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Triumph of the Bun

Hallowe’en Mask

I am very excited right now! The dream of many years has come true. I have made steamed buns! Hurrah! Chinese cooking is something that has always fascinated me and there’s nothing I like better than heading down to T & T (a large chinese supermarket) or any little Chinese grocery or vegetable market and just browsing and trying new things. Somethings are successful (rich sheet rolls) and some are not (weird yam noodles that taste like solid water). When I was cooking professionally I wanted to work at a Chinese place, preferably a Buddhist one but there was always a language barrier that prevented me from doing so. I’ve wanted to learn about Chinese baking and dim sum but wasn’t sure how as the cooking classes I have been able to locate were taught in Cantonese. There’s always cookbooks but I was a bit intimidated to take on yeasted items  without actually seeing someone do it. (I guess I could look on the internet! Oh well) The point is, I made steamed buns.

Pre-Steamed Buns

What I really wanted twas to have a BBQ bun that was vegetarian. Store bought veggie steamed buns are great but the fillings can be a bit bland and even though I haven’t eaten them in years I remember the great flavour of the BBQ pork buns. So I used the steamed bun recipe from Saveur but did my own filling with the aim of recreating BBQ pork without the meat. I think I succeeded and I hope everyone agrees!

It’s Hallowe’en today so I figured I’d put up a photo of my pumpkin! Have a spooky day!

Haunted Graveyard Pumpkin




BBQ “Pork” Steamed Buns or Char Siu Bao


stand up mixer

bamboo steam baskets with lids (you could jerry rig something with a regular steamer but it’s easier with the bamboo ones)

parchment paper

The Bun (adapted from Saveur magazine)

3 1/2 C flour

1 t baking powder

1 t instant yeast

1 T sugar

2 T veg shortening, diced

-combine yeast with 1 1/4 C water (115  degrees) until foamy about 10 minutes

-make sure the water isn’t too hot (unlike what I did the first few times! Oops, I killed the yeast.)

-combine the dry ingredients in a standup mixer with a paddle attachment

-add the yeast and combine at low speed

-add the shortening one piece at a time

-i kept the speed at low-med for about five minutes until it forms a ball

-cover the bowl with saran wrap and let rise for two hours

Green Onions

The Filling

you can do this while the dough is rising

1/2 t Chinese 5 spice powder

1.5 T molasses

3 T brown sugar

20 oz canned tomato

1 T minced garlic

1 T minced ginger

2 green onions, diced

1 lb firm or extra firm tofu

4 king oyster mushrooms, small diced

2 t minced garlic

-combine the  first seven ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer on low heat for 45 min-1 hour

-puree in blender (be careful) add salt and pepper to taste

-saute the mushrooms and 2 t garlic for 3-4 min

-drain liquid from pan, add crumbled tofu

-saute 2-3 minutes

-add sauce and combine to throughly coat

-let the filling cool to room temp (I didn’t do this and it would have been a lot easier if I had)

Once the Dough Has Risen!

-turn out the dough and knead for 5 minutes

-divide the dough into 8 or 16 depending on how big you want your buns!

-shape into a ball and flatten a bit, place 1 1/5 T or 3-4 T depending on how big they are in the middle and pinch closed

-cut the parchment into little circles or squares and place bun seam side down on the paper, cut in a cross to let steam escape

-place in steamer, cover with lid

-put some water in a wok and get it steaming, put in steamer and cook 12-15 minutes until the buns are cooked and puffed





Autumn Flavours Must Be Obeyed

orange sesame dressing

I had big plans a couple of weeks  ago to post some fruity dressings and light summery salads. Unfortunately, the new school year has interfered a bit. After tromping across campus a few times, doing my readings and attempting to go to the gym, work and have a social life, my blogging has fallen a bit low on the priority scale. But I’m ready to dive back in. I finally had two days in a row off this week and am getting a chance to do  a little pleasure reading and writing.

I knew I wanted to do a salad for my next post but was feeling a little uninspired. I headed down to Whole Foods to fire up my brain and creative juices. I left empty-handed because everything was too expensive. I also noticed that it’s Fall! Berry prices have skyrocketed (duh) because they’re out of season. I journeyed across the street to a less esthetically pleasing but better priced grocery store and suddenly my idea of light, juicy flavours became one of robust, mellow and savoury ingredients. Pears, squash, yam, dark greens and grains but a little citrus to brighten it up and maybe some sesame to lend it an earthiness. Although sesame is often associated with Asian flavours I think it syncs well with orange veggies and starchy foods too. We have had an amazing August and September here in Vancity with lovely sunny weather almost every day. With risk of setting off the rain gods, I have to  say that it hasn’t rained in almost three weeks! That being said, I was getting a little tired of wearing shorts and skirts with bare legs every day. I was able to snug out in my new soft hoodie and jeans on my shopping trip and had a nice walk to boot.

