Make Jujube Tea, Not War.

The health benefits of dates have been well-known in China for thousands of years, They are believed to cleanse and enrich the blood, enhance immunity, promote white cell formation, reduce cholesterol and protect the liver, among many other supposed gains. Dates are rich in vitamin C, calcium and iron and are believed to be therapeutic for the elderly as well as growing children and those with anemia. Red dates (hong zao in Chinese) are also known as jujubes. For more on China’s “cure-all” fruit, click here.

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I’ve been drinking red date (or jujube) tea since I was a child. It was something my mother would make for my sister and I to keep our little bodies strong. Growing up, I thought of this as some sort of magical mommy-creation. I had no idea how easy it was to make! Two ingredients: dates and water! Some like to add honey or sweetening agents, but it’s really not needed. Dates are naturally sweet!

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I am dedicating this blog post to my grandmother, the most wonderful person I know, as I’ve been making this tea quite a bit more often for her in the recent months. She has fought a bad case of pneumonia in the hospital and I’ve been racking my brain thinking of ways to help her regain her strength. If you have any ideas, please do share them with me! And send happy thoughts her way! :)

Food is not always just food. There is real beauty in creating food out of love, or for someone you love. What better represents love than a hot cup of tea. I hope that you try and enjoy this! And that with each cup of warmth enjoyed, the love spreads just a little further.

Cheers! xo

Red Date (Hong Zao) Tea
This recipe makes a big pot, you can use about a handful of dates to make just a cup or two if you like.

Can also be chilled to make a wonderful iced tea. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days or add ice!

Ingredients:

  • Handful dried red dates (also called jujubes, Chinese dates, Korean dates, Indian dates)
  • Water (about 2-3 cups)

*Use more or less dates or water to your own liking. I often use about 2 cups of dates in a medium sized pot of water. I store the remaining tea in the fridge and drink chilled or reheat to enjoy.

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1. Add the water and dates to a pot and boil for at least 15 minutes.

2. Strain and enjoy. Or leave the dates in, if you prefer. They’re so pretty and red. :)

I love this tea, as plain and simple as it is. I’ve seen versions of red date tea with ginger or longan (another Chinese miracle-fruit) added. Get creative! (As I always say.)

It’s My Party, And We’ll Shuck ‘Cause I Want To

I don’t think it needs to be said again, but I’ll say it anyway. I love oysters. Besides the facts that make them so insanely neat, I love them, most of all, for their ability to bring friends closer together, put smiles on faces and fill (some of) us with mixed feelings of dread, wonder and respect. From childhood, oysters have been a favourite of mine and will remain on my love-list forever. They never cease to amaze me!

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Last month I turned twenty-eight. Twenty-eight on the twenty-eighth. To be more specific: my ‘champagne birthday’. I decided to plan something fun for this once-in-a-lifetime happening and, almost in the same instant, I decided that oysters had to be involved. If you know me well enough (or have thoroughly explored this blog), you know that it makes perfect sense that I would gather my friends on my birthday for a group Oyster 101 and shuckfest. All my favourite people AND oysters (AND spicy caesars) in the same place? That just can’t be beat. Nothing could make me happier than to share a bit of oyster-love with the ones I love! Also: can I really be friends with you if you don’t know a thing or two about oysters? (Kidding…sort of not, though.)

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I held my birthday oyster shucking class at Oyster Boy, (best oyster bar in Toronto!) and invited all my besties. If you missed my previous post about these shucking classes, click here to catch up. I wanted my friends to get the whole scoop on oysters. Everything from how they live and breed, to how they’re farmed, to how to choose, buy and shuck them. Chris Field, a.k.a. ‘Oyster Guy’, head shucker at Oyster Boy and seasoned oyster vet, taught the class. I couldn’t ask for a better teacher. He’s shucked oysters across the country and on different continents, he’s farmed oysters, he’s done it all…he’s the best there is! You’ll also love his sense of humour! We had lots of birthday laughs. Thank you Chris. :)

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A birthday mistake I made was telling Chris that instead of a cake, I wanted a massive XXL Beach Angel oyster for my birthday. Lo and behold, he found me one about the size of my face and I had the joys of choking it down in five huge bites, smiling with my cheeks full and brine running down my chin (and all over my clothes). This isn’t about looking pretty, guys.

I am so proud of all my girls that came. Most had never tried shucking and a few had never even tried an oyster! Everyone paid attention and shucked like PROS. We shucked, sipped (our spicy caesars) and slurped to our hearts content. It was a wonderful birthday. :)

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Photos of our class:

If you ask me (which many people do), Oyster Boy is the best place to go for a shucking class. It is one of the main suppliers of fresh oysters in the city. They know their stuff. (You’d be surprised how many restaurants/chefs serve oysters, but don’t know a thing about them or how to properly open one!) The price of the classes is also reasonable compared to other classes offered in Toronto. $60 per person for a 2 hour class including 18 oysters, your own shucking knife and an Oyster Boy t-shirt. I highly recommend it!

