Tong Sum Fun – Macaroni Pasta Soup (Recipe) & Turkey Leftovers

After having turkey this past weekend for our Easter dinner, we had plenty of leftovers. And with leftovers, comes an endless list of crafty ideas on what to do with those leftovers to ensure nothing gets wasted. Thus, comes Tong Sum Fun – also known as Macaroni Pasta Soup! With a hodgepodge of ingredients, this is simple to make and a great way to clear out the fridge. It’s similar to a chicken noodle soup, only this time it has a bunch of ingredients from our dinner (and then some). Tong sum fun is also what my mom made frequently for us growing up when we were sick. You know how it is, when one kid gets sick, the other gets sick and repeat.

Although you can honestly add almost anything into this type of dish, our standard was always a good soup broth and macaroni pasta with some sort of veggies and meat. Here’s the one we made with our leftovers from Easter dinner.

Ingredients:

Directions:

In a pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to the directions of the package and strain. Set aside. In a second pot, add chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Add all the remaining ingredients in and cook until they’re thoroughly heated. Add cooked and strained macaroni into a bowl and add the hot soup mix on top. Easy!

Of course, you could just make a salad with the leftovers as well. Here, I have a salad made with turkey, nuts, cucumber, tomato, peppers, egg, spinach, mixed greens, wakame salad and a few blocks of cheddar cheese for good measure. I personally hate adding salad dressing, but you could use something like Italian or a nice balsamic vinaigrette.

And then there’s an udon noodle stir fry with some onion, shrimp, cabbage, pepper and turkey.

There’s not much turkey left for this, but it’s there! Enjoy!

Easter Weekend

The chocolate egg and bunny hunts have begun and I’m sure many families are getting together this weekend to celebrate Easter weekend.

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Happy Easter!

Even though I wasn’t raised as a Christian, I celebrate it as a time to get together with family and friends. Plus, it’s an extra long weekend which I’m surely not going to complain about!

I had my family dinner yesterday. Although many families have succulent roasts or juicy hams, my family decided to have turkey. Why? Probably because it’s more versatile when it comes to leftovers – using the bones for soup, preparing the meat for salads and sandwiches or even stir fry dishes (I’ll post a recipe later on about what we did with some of our leftovers).

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Happy Hunting!

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, I’m wishing you a Happy Easter, an awesome long weekend and/or the best of luck in hunting down that discounted chocolate! Enjoy! 🙂

Sugar Shack – The Maple Syrup Festival

Canadian stereotypes:

  • We live in igloos
  • We live amongst polar bears
  • We love maple syrup

For me, two out of the three are false but the maple syrup one is correct! I say this because every year, multiple locations throughout Canada celebrate the maple syrup festival by going to a Sugar Shack, also known as La Cabane à Sucre in French.

It’s a tree tapping tradition where you can learn about the Canadian customs of maple syrup production and let me tell you, it takes a lot of time and effort to fill those bottles with 100% real syrup! 40 gallons of maple sap only creates 1 litre of syrup, to be exact!

To make this delicious syrup, the first thing they do is tap a bunch of maple trees by creating a small hole and inserting a nozzle. Rest assured, according to our guide, this process doesn’t harm the tree. In fact, it will heal on its own, like a minor boo boo. A bucket is then hung to catch the sap from the maple trees. Sap is created with the magic of photosynthesis – when sunlight creates energy and food for plants.

From here, there are two different ways to produce maple syrup. First, the old school pioneer way! Pioneer children were lucky. Most kids these days get one week for March break, but pioneer children get one month. However, this month is spent making maple syrup because the season is only 6-8 weeks long. If the temperature is too cold, the sap will freeze so the production of syrup each year is pretty time sensitive. Children help out by carrying buckets of sap on that wooden thingamajig attached to two buckets. It is then poured into cauldrons and boiled for hours. There are three different pots because each stage requires a certain type of monitoring. The syrup is created over time through heat and evaporation of the liquid sap to make it more concentrated.

When it’s done, it needs to be filtered. The pioneer way pours the sap into a simple bucket with cloth to get rid of the sediments, which is done several times.

