4 medium tomatos
  • 1 large zucchini or 2-3 small ones
  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, or fresh if you have it
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

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Buttercup squash soup to chase the howling winds away

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Winnie the Pooh: Happy “Winds-day”, Piglet.
Piglet: [being blown away] Well… it isn’t… very happy… f-for me.
Winnie the Pooh: Where are you going, Piglet?
Piglet: That’s what I’m asking myself, where? [he is lifted into the air by a gust of wind]
Piglet: W-Whoops! P-P-P-Pooh!
Winnie the Pooh: [grabbing Piglet’s scarf] And what do you think you will answer yourself?

If Pooh and Piglet were here in Toronto today, they would agree that today is most definitely a blustery day. With the gusts of wind howling around buildings and off roaring over rooftops – maybe taking a thing or two off with them – it’s a perfect day for a hearty soup. More specifically, buttercup squash soup. Buttercup squashes are a variety of winter squash with a sweet, savoury, nutty flavour to it. They taste more like sweet potatoes than pumpkin, and are perfect for roasting, and taste fantastic in a soup.

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)

  • 750mL of beef stock (you can substitute with chicken stock for a lighter flavour or vegetable stock if you’re vegetarian or vegan)
  • 2 buttercup squashes, chopped
  • 5 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 ear of corn, halved
  • 1 Spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger, chopped (optional)
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme (or dried, if you don’t have fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon of oil (your choice, I used hazelnut oil)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Jicama mango salad

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I fell in love with jicama in Mexico and have since looked for every opportunity to integrate it into a meal. Last night, we had baby back ribs for dinner and the refreshing, clean flavour of jicama was the perfect complement to the saucy, smokey flavour of the ribs.

Ingredients: (serves 4-5 people)

  • 1/2 jicama, peeled and finely sliced into strips
  • 1 regular cucumber (not English cucumber), peeled and finely sliced into strips
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 2 stalks of cilantro (coriander), chopped
  • 1 green mango (mango that isn’t quite ripe), peeled and finely sliced into strips
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons of cracked pepper, or to taste
  • 3/4 tablespoon of cracked salt, or to taste

Preparation:

  1. Combine the sliced jicama, cucumber, and mango in a bowl and hand toss until everything is evenly distributed
  2. Juice the limes over the salad and toss again
  3. Add the olive oil, cilantro, salt and pepper. Toss yet again. Note, you’ll need a lot of salt and pepper to flavour the salad

And that’s it, the salad is ready to serve!

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Queso: A great side dip or topping for your chips or main

cheeseWhile visiting friends in Austin, Texas last week, I was introduced to queso. If you’re not familiar with queso, it’s a delicious cheesy sauce that often comes with your chips or that you can top up your tacos or other dishes with. I have to admit, it was a new discovery for me, and the verdict: delicious! The good news – it’s very easy to make. This recipe is one that is based on what was described to me by my friend’s hubby who is Mexican and grew up on his momma’s made-from-scratch Mexican meals. The great thing about queso is there are many variations – you can put what you want in it.

I made a vegan variation.

Ingredients:

  • 250g of cheddar cheese, sliced or grated. Other kinds of cheese can be used. Cheddar is what was recommended to me. Many recipes call for “Velveeta cheese”, which is a processed cheese that’s softer in nature. I try to avoid processed foods, so didn’t use it. For the vegan variation, I used Okanagan’s Soya Co. cheddar.
  • 1/4 cup of cold water (for a non-vegan version, you can use 1/4 cup of half and half cream)
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (remove the seeds if you prefer mild heat)
  • 1/2 sprig of green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/4 of a medium sized white onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt

Start your queso by melting the cheese. You can do this directly in a saucepan or pot. I didn’t want to have to transfer the gooey cheese from pot to serving bowl, so I placed my sliced up cheese in the serving bowl directly and placed the bowl in a larger pot that had 2 inches of water in it. The heat from the pot and water melted the cheese directly in my serving bowl.

Once the cheese is melted, add the water (or cream for the non-vegan version of this recipe) and mix until smooth.

Add the peppers, onions, tomato, and salt.

If you prefer a runnier dip, you can add a little more water and mix until it’s at the consistency you like.

Tomato salad

This tomato salad is probably one of my favorite go-to salads to make. It’s quick, simple, easy, and lets the fresh ingredients speak for themselves.

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped or sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped (can also substitute with basil)
  • 1 buffalo mozzarella, sliced
  • 2.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt, to taste
  • ground pepper, to taste

Coarsely chop your tomatoes into eighths, or slice them. Whether your chop or slice your tomatoes is up to you. Either way, they should be relatively chunky with the seeds intact. Chop up your cilantro and slice the mozzarella.

If you substitute with basil, a trick I use is to arrange the leaves into a fan pattern, one on top of the next first, roll up the leaves and them chop across the roll. You will get the even strips of basil this way.

Throw your ingredients together in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add the salt and pepper to taste, and give it a good toss so everything is evenly mixed together.

You’re done! Ready to serve. In less than 15 minutes.

Guacamole

We love guacamole. Every chance we get, we’ll order it at a restaurant or make it ourselves. On one occasion, after eating at one of our favorite spots that has what we think is one of the best guacamole in town, we were on mission to reproduce a similarly tasty guac.

This is the result.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1 vine tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/4 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 to 2 tablesoon lime or lemon juice
  • Ground pepper to taste

Peel and pit the avocadoes and mash them in a bowl with a fork. Mashing it with a fork keeps the texture a little uneven and chunky, which we prefer. If you want a more even, smooth texture, you can also use a hand blender to smooth it out.

Chop up the vine tomato, onion, and cilantro and add to the mixture. Add the salt, lime juice, and ground pepper. Stir so everything is mixed thoroughly.

Serve with chips.