Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vietnamese Meatball Lollipops with Dipping Sauce

Tis the season for parties galore... and appetizers, don't forget the appetizers. I've been scrambling for some good recipes and some of my latest attempts have been bombs. Luckily, this one wasn't. If you're taking this to a party, I'd lighten up on the oven time, so when you reheat the meatballs on site, they aren't too dry. I'm keen to try this with ground pork next time, but the beef was delicious.


Serves 4-6


For the meatballs

  • 1 1/4 lb of lean ground beef (turkey or pork will do too)
  • 1/4 cup of chopped water chestnuts from an 8oz can
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 1/2 t ground pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

For the sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soya sauce
  • 2 T packed brown sugar
  • 2 T chopped fresh chives
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper


Heat oven to 400F. Line cookie sheet with foil.

In a large bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients until well combined. Shape the meat into one inch balls and place about an inch apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the balls over halfway through the cooking time. The meat should read 165F in its centre when done.

In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Heat the pan on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.

Insert the bamboo skewers into the balls, place on a plate and serve with the warm dipping sauce. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifles

There appears to be a pattern developing over my choice of desserts for this food blog. For one, I dig cream cheese and over the life of this Eat, Belch, Fart adventure, have been putting it into all variations of dessert. Second, I get a kick out of puddings and custards. I like their texture and simplicity and maybe the fact that I can fit it in a cup. Here is yet another pudding concoction that is worth a try. If you like sweetness in moderation, I would put in half to two thirds of the sugar into the pumpkin, cream cheese mix and add more to suit your taste. This a lazy man's pumpkin cheesecake, or depending on your perspective, a clever man's pumpkin cheesecake. 

Adapted from:

Serves 4


  • 2/3 cup of graham wafer crumbs
  • 1 T, melted unsalted butter
  • 1 8oz brick of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup of canned pumpkin
  • 750 ml of whipped cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 ground cloves
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ginger


Combine the melted butter and graham wafer crumbs in a bowl. 

Whip the cream in another bowl until stiff peaks form. 

Using a standing mixer, blend the cream cheese until smooth. Add the pumpkin until well incorporated and follow with the vanilla and spices. When well blended, fold in half of the whipping cream.  

Assemble the dessert by adding a few spoonfuls of the graham wafer crumbs to the bottom of your serving cups or bowls. Next, add a few spoonfuls of the pumpkin mix and follow with a few dollops of whipped cream. Repeat and top with whipped cream.

Kale Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

Had a memorable dinner at a nearby neighbourhood restaurant called Belgravia Hub last weekend and it inspired me to recreate a kale, bacon and egg salad I had as a starter. Bacon and eggs in a salad? Woohoo! In fact there was very little else in that salad, but perhaps its' simplicity is why I enjoyed it so much. A mustard infused vinaigrette and soft-yolked egg bring this dish to life. It also makes me wonder how I'll ever eat a salad without bacon and eggs in it again.

Adapted from:

Serves 6-8


  • 1 bunch of green kale
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Eggs (1 per serving if desired) 
  • 6 slices of bacon and reserved bacon fat
  • 2 T minced shallots
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 t packed brown sugar
  • 2 t grainy Dijon mustard


Wash and tear the kale from their spines. Gather the leaves on a chopping board and cut them into thin strips. Toss the kale with the pumpkin seeds and red onion and set aside.

Cook the bacon to your desired texture and reserve the bacon fat. Chop the bacon into bite-sized pieces and add it to the salad. Using the same pan on medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of the fat (supplement with olive oil if you do not have enough) with the shallots, caramelizing them over the course of about 8 minutes. Whisk in the vinegar, brown sugar and mustard until blended. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Toss the dressing in stages in with the salad to meet your desired dressing coverage.

Using the same pan with a little of the bacon fat to coat, crack as many eggs into the pan as servings intended for the salad, frying it to the consistency of your preference. I like my yolk soft, so when it breaks in the salad, it oozes into the kale, adding another dimension to the flavour. Serve individual portions of the salad, adding an egg on top of each serving.  Topping the salad with parmesan wouldn't be a bad idea either!

Beef Tenderloin with Cabernet Shallot Sauce

One way or another, I was having a nice piece of beef this weekend. The question was whether to make it myself or have someone make it for me. With a bottle of red waiting to be opened and the ingredients for a kale salad with bacon vinaigrette on hand, I shuffled out to find beef tenderloin. The results were divine. 

Like with pork tenderloin, the best advice I've seen with respect to cooking a lean piece of meat is to sear it first before roasting. This seals in the juices and keeps the meat moist. I boiled a few baby potatoes as a side, but if you're using fresh thyme in this recipe, as per the instructions, roasting the potatoes with the rest of your thyme and some other seasonings would be a better way to accompany the beef.  The kale salad recipe will follow shortly and is definitely worth pairing with this or another nice roast, if beef tenderloin isn't your thing or is out of your budget. 


Adapted From:

Makes 4-6 servings


For the beef

  • 2 lbs beef tenderloin (try a roast format vs. a steak one)
  • 1 T black peppercorns, roughly crushed (I used a mortar and pestle to get this effect)
  • 1/2 sea salt
  • 1 T olive oil

For the sauce
  • 1/8 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 t fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1/8 cup brandy
  • 1 T corn starch


Preheat the oven to 375F. Combine the salt and pepper and spread the seasoning on a flat surface. Roll the tenderloin in the salt and pepper mixture to cover it evenly. Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Sear the beef in the pan on all sides. 

Once seared, place the beef in a shallow roasting pan, uncovered. Roast for approximately 40 minutes, checking periodically to ensure you are not overcooking the roast. A rare piece of tenderloin should read 140F in the centre. 

For the sauce, sauté the shallots in half of the butter until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the sugar, thyme, bay leaf and garlic and continue to sauté until the shallots have caramelized, about 6 minutes.

Add the stock, wine and brandy and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes in order to reduce the sauce by half. Whisk the cornstarch in a tablespoon of water and add it to the sauce, stirring it until completely incorporated. Add the roasting pan's juices. Bring the sauce to a boil and whisk in the remaining butter. Serve with the beef.