The modern way is with big, fancy machines. It is boiled and stirred periodically before it goes into a big white container to be filtered into that clear, viscous liquid we all love.

The type of sap depends on the tree. It can range from clear to golden-brown, but the most common one we can find in most stores is amber syrup. It’s the good stuff you use to put on your pancakes and waffles! And real maple syrup contains 66% sugar which is measured using a refractometer. It can’t be less because it will go bad quickly (sugar acts as a preservative) and it can’t be more otherwise it will crystallize.

Some stores sell organic maple syrup, but do you know why it’s considered organic? Although everything comes from the maple tree, it’s the way it is processed. Boiling down the maple sap creates a foam which slows down the evaporation process. In non-organic maple syrup, a chemical defoamer is used. This is what renders the difference between organic and non-organic maple syrup.

Although it is interesting to learn about the history and making of maple syrup, it stirs up quite the appetite. The best part about visiting a sugar bush is visiting the sugar shack!

There are various treats that you can get at a sugar bush. Although it differs from place to place, you can get things such as maple cookies, maple chocolates or even maple taffy on a stick. At this particular location, they used ice to freeze the maple syrup. However, other places throw maple syrup on snow and peel it off to eat. Either way is delicious!

However, what I look forward to at a sugar bush is the pancakes with maple syrup! The pancakes are normally huge and pouring some beautiful maple syrup on top is the icing to the cake…pancake in this case. 🙂

Interestingly enough, maple trees aren’t the only trees that make syrup. You can also use birch trees, which require a ration of 80:1, just for drinking purposes. However, apparently it’s not that good. I’ll stick to the maple tree syrup which is apparently the only tree that produces a sweet flavour. And it’s my personal preference on pancakes and waffles. Yum!

 

A Chinese New Year Lunch

Yesterday was Chinese New Year and the beginning of the Year of the Rooster. Every year, my family gets together and makes our traditional New Year lunch. Sometimes we pan fry some white radish cake, but this year we went with a taro cake (also known as “wu tau go”) and Year Cake (leen go).

Similar to white radish cake (aka lo bat go), taro cake is steamed. It’s a cake, but by no means is it sweet. Rather, it is savory and has a starchy texture because of the taro chunks found inside. It also has some small dried shrimp and bits of Chinese sausage.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Chinese sausage, it’s also known as “lap cheung”. It’s nothing like the typical sausage you can throw on abarbecue. Rather, it’s small, thin and hard sausage with plenty of fat in it to give it flavour. It’s more sweet than salty, but it does have some soy sauce in it and other seasonings. These can be found at Asian grocery stores hanging on strings ready to be cut or in packages.

Then there’s something we traditionally have called Year Cake. A typical Year Cake is steamed with a date placed on top and sprinkled with sesame seeds. I haven’t tried her recipe, but Nena from Nena Baking Recipes shared a recipe for a more traditional version of Year Cake recently. However, the version I had this year was filled with walnuts. I was taken back a little bit by this because I’m not used to having that crunchiness, but I think that the butteriness and the flavor from the walnuts worked really well with the sweetness of the cake. Year Cake usually comes in round, tin containers at the store, but when we bring it home we slice it, dip it into an egg wash and pan fry them (like in the first picture above).

I can’t say for certain that everybody does this for their New Year lunch, but I can definitely say it’s what we do. Plus, I only get to eat Year Cake once a year! Gong Hey Fat Choi! 🙂

 

Chinese New Year – Year of the Rooster

Gung Hey Fat Choi! Happy Chinese New Year! It’s the year of the Rooster, so that means if you are 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, etc. (it’s a cycle of 12’s) then it’s your year!

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While I completely lack the power to make predictions, what I do know about Chinese New Year is food! With any big celebration, there’s always an abundance of feasts! Unfortunately, due to a family surgery that happened this week, we celebrated earlier at a restaurant as opposed to celebrating New Years Eve like we traditionally do (feasting on a spread of eight home cooked dishes – eight means fortune because of the way it phonetically sounds). However, there’s always the snacks! Pictured below are gok jai, candied walnuts, crisps, deep fried taro nests and (my favourite) taro chips!

