Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Happy Chinese New Year of the Ox / Bourbon Chicken


Kung Hei Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!

Friday is the start of the Year of the Ox.
Think of it as a second chance to make - and KEEP - New Year's resolutions!
The festivities last until the full moon rises, about two weeks from now.
Your behaviour on New Year’s Day sets the tone for the year.
No pressure.

There are many traditions observed over the New Year period:
    •    Decorate your house with apricot and peach blossoms,
                 symbols of new beginnings.
    •    For happiness and wealth eat persimmons.
    •    Do not cut your hair or use sharp knives or scissors on New Year’s Day
                 as you may cut off good fortune.
    •    Wear red to scare away evil spirits and bad fortune.
    •    Give red envelopes to friends and family for good luck and prosperity.

There are also food traditions and meanings:
Traditional dishes are steamed rice pudding, long noodles, and dumplings
Uncut noodles is a symbol of longevity
Fish and chicken are symbols of prosperity
Oranges and tangerines will give you luck, wealth, good health, and a long life

Many people avoid meat on the first day to bring good luck in the New Year.
Day seven is the birthday of human beings. Long noodles (for longevity) and raw fish (for success) are traditionally eaten on that day.
On the 13th day, people eat rice congee and mustard greens to settle their stomachs.
The 14th day is spent getting ready for the Lantern Festival and eating leftovers.

Covid-19 has brought changes to our lives over the past year.
One of the simple pleasures of being a senior is going to a mall for a bit of mall walking, doing some shopping, maybe seeing a movie and enjoying a meal at the food court.
I believe that food courts are so much better than restaurants.
We don’t have to choose a particular type of food, but can enjoy Chinese and Italian food at the same time.
Does it get any better than that!

Our local mall has a Chinese outlet next to a Cajun one, and they seem to be operated by the same family, whose members could often be found cheerfully handing out samples of Bourbon Chicken in pre-Covid times.
It is actually a Cajun dish named after Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Whatever… it’s delicious and easy, so we can enjoy it, even during the pandemic.


Don’t have boneless, skinless chicken breasts? This recipe also works with pork.

If you want more of a kick, add more bourbon.

If you want a thicker sauce, double the cornstarch water mixture.

This recipe makes enough for two, but it’s easy to increase if you're feeding the family.
Don’t worry about the kiddies - the alcohol burns off.
If you’re cooking for more than two people fry the chicken in batches and remove the fried pieces to a bowl. If the chicken is crowded it won't brown as nicely.
Return the browned chicken to the pan before adding the sauce.

                        Bourbon Chicken

Cut into 1-inch cubes
two chicken breasts (about 10 ounces)

Place in a small bowl
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon bourbon

Place in a large skillet
1 tablespoon canola oil
Heat and add the chicken.
Sauté until fully cooked and browned.
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the bourbon sauce to the chicken and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

While the chicken is simmering, place in a small bowl
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
Stir together and slowly add the mixture to the sauce.
Stir frequently until it thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Garnish with
sesame seeds and chopped green onions, if desired

Serve immediately with rice or pasta and vegetables.

If you’d rather not cut the chicken, here’s an easy variation that feeds four.

                        Bourbon Chicken

Place in a large skillet
3 tablespoons oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
Remove garlic and onion from skillet with a slotted spoon.
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Brown on both sides.
2 tablespoons chicken stock
2 tablespoons bourbon
salt and pepper to taste
the fried garlic and onion
Stir all together.
Cover and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes, until the chicken juices run clear.

Garnish with
sesame seeds and chopped green onions, if desired

Serve immediately with rice or pasta and vegetables.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Anna Sultana’s Dark Chocolate Cheesecake and Impossible Brownie Pie

Oh, my… tomorrow it will be February!
And in two weeks it will be Valentine’s Day.

Don’t panic... just plan a menu.

February first is National Dark Chocolate Day.
It’s a sign!
It’s still a stressful time, so why not make a cheesecake, preferably a chocolate cheesecake.
Chocolate may not be a scientifically backed aphrodisiac, but it is a traditional favourite.

Gotta love tradition!

We still have to get through another two weeks.
Impossible Brownie Pie is easy to make for supper.

Stay safe and well, everyone!


Not a fan of dark chocolate?
You can substitute sweet or semi-sweet cooking chocolate or chocolate chips.

About the Dark Chocolate Cheesecake…
Due to the high moisture content of this cheesecake, you don’t need to bake it in a water bath to prevent cracks from appearing.

When cutting a cheesecake, clean your knife after each slice with a towel and hot water.
The warm clean knife will give you perfect slices every time.

About the Impossible Pie...
If you’re using a blender have it two minutes on high, stopping blender occasionally to stir.

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

Preheat the oven to 350° F
Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

For the crust

Place in a large bowl
20 chocolate wafers, crushed
1 Tablespoon sugar
Stir together, then add
1/4 Cup butter, melted
Stir until evenly distributed.
Press the cookie crumb base into the parchment lined pan.
Bake for 5 to 7 minutes.
Set aside to cool.

For the cheesecake

Reduce the oven temperature to 325° F

10 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Place in a large mixer bowl
32 ounces cream cheese
Beat until smooth and creamy.
1/3 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Cup sugar
Beat until the mixture is well blended.
Gradually add the melted chocolate.
Beat until the mixture is thoroughly blended.
Add one at a time, beating well after each addition
4 large eggs

Pour the chocolate filling over the baked crust.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until the centre is set.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven.
Allow it to rest at room temperature until completely cool.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Once cheesecake has cooled and set, make the ganache.

For the ganache

Place in a saucepan
5 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 Cup heavy cream 
Stirring constantly, melt together over low heat until completely smooth.
Pour and spread over the top of the cheesecake.
Refrigerate the cheesecake another 30 to 60 minutes to let the ganache set.

When ready to serve, run a knife under hot water, then run it around the edges of the cheesecake to loosen it from the pan.
Transfer from the springform pan to a cake stand or plate and serve.

Impossible Brownie Pie

Heat oven to 350°F
Grease a 9-inch pie plate

Melt and cool
4 ounces sweet cooking chocolate

Place in medium bowl
4 eggs
the cooled cooking chocolate
1/2 Cup Original Bisquick™ mix
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1/4 Cup butter or margarine, softened
Beat all ingredients until smooth.
Pour mixture into the prepared pie plate.
Sprinkle over batter
1/4 Cup chopped nuts

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool 5 minutes.
Serve with ice cream (optional)