Love sharing happy moments like these with others! I’d love to hear your shucking stories, feel free to comment and share them! If you decide to take a shucking class, I’d love to hear about it! Happy shucking, friends! :) XO

Satisfaction Guaranteed: Thin, Diner-Style Patties & “Special Sauce”

There’s no denying it, whether a “sometimes” or “all-the-time” burger eater, we all love a good hamburger when the moment is right. Hamburgers can be found in countries around the world and are probably the most popular food on the planet. Toasty buns, savoury meat patty, melted cheese, dressed to your liking…comfort food doesn’t get much more comfortable. Despite the fact that I am surrounded by today’s delicious new burger joints and gourmet burger options, I tend to gravitate back towards the classic. I’m a sucker for a simple, thin, charbroiled patty on a fluffy toasted bun. There is no school like the old school, after all.

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In a burger mood one night, I experimented with trying to create a simple diner-style hamburger sandwich at home. The results were incredibly DELISH! I was always so busy adding ingredients to my ground burger-meat, that I never thought to keep it simple and use…JUST MEAT when making burgers. These thin beef patties turned out surprisingly juicy and flavourful.

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The first time around I served the patties on toasted Italian bread, for a perfect “burger sammie”. We were hooked, and these became a “quick dinner” staple at home. As word got out that my burgers were addictively yummy, I decided to have a weekend “burger party”. I was lucky enough to have a wonderfully talented friend bake homemade burger buns! (As you can see in the photos, they were perfectly baked. He even added a sprinkling of sesame seeds. A+!)

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This is my take on America’s “favourite” sandwich. For the finishing touch I mixed together a “special sauce” for my burgers, a homemade version of McDonald’s Big Mac Sauce. It’s burger-sauce-crack and will add the perfect creamy, pickle-y tang to your sandwich. I dressed my burgers with simple toppings, but you can use any dressings you like! Play it up or keep it simple. These burger sammies are perfect for lunch, dinner, a meal with friends or a late night bite! They are really quick to make, and the patties freeze well too! Continue reading

Smells Like Heaven: Easy Aromatherapy For Your Home

There is nothing better than the sweet aroma of cinnamon wafting through the air, especially in the winter months. It’s the smell of hot cider simmering on the stove, bubbling apple pie, cinnamon buns in the oven, baked spiced squash or a hot cup of milky chai. There’s something about the spicy, yet sweet, smell of cinnamon that eases the mind, warms the heart and gives us a cozy sense of welcome-ness and home.

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Here’s my favourite way to create a wonderful aroma at home. It’s as easy as lighting a scented candle, and costs much less! Continue reading

Cinnamon Rolls: Ooey Gooey Goodness

The weather outside is frightful…or becomingly so. As we enter into the cold months, I find ways in the kitchen to warm the body, heart and soul. The cold, crisp winter air chills you to the bone. There is no better comfort than to feel the warmth of the oven, watch buns bake and to have the smell of cinnamon and sugar fill your home.

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I LOVE CINNAMON ROLLS! (And it’s probably safe to say that you do too.) These sweet, sticky, oozing buns full of cinnamon flavour are something I can’t refuse. It’s a mystery why I hadn’t tried baking these sooner! The satisfaction of creating each gorgeous little bun, and perfect cinnamon swirl, is unsurpassed.

I’ve had my share of different cinnamon buns from all over the place and some are definitely better than others. A good friend of mine baked a batch last month and brought me a couple (I have the greatest friends!). I had to make them for myself, THEY WERE DELICIOUS, and so she sent me the recipe that she used. The original recipe is from The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, who has a wonderful blog, great recipes and a cookbook. I made a few slight changes and cut the recipe in half, because who could eat 50 cinnamon rolls!? I mean, I could…but I wouldn’t… :) Continue reading

Blog Awards & Feeling Thankful

I want to take a quick moment to express my sincere thanks to all of my friends and followers for taking the time to read my posts, try my recipes and share ideas. I have made some amazing friends through this blog! It is so wonderful how our love for food, flavours and life itself have brought us together!