Then there’s the snacks in our little special “togetherness” bowl, complete with a lid and spinning action. This year we have candies and an assortment of dried candied fruits. In the mix is dried lotus root, lotus seed, coconut and winter melon. It’s not random though, everything placed in these type of bowls have symbolic meaning. However, that doesn’t mean every household has the items in their tray. Other things that are commonly found in these bowls include nuts, seeds and even chocolate like Ferrero Rocher. Really, anything that is red or gold is considered a lucky thing.

Last year, I talked about gok jai and how they traditionally have those meticulously folded edges. Although I never did get a chance to ask my aunt to teach me this year, I did find some! Here’s what I’m used to seeing these deep fried goodies look like:

Happy New Year! May the New Year bring you prosperity, fortune and happiness! 🙂

Icewine Touring – Part Deux

On a long journey through the beautiful vineyards of Niagara Region, I had the pleasure of participating in the Niagara Icewine Festival. Yesterday’s posting was about the first half of the tour, so here’s the second part of our awesome adventure!

The pretty Konzelmann Estate Winery was the fifth place we went to on our list. They paired their Vidal icewine with a lobster bisque. The soup wasn’t what I expected because it was quite spicy and it wasn’t thick and creamy, which is what you would normally find in a typical lobster bisque. However, it did have the surprise kick factor. Plus, the vineyard was a cute castle-looking estate which was beautiful to look at.

Our next pit stop was at Stoney Ridge Estate Winery. Despite my previous posting with tips on a successful wine tour, I put this one in sixth place because of the way our route worked out. Bacon tends to be one of the big ticket items on wine tours and when it’s mixed in with macaroni and cheese, watch out! So, when we got to the winery it was actually no surprise that there weren’t any left. This was unfortunate because it was supposed to be an applewood smoked cheddar and double smoked bacon mac n’ cheese. Instead, we were served cheddar cheese from PEI and smoked gouda with a breadstick. It was paired with a white wine and although it wasn’t horrible, I can’t say it was one of my favourites (especially in comparison to the other places we tried).

The last place we went to was at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery. Being the last stop, there was no better way to end the tour than with dessert! Since the previous winery didn’t go as planned, this experience completely made up for it. They served a beautiful crĂšme brĂ»lĂ©e that was “burnt” right on the spot as we arrived. It isn’t your typical crĂšme brĂ»lĂ©e though because it was made with sweet potato and cardamom. Imagine that! Plus it was created by a restaurant that was featured on the Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here, so you know credit is deserved for this dish. The staff member mentioned that they had to brĂ»lĂ©e the custard lightly, but not too much so it would create a nice, nutty flavour that would pair well with their Vidal ice wine. The ice wine they served was delicious, with fruity hints of lemon, mandarin, mango and peach. I really enjoyed this pairing and it was a great way to finish our tour.

Despite my good intentions to finish the entire eight wineries I had planned, we had an unfortunate event in the morning that caused us to lose 2 1/2 hours for our tour. It was really upsetting, but at least we were able to do 7 of 8 (though I missed out on Kacaba’s Cabernet Franc Icewine and their Cajun lime buttered jumbo prawn with sweet potato wedges and topped with guacamole drizzle…). At the same time, one of the wineries double scanned our tickets without us knowing (I have my suspicions…it was the one that was drinking on the job but shall remain nameless…), so we wouldn’t have been able to go without paying extra (something to watch out for). In the event you would like to follow the route I took, here’s a map:

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The Niagara Icewine Festival is around this weekend and the following one, so if you get a chance to participate in this fun excursion, let me know what you think. 🙂

 

Icewine Touring – Niagara Icewine Festival Pt. 1

If you have never tried icewine, you’re missing out. It’s a sweet dessert wine that’s loved by many, so much that Canada hosts the Niagara Icewine Festival every year. Although I posted a small introduction to icewine previously, I recently learned that icewine is highly regulated. So much that it’s mandatory for an inspector to watch as grapes are harvested and processed at each vineyard. The grapes have to be frozen minimally at -8°C for 3 days and if it isn’t, there are heavy fines for making it illegally. It’s serious business!

