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

Indonesian Chicken Soup For The Mind, Body and Soul

We all have our bad days. Days where you have too many questions and not enough answers. Days when your mind feels full and empty at the same time. Days when you’re sick, tired, or both. Sometimes we need a moment to see the light; something to intervene our thoughts. A great intervention: chicken soup. Soup is an amazing answer to any question, no matter how big or small. It can be an equally good addition to a good day, cold day, lazy day or busy day all the same. Soup clears your mind, fills your insides, warms your heart and brings a smile to your face.

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“Anyone who tells a lie has not a pure heart, and cannot make a good soup.”
~ Ludwig van Beethoven

It may be my Asian upbringing, but there is nothing better than a hot bowl of noodles and soup. The breakfast, lunch or dinner of champions! The best soup noodles are homemade. You take the time to make a delicious broth and the rest comes easily. The noodles take no time at all, and you can quickly add simple toppings. I make batches of broths to freeze. That way, there’s always a bowl of hot noodle soup waiting to be made in a flash. Continue reading

Rolo Chocolate Pretzel Sammies. You’re welcome.

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This post is going to be short and SWEET.

I don’t eat sweets very often, but I know a yummy treat when I see one, smell one or wolf down a serving meant for ten people without even noticing. I’ve never been a huge fan of chocolate covered pretzels. The ones I’ve had always seem dry, and stale, and boring. BUTTT, these little Rolo pretzel sandwiches are the complete opposite. They create the perfect salty-sweet balance and the caramel Rolo centres add a beautiful sticky sweetness to them. The best chocolate pretzels I’ve ever had! Continue reading

Oyster Fest Niagara!

We took a little drive down to Niagara on Sunday for Oyster Fest Niagara! The event started at two, but we couldn’t make it until later on. I would have liked to have seen the shucking competition. 😦 After a bit less than an hour of driving in the GORGEOUS weather, we finally arrived at Dillon’s Small Batch Distillery in Beamsville, Ontario. Stepping out of the car onto a gravel road and taking a big breath of way-fresher-than-Toronto air instantly put a smile on my face. The sun was shining and, even though my hair was all tangled from the drive (windows down, sunroof open), I was happy.

But of course I got even happier after taking a few steps closer. With a plate of freshly shucked oysters in one hand, and a spicy caesar in the other, I stood taking in the sights and sounds around me. Talking, laughing, slurping, munching, drinking and dancing to the sound of the funkiest funk.

When I found out about the oyster festival, I got a little (a lot) excited. Continue reading

Ceili Cottage: My Kind Of Pub

I think I’ve fallen in love again…with Ceili Cottage. It’s my favourite pub in the city, located in Leslieville on Queen Street. Actually, it’s the only pub I’ve ever loved. This Irish local, owned by world champion oyster shucker Patrick McMurray (also the owner of Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill), exudes Irish authenticity, from the food, to the drinks, to the decor, to the live music. I love restaurants with personality. If you take the time to look around inside, you’ll start to notice all the little details. Almost everything in this place has something to do with oysters or Celtic culture, including photos, awards, shucking tools, books, and boardgames. The building, once an old garage , consists of two rooms: the cottage room and the bar room. The patio out front is also REALLY GREAT (with oyster shells embedded into the concrete floor). Definitely a good summertime spot to visit if you’re looking to enjoy good food, drinks, and the gorgeous Toronto weather. They’ve got a great selection of beers to choose from…it wouldn’t be a good pub without good beer, right? They have twelve taps offering a mixed selection of beers from Ireland, Ontario, and Quebec.

“Ceili (pronounced Kay-lee) is an Irish word for a social get-together of music and dance. With that come the food and drink. Our “Irish Local” is a place for friends and families in the neighbourhood to convene for conversation and good “craic” (Irish for good fun).”
I took that bit from the Ceili Cottage website, because I thought it was pretty wonderful. You can find a full menu and more info by clicking on the link.

They serve amazing oysters, which is another reason I absolutely love this place (you must know by now that I’m an oyster lover). Their selection usually includes an oyster from the east coast and Clarenbridge Bay oysters from Ireland. I don’t get the chance to eat Irish oysters very often so this excites me. If you’re an oyster lover, this is your kind of pub.

If you’re lucky you’ll walk in on a flute and fiddle session, which adds some wonderfully lively Irish folk-sound to the experience. Continue reading

Pizza Done Right At Falasca SPQR, An Authentic Roman-Style Pizzeria

I have finally found the best pizza in the city! Falasca SPQR serves some of the most authentic pizza I’ve ever had. This pizzeria specializes in their award-winning (world and Italian competitions) traditional Roman-style pizza. The crust is perfection. Chef Falasca clearly knows the secret to making delicious pizza dough. The golden pizza crusts are thin, but not too thin (about a centimetre thick) and crispy, but not too crispy. (Perfection). You hear the crunch when you bite into your slice, and then you smile as you swallow it.

SPQR stands for Specialita Pizza Quadrata Rotonda, which in Italian means specialty pizza square and round. (Don’t worry, I was a bit stumped too when I first tried to figure out what the four letters stood for.) The square pizzas are served at lunch al taglio (meaning that it is sold by weight). I walked in for the first time on a Thursday afternoon right after the lunch rush, I’ve heard the place gets pretty busy. They have different rectangular pizzas to choose from. Continue reading

All You Need Is Love…And Taco Nights.

Nothing cures a…well, ANYTHING…better than a taco night! If you’re looking for an easy, quick and fun meal, tacos are a great idea. Meat (or meat alternative), shells, toppings, DONE! They’re quick to make and probably even quicker to eat, if you get as hungry and excited as I do.

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Taco nights have always been a guilty pleasure of mine…until I started realizing there was no reason for me to feel guilty. I had the idea, for years, that tacos were unhealthy. Totally not the case! What is a concern is the trans-fats that some store-bought taco shells contain. Many are made using hydrogenated soybean oil. There are ways around this! Some brands are better than others, check out the labels at your grocery store or try visiting your local health food store or organic grocery aisle for healthier options. You can even use soft tortillas or wraps. Continue reading