This Hungry Kitten wouldn’t be the blog it is today if it weren’t for all the support and love I get from all of you! :)

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Here’s a little love back, from a heart-shaped Black Pearl oyster. Had to pinken it up a bit with red wine mignonette. :)

Continue reading

Homemade Chinese Fish Balls…The Way They Should Be Made

Fish balls are a staple in many Asian homes. In Hong Kong they are a popular street food. There are as many fish ball stands in Hong Kong as there are hot dog stands in North America. They can be eaten on their own, fried, boiled, with noodles, in curry, in hot pots, on skewers, barbecued or any way you can think of cooking them! All ways are delicious!

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As delicious as they are, it shocked me when I looked into what ingredients were used in most store-bought and restaurant-served fish balls. If you read my earlier fish ball post, you’ll recall all the details. If you missed it, you can check it out by clicking here. It also includes a recipe for a healthy alternative to the traditional Asian fish balls (crispy pan-fried fish balls).

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I’ve received a lot of comments and requests for me to post a recipe for homemade, traditional, Chinese fish balls. So, as I promised a few months ago, I did some research and tried it out on my own. Making your own fish balls, or fish paste, obviously takes more time and effort than opening a frozen package from the store, but it’s definitely worth the effort if you want your food fresh, preservative-free and without added fillers in the ingredients. Continue reading

Balsamic Reduction: Make It Fancy In Minutes!

Making balsamic reduction is one of the quickest ways I can think of to spruce up your cooking. A balsamic reduction is simply the process of boiling down balsamic vinegar. The result is a wonderful syrup that can be used in sweet and savoury dishes alike. Takes only minutes to make, and can be used in so many ways.  Make the transformation from regular home chef to culinary pro!

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A simple balsamic reduction adds elegance and a beautiful sweetness to leafy greens, and goes especially well with goat cheese and pistachios or other nuts. Dress up your salad with this classic dressing! It also pairs sensationally with tomato salads or strawberries in desserts. Can be used as a thicker topping for meats, fish and vegetables, or a thinner version can be used as a glaze for fish or roasts. So versatile! A simple balsamic reduction can add oomph to any dish that uses balsamic vinegar!

It adds an AMAZING touch to a simple Italian Caprese salad, which is what you will see here in my photos. I’ve also included the Caprese salad recipe in this post. :) Continue reading

A Classic Mignonette: An Oystergirl’s Best Friend

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but a girl like me would have to say that there are far better things in life than diamonds. For me, this list includes oysters. Some of the most beautiful things in the world come from the sea, a whole different world full of colours and life and secrets that will never be revealed to us. Oysters, to me, are the secrets of the ocean contained. Each beautiful shell unique and carrying the smell, the taste and the stories of the sea.

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If you don’t know by now, oysters are one of my favourite things in the world. They are not only a favourite food, they are an astoundingly complex and interesting species to study. I could spend days discussing my love for oysters and all the good they bring to this world. If you’d like to hear more about that, for the love of oysters, click here!

If you love eating these briny beauties as much as I do, you must know that going out to an oyster bar can start to get expensive. Shucking them yourself is lots of fun (if you know how) and a great money saver! I’ll seriously warn you though, please shuck carefully! You don’t want to hurt yourself! If you’re in Toronto (Ontario, Canada), I recommend contacting Oysterboy to do a shucking class! Lots to learn, and lots of fun!

Shucking your own oysters has lots of benefits! You save money, you can enjoy oysters in the comfort of your own home (or whatever environment you please) and you can impress friends and family at get togethers or family gatherings. Oysters are great for any occasion!

There’s nothing better than a freshly shucked oyster eaten as is, but I do like to play around with different flavours so I always have my go-to sauces and oyster-sidekicks available. Continue reading

Autumn Apple Maple French Toast

Fall is such a gorgeous season. The weather begins to cool and leaves begin to turn wondrous shades of red, orange and yellow. I wake to a crisp, still morning air and fall asleep under warm, toasty covers. Each deep autumn breath carries the faint aroma of hot apple cider and warm cinnamon. It’s a season of harvest, coziness and sweaters; a season of warm ovens and warmer hearts. Each day is full of rich colour and the smell of hot bubbling pies, freshly baked and ready to be devoured.

This is my first official fall post this year and a perfect time to share this amazing apple brunch creation I made yesterday. I went apple picking near Collingwood, Ontario last week with my family and brought back a half bushel of McIntosh and Cortland apples with me. I’ve been spending the past few days thinking of ways to use them all. The funniest part about this is that I am slightly allergic to apples so I don’t really eat them myself (once in a while, if I can’t resist).

The classic French toast I was going to make on a Saturday afternoon, became something so much more delicious…and pretty. I took a couple of my fresh-picked apples and made apple maple French toast. Sauteing apples in butter and maple syrup turns them into a sweet, warm, caramelized apple topping to spoon over vanilla cinnamon French toast. Continue reading