Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Holiday Appetizers and Potluck to Wrap Up Fall Cooking Term in Thorncliffe...

So pleased to partner with both Michael Garron Hospital and TDSB Newcomer Services to support the Healthy Together Program in the Thorncliffe Community with healthy culinary classes to Begin Right. Eat. Play. As we end the fall session, we kicked off the holidays in our last class with better-for-you festive appetizers and a potluck with the parents' homemade favourites... And together, what a delight all of it was!

Starting off this post with a humongous Thank You to parent engagement facilitator Ashima for your unwavering efforts in this community who adores you and your constant support to me 👊. Without you, this program this term would not have been possible... gratefulness from the bottom of my heart 💖.

Fresh is best! Red and Green everywhere...

I love seeing the collaborative cooking week after week...

Getting my table all set up to demonstrate a few easy festive appetizers to do with your family and friends.

Pomegranate is a prized holiday fruit for its ruby sparkling jewels in anything edible!

Easy Guacamole in Tortilla Cups topped with sweet crunchy pomegranate seeds! Such a pretty pop!

Rosemary sprigs make awesome evergreen pine-like twirlers in pomegranate juice cocktails with champagne or mocktailed with sparkling lime water. Pom seeds adds that festive touch.

Fine finishing finesses...


Classic Bruschetta with fresh basil is sure to please at any gathering! 
The perfect red and green appetizer everyone loves :D

How about Chicken Waldorf Salad (chicken cubes, grapes, celery and apples) on a stick for the kids dipped in mayonnaise studded with chopped cranberries? And chopped, crunchy and creamy on endive leaves as elegant scoops for the adults. You can add chopped walnuts to the mayo mixture for the traditional Waldorf combo.

I wanted to contribute to the potluck with something I love serving at my parties and for the parents to try something new. Korean-Inspired Salmon Ceviche served on Thai Shrimp Chip = succulent raw salmon, and sweet tomatoes intermingled with Asian herbs and sweet, spicy tangy sesame sauce topped on black pepper flecked crunchy Thai chips that create a mini party in your mouth!

Korean-Inspired Salmon and Tomato Ceviche
Makes 6 servings

1 Tbsp. gochujang (Korean sweet and spicy pepper paste)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
2 limes, juiced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or grape tomatoes, quartered
1 lb. sashimi-grade salmon or tuna, cubed same size as tomato halves/quarters
1 or 2 green onions, thinly sliced
Cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Shrimp chips or rice crackers

Whisk the gochujang with olive oil, sesame oil and lime juice until mixed well. Add the tomatoes, salmon, green onions and half the cilantro. Mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with remaining cilantro. Serve with shrimp chips or rice crackers.

The holiday appetizer plate.

The delish spread made with love. I mean.... Look At It! 

Extra Awesomeness goes to Fathima from Succulent Cakes @succulent.fathima for the surprise delicious raspberry chocolate cake! 🍰 Her customized cake designs are detailed and realistic, and the cake layers moist, rich in flavour and just the right amount of sweetness.

Amber from Michael Garron and some parting remarks about our great program.

The fabulous crew over at Thorncliffe Park's community kitchen as we wrapped up our Fall Parent Engagement Culinary Program. With the big coffee box right in front, don't we look like an ad for Tim's 😂?? Thank you all for a great term. I hope to cook with you again in 2019! Blessings for a fun-tastic holiday season with your loved ones! 💖

Flashback with our Sushi Rice Four Ways class. 

Our customized Poke-inspired bowls.

Sui Gow, big cousin to wonton session! The coldest day with the best remedy- a bowl of dumplings and noodles soup.

Oodles of sweet savoury noodles Korean Chap Chae was a favourite amongst everyone!

Until we cook again....

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all." - Harriet Van Horne

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Chinese Hot Pot- Savour the Breadth of Asian Ingredients...

What better way to end my TDSB Learn4Life Fall Chinese Cooking Program with Seniors in Chinatown than with a healthy hearty hot pot? Not only did it warm our bellies inside out in this cold weather, but it was such a fantastic way to showcase and savour the breadth of Asian ingredients- the familiar and the new. You simmer or boil in your preferred hot broth, so anything goes! To learn more about the history and intricacies of hot potting, check out my elaborate Post from a previous home entertaining session with pot and stock, and dibs about everything to cook in it. For a deeper dive to know about the various cultural hot pots, take a look at my Post on a food event with Chef Sang Kim, award-winning author, chef and restaurateur describe how hot pot traditions are famously celebrated in China, Japan and South Korea in their distinctive styles and ingredients.

Four pots on the go for crowd hot-potting (adapted to what we have, doing it over-the-stove style).

At St. Stephen's Community Centre

The spread of ingredients from vegetables- assortment of greens, mushrooms, beancurd, tofu...

to sliced meats, meat balls and more balls... beef, chicken, fried fish, fish cakes... 

to noodles like Udon to savour and slurp with the richly flavoured broth after all the cooking...

And what is hot potting without a delicious soy sauce mixture to dip it in? Various options include a combination of fresh chilies, chili sauce, garlic, green onions, cilantro, vinegar, hot mustard, sesame oil or paste, lime juice, fermented bean curd, and end up in a continuously changing mélange. You can also add a raw egg to your sauce to tone down the heat from your cooked ingredients. It's the yin (cooling) to the yang (warming) by restoring your internal balance in the constant heat intake from the meal.

I usually prepare a homemade broth made with pork and chicken bones, but for the convenience of creating a quick flavoured soup base, I used packaged hot pot sauce. Lee Kum Kee offers flavours like Seafood Hot Pot (slightly spicy good, for all kinds of ingredients), Satay Sauce for something spicier, and there is Little Sheep known for their Mongolian-style lamb flavoured soup base in mild and spicy.

