This is not how it was supposed to happen

This nightmare of a pandemic is not how it was supposed to happen.

For years. YEARS! I’ve had the dream of seeing a swing towards home cooking. A movement where we’d see people learn about food, try new recipes, build their cooking skills, try new ingredients, cook from their pantries, grow their own food, build community through sharing recipes, bake bread.

I wanted to see a grassroots, ground up movement. One where food literacy was built into our children’s school curricula. One where people in the community gathered to garden and cook and most importantly, sit down and share food together.

It took a pandemic for this to happen.

I am excited to see how people are cooking and learning about food. I’m inspired by the potential that this interest in food and cooking holds. But I’m also saddened to know that this movement happened because we’re all in a crisis.

We will keep each other safe by keeping ourselves apart. We’ll cook and nourish our bodies and souls. We’ll get through this.


Cooking in the Time of Corona

Well hello. From home. Here in Vancouver.

Welcome to the next wave of posts: Cooking in the Time of Corona.

It’s been almost 5 years since my last post and like many (former) bloggers, I am resurrecting my blog.

Since folks are staying home and cooking, there hasn’t been a better time to write and share about my love of all things food again.

So welcome back. Keep safe. I hope to see you soon.

Pan-fried chicken: it’s going to be OK

At the time, people tell you it’s going to be OK, that it’s going to be better. But you can’t hear it. Deep down, you know it’s true but you can’t find it in you to believe.

It’s been almost two years since my dad died. And yes, it’s true. It’s been OK. Everything is fine. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve focused on that light on the horizon and headed straight for it and I’m there. And you know what? It’s more than OK.

We’re at a point where we can reminisce about Dad and laugh and celebrate what he has left us. We can recount stories he’s told us and chuckle about his iconic ways. We’re carrying on with our lives, knowing that this is exactly what he would’ve wanted.

One thing I couldn’t anticipate is how our 11 year old would process and adjust to his grandfather’s death. He’s turned out to be a resilient old soul and he’s internalized the essence of his Goong Goong. He ruminates about Dad’s stories and lives by his principles. Lately, he’s been talking about things Dad used to cook for him. He recalls dishes with gusto and surprisingly, he describes ingredients and methods, one of which is this pan-fried chicken. I had no idea that Dad made this for him, nor had I any idea that the boy watched and learned and now remembers.

It’s curious what makes things OK. This is one of them.


Pan-fried Chicken (aka GGFC)

If you don’t have a cast iron pan, you can still make this: brown the chicken in a heavy skillet, then transfer to a baking pan to cook through in the oven.

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (1/4 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano (1/4 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram (1/4 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Cooking fat (canola or grapeseed oil, coconut oil, bacon fat, lard)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a small bowl, combine salt, paprika, thyme, oregano, marjoram, garlic and onion powders and pepper.
Season chicken thighs (get under the skin!) with about half of the seasoning.
Place the flour in a shallow dish like a pie plate and stir in the remaining seasoning. Lightly coat the chicken thighs in the flour mixture. If you like crunchier chicken, coat the chicken, let sit for a few minutes then coat again before frying.
Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add cooking fat so it just coats the bottom of the pan, then add another good glug or dollop.
Place the chicken thighs skin side down and let brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Move the thighs around a bit so they brown evenly. Turn thighs over and brown, another 5 to 7 minutes.
Carefully transfer pan into oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until thighs are cooked through.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Les Scourtins aux Olives

I’m definitely in the salty camp. Chips over cookies any day. Nuts before chocolate. Cheese plate instead of dessert. Salt reigns over sugar on my palate.

I also can’t resist a good salty-sweet combination. Salted caramel. Aged cheddar with apple pie. Prosciutto and melon. That, in part, is due to my upbringing on Cantonese cuisine where there are plenty of dishes with a good dose of sweetness to counterpoint salty, savoury flavours. At dim sum, we didn’t wait to eat our egg tarts for dessert. We ate them between bites of siu mai and chicken feet.

Saveur recently posted a list of 5 unsung pastries in NY. One of them piqued my savoury-sweet interest: a cured olive cookie from Abraço. Since I don’t have the good fortune of flying out to NY to sample them myself, I had to make them. I adapted this recipe for scourtins from 101 Cookbooks. I substituted about a 1/4 of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour and subbed about 1/4 of the icing sugar with granulated sugar for a more rustic cookie. I also rolled them extra thin for extra crispness and sprinkled them with panela and a wee bit of fine sea salt.