I went to the Niagara Icewine Festival this past weekend and we had so much fun indulging in all the sugary goodness. Our tour began with Ravine Vineyard Estates Winery. They served a Cabernet Franc Icewine that was paired with confit duck tartlets filled with bleu Bénédictin cheese from Québec.

If you love blue cheese, you will definitely like this tart. It was filled with the rich and creamy flavours of the potent smelling cheese and some subtle flavours of duck. Although I’m not a huge fan of blue cheese, I enjoyed this tart. The only thing I found was the crispy pastry was a bit heavy and masked some of the delicateness of a tart, but it was not bad at all. Plus the icewine pairing was delicious! A good combination of sweet and savoury.

The next stop was at ChĂąteau des Charmes and they presented a salmon wellington with a dried apricot and chili preserve. The sweet salmon was wrapped in a soft pastry and had the tiniest kick of spice. The sweet apricot helped liven up the hor d’oeuvre and it was paired with a lovely Vidal Icewine. I really enjoyed this one!

Our third stop was at the famous Inniskillin Wines, which served chicken and waffles. Although I can’t really say I enjoyed the soggy waffle and long line up (though it moved relatively fast and that would explain why it was soggy), the well seasoned chicken was crispy and the icewine inspired hot sauce you can add to the dish enhanced the flavours. The Cabernet Franc Sparking Ice Wine that they served was probably one of the best icewines I have ever had! It had fruity hints of cherry, raspberry, rhubarb and strawberries and was well balanced with the acidity. Unfortunately, it came with a hefty price tag though it was on sale for $80, in comparison to the regular $120. I guess it’s all relative. When in Rome… 🙂

The fourth winery was at Pillitteri Estates Winery. They paired their barrel aged Reserve Vidal Icewine with a grilled cheese finger sandwich with braised duck, Bartlett pear and Cambazola cheese that was topped off with an onion-icewine infused jam. The bread was soft and the mix of ingredients created this tasty combination of saltiness from the cheese with sweetness from the caramelization of the onions and sauce. The cheese wasn’t melted, but it was still good. As for the icewine, I can’t say it was my favourite one on the tour but it wasn’t bad.

So now that I’ve gone through halfway through the tour, it’s time for a break! Up tomorrow, the remaining wineries and pairings and a map for anyone who would like to follow the route we took!

 

Ice Luges and Shooter Blocks

Ice sculptures are interesting. One day, someone just randomly decided “hmmm….I’m going to take this block of ice and shape it into something cool”. I know, that sounds very random but just stick with me. I’m going somewhere with this!

Down the road, someone else decided to go further with ice sculpting and created something called an ice luge or shooter block. The first time I came across one of these was at a wedding several years ago. Like a cartoon character, I could see question marks popping up all around me as I looked at the neat vessel with intrigue. I wish I had a picture of the shooter block I encountered several years ago, but fortunately I found one at the Niagara Icewine Gala. It’s only fitting, seeing as it is made of ice. 🙂

Simply put, ice luges and shooter blocks are made specifically for drinks to glide through the ice block. The outer layer can be carved with various designs, ranging from simple to intricate. For the inner tunnel, a drill can be used to create a hole in the ice and it can additionally have a tube run through it. Drinks are normally poured from the top so that it slides down on an angle to the bottom opening. Other than creating a cool (pun intended) spectacle, an ice luge/shooter block helps make drinks a bit colder. For icewine, a rubber tube was most likely used so that the dessert wine wouldn’t dilute.

Interestingly enough, some use ice luges for drinking games. When I went to that wedding several years ago, vodka was poured into the hole made straight out of ice. Although it ended up melting fast (it was a summer wedding, after all), you can imagine how much fun the guests had with it while it lasted. Until next time. 🙂

Dessert Heaven – The Niagara Icewine Gala

For anyone with a sweet tooth, the Niagara Icewine Gala would’ve seemed like a dream come true. There were more desserts than one could count! Even though they had some fancier versions of the standard desserts, there were a few interesting and unique ones I came across that I’d like to highlight. The first one is the foie gras patĂ© with cotton candy.