Round One...

We had about 4 to 5 people per pot. Scooping with a slotted or soup ladle into individual serving bowls, then dipping in their customized prepared sauce. Heavenly warmth...

Love seeing everyone using chopsticks so well!

We also had a delicious appetizer of cold and pan-fried beancurd rolls stuffed with mixed mushrooms-- a similar start to kickoff our first session with Pan-fried veggie beancurd rolls, which everyone loved.

Pan-Fried Beancurd Rolls Stuffed With Mixed Mushrooms

This is Round Two...

Last round with homemade Japanese-inspired pastries generously prepared by Japanese student Gordon. He filled these delectables with chocolate mousse and topped with matcha cream and marbled chocolate curls. Balanced flavour, sweetness and texture. Arigato gozaimasu (❁´▽`❁)*✲゚*

This wasn't the first time Gordon shared his home-cooked food with me. He has given me a package of dried Japanese chow mein along with a personal recipe which I have yet to make (but I will soon with a couple weeks on break), and also a bento lunch box containing his father's delicious Japanese Okuwa rice recipe and over-the-top juicy moist delectable chicken teriyaki. He shared his recipes to prepare the meal, which was elaborate, not leaving out a single detail which I like. It was all effort and all heart. Thank you, you are so very kind and sweet! 

Photo Credit: Celia Dela Cruz 

And then there's lovely Anne... Always engaging, always smiling, one of the first to come up, roll her sleeves to help with any task during cooking. I will never forget near the beginning of the cooking term, she told me that after class she was going to watch Crazy Rich Asians 😁. We shared a few thoughts on the film, and upon asking how she was going to get there, she said she was going to walk, she walks everywhere. I learned from other students, she was turning 90 and I couldn't believe it. And they went on about all the independent things Anne does that is not "typical" for her age. This is the kind of honour I have, so much respect for people I have the privilege of coming across and cooking with. I certainly learned from Anne, I know I want to be like her at 90! All I kept thinking was "You Go Girl!" 🤗💕

Homemade shortbread as a gift from Anne. Awwww..... thanks!

Photo Credit: Celia Dela Cruz 

What a fantastic beautiful photo with some of the lovely ladies... thanks for the fun memories!

Photo Credit: Celia Dela Cruz

Love this shot, cooking closely with one of my consistent right hand support (✿ ♥‿♥)

Photo Credit: Celia Dela Cruz

Another sweetheart, and super helpful and skillful kitchen support (♥ω♥ ) ~♪

Photo Credit: Celia Dela Cruz

Smiles, smiles, smiles.... my reward for every class I've taught (and happy bellies of course)... Thank you all! I look forward to teaching again in the winter term, and hope to see many of your beautiful faces and see your smiles again. Until the new year..... health, joy and blessings to you and your loved ones during the holidays! ·͙⁺˚*•̩̩͙✩•̩̩͙*˚⁺‧͙⁺˚*•̩̩͙✩•̩̩͙*˚⁺‧͙

Photo Credit: Celia Dela Cruz

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Korean Sweet Potato Noodles with Vegetables...Chap Chae

With Korean food a lot on my hungry mind and enjoying nutritious kimchi these days, I held a one-off Korean cuisine class with the seniors in my Chinese cooking program to highlight some of my all-time favourites. On the menu- chap chae and kimchi pancakes, two styles. Korean popular chap chae's chewy glass sweet potato noodles can absorb a lot of flavour. It's signature savoury and sweet taste is made simple with a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and sesame oil with your choice of sauteed vegetables, with or without meat. It's one of those dishes that wow, with all the colourful, healthful ingredients and is sure to please at any gathering for a crowd or to tote as a potluck.

Chap Chae topped with shredded egg crepes.

Chap Chae
Makes 6 to 8 servings (double the recipe to serve a crowd)

~ 250 g sweet potato or mung bean noodles, cook according to package instructions
2 eggs, beaten
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound baby spinach, stems removed, blanched, drained and water squeezed out
2 carrots, cut into match-sticks or peeled into strips with a peeler
1/2 or 1 green or coloured bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 green onion, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces, reserving some to chop and use for garnish
6 shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in water to cover for four hours, drained and sliced
(or use a handful of mixed fresh mushrooms- oyster, king and enoki, sliced)
1 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. sesame oil, divided
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
toasted sesame seeds
120 g sliced beef or pork (optional)*

Cook eggs into a thin crepe; let cool and slice into thin short strips.

In a large wok/skillet, heat oil and 1 Tbsp. sesame oil over medium heat. Add onion slices and come garlic; sauté for about one minute. Season spinach with a little garlic and salt; set aside. Add vegetables except for spinach and cook for four to five minutes, until the vegetables are tender-crisp.

Turn heat to low and add cooked noodles, meat (if using), soy sauce, sugar, and the remaining 1 Tbsp. sesame oil. Mix to combine and cook for another two minutes. Remove from heat and mix in spinach and egg; garnish with sesame seeds and chopped green onions on top.

The fantastic ladies in my TDSB Learn4Life Chinese Cooking Program. 

Two skillets of chap chae going cause you know, we are feeding a crowd!

Oh my gosh, looks even more incredible with the crepe shreds piled high in the centre! Come and get it!

Meanwhile we have two kimchi pancake batters ready to rock and roll in the skillets.

Kimchi Pancakes and Mini Kimchi Zucchini Pancakes

Devourable with a complimentary equal part soy sauce and rice vinegar dip with sesame oil.

Another presentation of chap chae- more traditional here!

Make it a seafood chap chae, by sauteing shrimps and mixing it with the cooked seasoned noodles and vegetables at the end (try it with squid too).

Versatile, healthy and delicious, give this a try next time for your family, casual or entertaining gathering.