Les scourtins aux olives

Les scourtins aux olives

Salty, sweet, umami, crispy, crunchy and just a little chew. These are begging for nice rosé on the patio for happy hour. Maybe next weekend.


Today is the 2nd anniversary of my mum-in-law’s death. It’s kind of hard to believe that Sofia, lovingly known as Lola to just about everyone, stopped walking this earth 2 years ago. We all miss her and miss her funny Lolaisms, her thoughtfulness and her pride in her 3 amazing children and 6 grandchildren.

One of her favourite Lolaisms was “LG!! Life’s good!!” And indeed it is, Lola. It is.

Chicken Back and Celery Rice

With the recent 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, I’ve been thinking a lot about immigration: the stories of how people get around. How we face moving as a choice or as a last resort and how communities can or cannot embrace newcomers.

I was a very young child when Saigon fell to north Vietnamese forces on April 30, 1975. I finally became more aware of Vietnamese refugee movement later in my childhood. At the time, my family belonged to the congregation of a Chinese Catholic church. The church, like many others of the time, began to sponsor Vietnamese families fleeing from Vietnam. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I can only recall two things that made any impact on my life: new choir members and crunchy, piping hot Vietnamese spring rolls sold at the annual church bazaar. If this was what welcoming newcomers was about, I was all for it!

I’ve been reading posts by Andrea Nguyen over at Viet World Kitchen and her family’s experiences as refugees from Vietnam early in the fall of Saigon. I was moved by her and many others’ families’ courage to leave everything behind and start anew without knowing what to expect. And I was also moved by the people who received them with open arms.

Although the experiences were daunting and emotional beyond what I could ever imagine, Andrea writes from a place of gratitude and “looking back to move forward.” She marvels at how she and many with similar experiences have made it in the world. And she’s grateful. I’m grateful she and so many others of Vietnamese heritage were given the opportunity to make a new life and share their talents with the rest of us.

Now I reflect on our current tight world immigration policies and wonder what kinds of talented people and their stories we’re shutting out.17386634181_fa694b9c6f_z

Here is Andrea’s recipe for chicken back and celery rice. Something about this recipe really struck a chord with me. Not only did it sound absolutely delicious, it reminded me of my Grandma who also lived through a lot of uncertainty raising two kids as a young widow.

Lucky Dip Produce Project: Week 1

Last Saturday we picked up our first Cropthorne Farm CSA share at the opening of this season’s Winter Market. What did we get?

  • multicoloured carrots
  • a massive (3 lb. 8 oz./1.6 kg!!) kohlrabi
  • shallots
  • sugar loaf radicchio
  • rainbow chard
  • chioggia beets
  • fennel

And because we are total impulse market shoppers, we also purchased some other goodies:

  • parsnips
  • Brussels sprouts on the stem
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • butternut squash
  • mixed coloured potatoes
  • more carrots
  • mixed apples
  • pears
  • quinces
  • honey

Cropthorne Winter 2014 Week 1That’s a whole lotta veggies! I’m excited to get cooking!

Lucky Dip Produce Project

It’s been a long time since I’ve been here and it has only solidified the fact that I just don’t have writing stick-to-it. I’ve seen myself notoriously start and stop on far too many of these kind of projects. It seems that if I don’t have a reason to blog, I just won’t.

Not only am I notorious for dropping the blogging ball, I’m embarrassed to say that I am also notorious for letting produce sit in the fridge and rot. I will buy, pick or receive vegetables, lose track of them and when I dig them out of the depths of the fridge, they’re too far gone to salvage and eat.

So this poses a challenge for the next while. We have signed up for a weekly winter CSA through Cropthorne Farm in Delta, BC. We participated in the farm’s CSA’s last winter and summer and we split the share so we received produce every other week. This season we’re taking on the whole share and we’ll be receiving a lucky dip of produce every week for 8 weeks. This is going to be quite the commitment because it’s a substantial amount of veggies and we usually end up buying others that are appealing.

So I’m going to tackle these two notorious traits (haha…I’m notorious for many more things, but here’s not the place to discuss them): I’m going to embark on an 8-week project where I’ll write about our winter CSA adventures. I’ll include what we receive, what I’ve done with the produce, recipes, impressions and hopefully, many other tasty morsels.