Yes, it was a strange combination to me too, but it was there. First, they placed some strange, hard, butter-like textured foie gras on a stick. Then, they spun the cotton candy around it. I can’t really say it enhanced the flavours because I was a little grossed out by the combination – it was interesting, but I can’t say it was a favourite.

The second dessert that was intriguing was the sweet, soft, lemon flavoured ducks. These stood out for several reasons – 1) they’re so cute in comparison to all the fancy looking desserts. 2) they placed the ducks on a neat little railway train, so they spun around in circles.

It was a very adorable display and the ducks had a very refreshing flavour. Although children weren’t allowed at this event, I’m sure it brought out the kid in many of us.

The third one was the liquid nitrogen popcorn. Although I don’t have a picture of this, just envision a single kernel of popped popcorn, placing it into your mouth, and being able to blow smoke from it. It created this slightly cold sensation and it was ever so light, as if it wasn’t even there. It was quite neat to try, though I can’t say where you would be able to find it to try for yourself!

The fourth one just looks visually intriguing. I have no clue what it is because I didn’t get a chance to try it. I can only assume it is some sort of tart with a fruity filling (perhaps strawberry?) with some edible silver foil on top.

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The next one isn’t unique in the realm of desserts, but these macaroons are different because they have shiny outer shells. They were oddly fascinating to look at since they resembled marble and the effects of the light in the room made them gleam (though the pictures don’t do it justice!).

The next several pictures are just for your interest, in case you wanted to see what other desserts were offered at the gala. I didn’t get to try a majority of them, but I can only assume they tasted delicious like many of the appetizers and hor d’oeuvres they served that night.

I believe these ones are similar to mini Ă©clairs.

Something dipped in a chocolate coating. Perhaps marshmallows?

This looks like some sort of matcha green tea cake. I really wish I tried this one. It looks so moist and delicious.

I’m going to guess these were custard tarts with strawberries and shavings of white chocolate.

These were rich, little chocolates with a beautiful sky blue hue.

Hope you enjoyed the dessert portion! Anybody craving dessert? 🙂

Bits and Bites – The 22nd Niagara Icewine Gala

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Niagara Icewine Gala. It was a 3-hour event with so much food that it was impossible to try everything. Regardless, it was a fabulous night feasting on so many different culinary bits and bites. Seeing as it was a cocktail party, it was quite difficult to balance a glass of wine, plate of food and a camera so I must apologize in advance for some of the fuzzy pictures. Plus the lighting wasn’t always the best there. However, I did the best I could and as promised, here are some pictures of the lovely dishes offered this year. 🙂

SautĂ©ed lobster in a coconut curried cream sauce – so succulent and juicy!

SautĂ©ed shrimp with ramen noodles in a chai tea saffron chimex – an interesting mĂ©lange of flavours!

Tandoori chicken skewers with mint coriander yogurt (raita) – one of the best things I had there!

 

I believe this was called saiyako salmon.

An assortment of sushi with eel, tuna, etc. – fresh and the table was endless!

Wasabi-soy mozzarella balls coated in a ginger icewine sauce – delicious!

An arancini ball made with white truffle risotto and black edible ash – full of earthy flavours and it was yummy!

Miso black cod with obealeaf kosho cream – a pretty little leaf designed appetizer with lots of flavour.

An assortment of lettuce wraps with duck and Peking duck wraps. There were also some wrapped in bao too (no photo).

Savor di Gamberi with almond and curry spiced sauce – mouthwatering, jumbo sized shrimp!

Tasmania trout on pumpernickel bread with a dollop of gin crĂšme fraĂźche – tasty!

A perfectly seared scallop, just the way I like it. 😉

Panko fried kaboucha squash with curry sugar – Fun on a stick!

Cauliflower steak with chipotle red pepper sauce and kale relish – cute layout!

Clearly, there were a lot of talented chefs involved in this event. It was a hefty price to pay to go to this black tie gala, but it was a wonderful experience. There were also some other offerings, like the raclette and Italian cheese station, an oyster bar with malpeques, rack of lamb, etc., but there were just too many options to be able to go through in such a short period. Plus, there was an array of desserts and wine too, which I will try to share shortly! 🙂