I ended up grabbing some yams, garlic, spinach, quinoa, oranges and dried pears. Hopefully you will like the results. There are a few more steps than your average salad but I think it will be worth it.

Hearty Yam, Spnach and Quinoa Salad with Sesame Orange Dressing

Yield : 4 servings

Step 1 the yams

2 yams or 1 thanksgiving size big one, peeled, cut in to med chunks

2 oranges (just 1/4 for this step)  1/4 juiced

1 T orange zest

1 T sesame oil

1 T sesame seeds

salt and pepper

-preheat oven to 375

-toss ingredients together, lay in single layer on baking sheet

-bake 35 min

-small dice when cool

-this can be done the day before if you want just bring back to almost room temp when tossing the salad

Step 2 : the dressing

1 1/2 oranges, juiced

2 T sesame oil

1 t sesame seeds, toasted

1 t sugar

1 T orange zest, minced

1-2 dashes hot sauce

-whisk ingredients together

Step 3: the salad

the salad

1 C cooked quinoa

2-3 C washed spinach, cut if leaves are large

diced yams

4 slices dried pear, fine diced

-combine with dressing, toss and serve!

Summer, It’s “Bean” Fun!

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The Ferris Wheel

Sorry about the fail on posting some salad recipes last week; work and school preparations left me a little wiped out. Speaking of school, ewww! Although I am excited to get back to it I didn’t think my four month break would go by so fast. This summer has been pretty awesome and I expect it to stay warm through September. Do you hear me weather? (shakes fist at sky).

One summer event I try not to miss is the old PNE. There’s something about the permeating smell of fried foods and spun sugar mixed with farm animals and screaming children that I just can’t do without. It didn’t disappoint this year! I got to sit in Captain Kirk’s chair!!! His real chair from the original Star Trek!!! Sorry to let my nerd out but it was amazing!!! My boyfriend was even luckier because he actually got to meet Data and Troi from TNG (Star Trek The Next Generation for the non-nerds reading this). I am seething with jealousy but am thrilled for him!  But I digress, as summer winds down I wanted to think of some way to keep it happening food wise.

Classic Fair Fare! (sorry about the pun)

Mexican inspired dishes come to mind so I thought I’d share a super easy and quick recipe for some healthy and vegan dip!

Black Bean Chipotle Dip with Pita Chips

2 pita pockets

1 can black beans (540 ml) drained (reserve liquid) and rinsed

1 1/2 T chopped cilantro

2-3 T canned chipotle in adobo sauce

1/3 lemon wedge, juiced

1/2 t ground cumin

1/2 salt (plus more to sprinkle on chips)

oil (to drizzle or spray)

-plain greek style yogurt (optional)

-put oven on broil and cut the pitas into eighths, separating the pockets so you have 16 triangular chips for each pocket (I find it easiest to use kitchen scissors)

-lay in single layer on baking sheets

-drizzle oil or use oil spray on chips  and sprinkle with salt

-place under the broiler for 2-5 minutes, you will probably have to check them every 30 seconds or so after the first two minutes. The length of time will vary depending on your oven. Keep a close watch as these chips go from done to burnt quickly!

-combine all the ingredients plus 2 T of the reserved bean liquid in a bowl and blend with a hand blender or a food processor if you have one

-top with some plain yogurt (or not if you want to stay vegan) and some more cilantro and enjoy!

Hopefully these spicy summer flavours will help the warm days stay a little longer! You could also use this in a 7 layer dip for added yum. Or have a dip party with my yam dip and my guacamole!

Be a tourist!

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Granville Island Market

I guess the longer title for this post should read, be a tourist in your own city. Vancouver has  a lot to offer, great restaurants, beautiful beaches, hiking close by, farmers markets, awesome shopping and a young happening art scene. Vancity has a bunch of different neighbourhoods to explore and I am lucky enough to live with in walking distance of a bunch of different ones. One locally loved hot spot that is also a major tourist destination is Granville Island Market. Located under the Granville street bridge and jutting out into False Creek the market can be reached walking, biking, driving or even by water taxi. I can take the seawall for the scenic route or just head down to Granville for a more direct but noisier walk. I don’t go longer than a month without checking out the market. Exotic fruit? Check. Amazing florists? Check. Crazy cheese and deli selection? Check. Amazing bakeries and pastries? Oh yes and chocolate, wine, coffee, local crafts and in the summer months world class buskers and performers scattered around the market buildings.