What am I trying to get out of this? I hope that the Lucky Dip Produce Project will inspire me to:

  • use up all my produce before it goes bad
  • share new and interesting recipes and resources
  • commit to blogging for 8 weeks

I’ll also get to expand my repertoire of vegetable cookery, have a dialogue with you about eating seasonally, eat more vegetables and feel good about decreasing wastage. And if I should get myself motivated to blog on a regular basis on the long term, I will be the more pleased.

That sounds like a delicious reason to blog.






Reverence and pork pies

It had already been a long and grueling day. Saying our final good-byes to Dad in a drawn out morning of prayers and mass, supporting Mom among the many mourners and hosting the post-funeral luncheon. The long drive to the Catholic cemetery and the promise of being outdoors didn’t seem so bad.

It was a beautiful Fall day, not something you’d expect in late November. The clouds were high and the sun poked through just enough to take the chilly edge off our shoulders. Not a drop of rain.

We arrived at the cemetery, rested. We had had some much needed time to ourselves away from people and attention. When we stepped outside again I could sense a renewed energy and hope that the day was finally drawing to a close.

For a nine year old, this kind of day can be excruciating. Having to follow the unfamiliar “stand up, sit down, bow, kneel, genuflect” of churchgoing is daunting. And to be patted on the head, hugged and touched by throngs of strangers, even more so. But the boy was a trooper and behaved well beyond his tender years. Perhaps because his mother had struck a deal with him.

I had packed provisions for the day: water, fruit, crackers, cheese and the ultimate treat–melton mowbray pork pies. Our deal was that when our business at the cemetery was done, the boy would get to snack on a piece of coveted pork pie.

So after Dad’s casket was lowered and we bowed three times in reverence, the boy gleefully ran off to retrieve his pork pie reward.

The mourners began to drift away from the graveside when one of Dad’s closest church friends reined us in again for one final round of bows. I craned my neck and looked around for the boy. I waved and motioned for him to come back and he came scurrying just in time for the traditional three bows. First bow. Second bow. Third bow. And there stood the boy, clutching in each fist a massive chunk of pork pie.

13656705095_8db613fbb5_zWe couldn’t help but laugh and know that Dad was laughing with us. One piece of pork pie for him and one for the boy. All in great reverence.

Pistachio Apricot Teacakes

Pistachio Apricot TeacakesOnce upon a time, there lived a Holiday Cookie Queen. Every holiday season she would select 8 or 10 different cookie recipes and bake dozens upon dozens of each to festively package and give to the townsfolk. Seeing how joyful the townsfolk were to receive these holiday treats, she and her trusted friend, the Duchess of Cookie, decided to share the cookie joy all year long and they made and sold cookie dough for the masses to take home and bake for themselves.

As the years passed, the Holiday Cookie Queen gradually ran out of her magical cookie touch. She had instilled her love of cookies in the many, many folks who enjoyed baking her cookie dough. She had simply given away all her cookie zen. She could bake not a single cookie.

Time passed and the Holiday Cookie Queen ever so slowly regained her cookie baking energy and zeal. She baked a few dozen here and there. She sampled the cookie delights of others and found great inspiration. Finally she began to bake holiday cookies again and found renewed joy in sharing them with her closest kinfolk.

The holidays have come and gone and the Holiday Cookie Queen is now resting up. And baking pies. She did, however, leave me with the recipe for her favourite cookie of the season, pistachio apricot teacakes. She wanted me to let you know that these would be delightful to share with your closest kinfolk any time of the year.

Pistachio Apricot Teacakes

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shelled raw, unsalted pistachios, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, minced
Additional icing sugar

In a large bowl, cream butter and icing sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well.
Meanwhile, sift together flour, cardamom and salt in a medium bowl.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until all the flour is incorporated.
Stir in pistachios and apricots.
Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough and form into balls. Place one-inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake at 300 degrees F for 18 to 20 minutes until the cookies feel firm and just begin to take on some colour.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets. Roll in extra icing sugar then place on cooling racks and cool completely.
Store between sheets of waxed or parchment paper in airtight container. Roll again in icing sugar just before serving, if desired.

Makes 3 dozen