Whenever my dad is in town, a trip to the market is a necessity. We gather bread, cheese (horseradish cheddar and St.Agur blue from Oyama,deli) marinated artichokes, humus (from Duso’s), olives, pate (for my dad) and a couple of giant lattes, nab a table and spread out our feast. Talk comes to a minimum as we concentrate on filling our faces. Although the summer crowds can be overwhelming, forge your way through and be prepared to get lost and disoriented by the overload of pyramids of fruit and glassed in displays of fresh pasta.

I went there yesterday with my mom and discovered a new store that has a wall of olive oil and vinegars infused with fruits and herbs, you take an empty bottle and fill it with what ever you like. As I’m typing this I just realized that I could mix the oil and vinegar right there, instant dressing. There was also a row of French fruit infused vinegars that I am going to have to indulge in. The apricot was an amazing saturated peachy orange colour, just dying to be made into a yum dressing. Anyway, I thought I would post some pics I’ve taken there in the past and put them up. I’ll be putting up some salad recipes next week!

Fruits and Veg

Exotic Blooms

Cheese Time!

Beets Etc

Terra Breads’ Apple and Rosemary Focaccia (pre-eating)

Organic Produce

Strawberry Fields Forever (or for a couple of hours)

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Happy Belated Canada Day! I hope everyone had a sensible and safe good time like the true Canadians they are! Unfortunately for those of us in Raincity (or its official name, Vancouver) the long weekend was mostly a bust weather wise.

a patriotic shot!

              It did clear up fpr a few hours on Sunday though, and out in Ladner where I was it cleared up quite nicely. My good friend Nicole had the idea to go strawberry picking months ago. and I was stoked that we managed to find a day where not only we could go but our significant others as well. Our schedules rarely mesh during the day so this was a real treat! By the time we got out to the farm, the sky was lightening and blue was replacing our now standard June grey skies. We had been picking once before but the strawberries were much bigger and more numerous this go around. I had my box filled pretty quickly. Picking fruit from the bush is so fun! It’s also hard work and I have new respect for professional pickers.              There were lots of people out and many cute kids sitting on wagons, picking berries and eating their efforts. They had a stand with fresh strawberry milkshakes, sundaes and smoothies. I had a sundae and it was one of the best decisions I made that day.

the source of the sundae

               After we had our fill of strawberries we moved on to the raspberry fields where we picked a couple of pounds. The raspberries were an incredible deal compared to the ones you see at the grocery store. After we finished our strawberry adventure we agreed to regroup in a couple of hours for a Canada day must: a barbeque! Veggie burgers ho! I made a pie that didn’t quite have enough time to set up although it tasted pretty good. I’m not going to share the recipe because I wasn’t too impressed it with it.I got it off epicurious which is usually great but the glaze called for too much liquid, blah, blah blah. Upshot, it didn’t really work. It looked nice though! I had planned on making preserves with most of the strawberries anyway. We had an awesome barbeque and many beers were enjoyed. I didn’t get around to dealing with the rest of the fruit until the next day after work.

Another good friend of mine, Christine, has always like to bug me about acting like an old lady mostly because of my propensity to use slang from fifty to a hundred years ago. I blame this on old movies, old books and a bit of an obsession with retro everything (also an antique dealer father). I mean, didn’t all children of the 80’s grow up reading Big Little books from the 1960’s and listening to tapes of old Sherlock Holmes radio shows? The other night while watching Murder She Wrote in a polka dot apron and making strawberry preserves I had to think Christine has a point. I had trouble locating a recipe for what I had in mind regarding the preserves. I wanted to keep the strawberries whole and just jar them but all the recipes I found were for more jam-like confections. Finally, I decided to just not crush the berries and follow the other instructions. I also added some vanilla. I ended up with four jars of berries and an extra one of just syrup.

syrup and strawberries

The berries are great with yogurt and I’m planning on putting them on ice cream and into milkshakes. They’re also good eaten out of the jar with a long spoon and a happy face! I’m going to use the syrup with some soda water to make a strawberry Italian soda! The summer weather appears to finally be here however and we will go back in a month or so to pick some blue berries that aren’t ready yet! I hope everyone had a great Canada Day and/or 4th of July!



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The first day of summer was officially yesterday and so far the weather is cooperating. I made some delish enchiladas a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to post the recipe but things got a litle hectic. Last week  I had to say goodbye to my little kitty friend, Xena. She has been my pal for almost eighteen years and I miss her a lot. Who will sneak attack me now? She is my avatar on wordpress so she will always be around but there is definitely a meow shaped hole in me right now. 

I didn’t take any pictures of the enchiladas unfortunately, partly because they didn’t last long and partly because enchiladas aren’t exactly the most photogenic food! So, here’s the recipe, it’s actually vegan but you could add cheese for the last 10-15 minutes of baking if you want. You could also top it with sour cream or plain greek yogurt or guacamole (which goes with everything as far as I’m concerned).


1 onion (small diced)

3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 habanero (minced) omit if you like less spice

1 lb firm tofu (crumbled)

3 C brown rice (cooked)

1 can (19 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (28 oz) crushed tomato

3 C tomato sauce

2 T ground cumin

1 T paprika

1 T brown sugar

salt and pepper

10 flour torillas

parchment paper, casserole dish, foil or a lid

-preheat oven to 400

-saute onion, garlic and habanero 2-3 minutes

-add crumbled tofu and 1/2 T cumin, salt and pepper

-continue sauteing 2-3 minutes until well mixed, set aside

-combine tofu mixture with cooked rice and black beans in a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper

-combine crushed tomato with sauce and remaining spices (I did this sauce on the fly and you may prefer using a canned enchilada sauce as the base, all I had on hand was spaghetti sauce so that’s what I used)

-place 1/2 C rice/tofu mixture on each tortilla and wrap, place wraps seam side down in parchemnt lined dish and pour sauce over. Make sure some sauce gets inbetween as well

-cover with foil and bake 45 minutes (if you’d like to add cheese, uncover and top for the last 10 minutes of baking)

Enjoy! This is a great way to introduce some brown rice into your diet if you don’t eat it much or are afraid the family or whoever might not like it. It’s also a good vegan meal, I guarantee no one will even notice the lack of dairy.

Evil Kenevil and Shakshuka

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Don’t worry if my title doesn’t make a lot of sense. All will be revealed. spring has finally sprung in Vancity and one’s thoughts turn to bike riding in the sunshine. My bike has been out of commssion for awhile and (get ready to be shocked) I didn’t have a helmet. It’s true, I’ve been risking brain and limb and a ticket by riding with a naked noggin for years. So I decided to fork out the bucks and get a helmet. Nowadays there are a lot of helmet options, unlike the alien-head only ones of my youth. I lucked out at the bike shop (where they fixed my tire and spokes and straightened my bars) and found a sweet Evil Keneivel style helmet in L/XL to fit my oversize bean.

Monty inspects the merchandise

Next up, dinner. I decided to make Shakshuka again. Shakshuka is a delicious Middle Eastern dish from Jerusalem that I made last year and got out of (what else?) Saveur magazine. I had most of the ingresients already becasue they are pretty basic and rode my bike to the store to grab the couple I didn’t have on hand. This dish is really versatile and could be served at any meal, breakfast, lunch or dinner. I chanegd it a bit from the first time I made it and it turned out awesome. It’s very filling and healthy and spicy!

Shakshuka (adapted from Saveur No.124)

1/2 T olive oil

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 small oniosn small diced

8 garlic gloves minced

1 habernero pepper* minced

1 1.2 T paprika

2 t cumin

salt and pepper to taste

6 organic eggs

-I specified organic eggs because not only are they superior in quality but the chickens are treated humanely. Unlike free-run or free-range, an organic label means the conditions are enforced and checked by the government and (in BC they can also have an SPCA certification that you can see on the carton). I prefer Rabbit River which are also local to my area) Okay, end of spiel.


-saute onions, garlic and habernero in olive oil (if you haven’t handled haberneros before: do not touch any part of your body after handling them and wash your hands)- you may need to put on the fan as the habernero can get into the air and make everyone in the vicinity start coughing

Pretty Pretty Peppers!

*haberneros are one of my favourite ways to add heat to dishes, if you haven’t had them before they are extremely spicy. Check out the Scoville Scale to see how they compare to other peppers. However, what I love about haberneros is not just the heat, they impart a real depth and flavour to dishes without the acidity that peppers like jalapeanos have. If you like spicy food you will want to add habeneros to your cooking repetoire. They are pretty cheap (although they are pricy by the pound they weigh next to nothing) the three I bough today cost around fifty cents and they freeze really well, just stick them in a bag. If you can’t find fresh, dried can be used but be warned…the dried are much much spicier, use sparingly until you know how hot they are.

-add the tomatoes plus about 1/3 can water to the onions

-simmer until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes (cover if you don’t want tomato splatter all over your stove)

-stir occasionally and add some salt and pepper

-crack the 6 eggs evely spaced apart into the simmering tomato sauce and cover

-let cook 5 minutes

-baste eggs with a little of the tomato sauce and cook 1 more minute (if you like runnier eggs reduce the cooking time)

-ladle into three bowls (2 eggs each) and serve with pita for dipping


Enjoy the yum! The original recipe also garnishes with parley and feta which would probalby be awesome as well. I am pretty sure my next project is going to be Chinese steamed buns which I have wanted to make forever. I just realized the bread book I got for Christmas has a recipe for them. I am so excited!!! I’ll be doing a vegetarian take on a BBQ pork filling so stay tuned!

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