Battle of Ingredients: Fall: Winter Melon & Pumpkin

Welcome to the next Battle of Ingredients!

This time, we are actually taking a focus on a Chinese vegetable, Winter Melon which our guests had as harvest and Phoebe from Starry Traveler’s Road, my partner in crime in this project took the helm on our featured vegetable. As for myself, I took the back seat on this one and chose pumpkin as my fall harvest highlight, however, mine wasn’t our own harvest but just a recipe with the ingredient. I don’t have the land to grow pumpkin. (However, I did get two little ones that I haven’t made yet so I’ll be making a dessert out of that one soon.) We’re back indoors for the next few months until summer arrives.



Dr. Loosen Riesling 2017

We started our main meal with the Riesling. The primary reason is that the second sparkling wine needed some more chilling time. This one is pretty good. It starts off slightly dry however the finish is very smooth. Its categorized as fruity and sweet which it delivers for sure.

Domaine de Lavoie Poiré Mousseaux 2014

We’re personally at our house at least, not much into pear flavored drinks. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I bought one however, this one was surprisingly good. It had a very subtle pear flavor and was a nice change. We cracked this one open with our dessert which was very fitting, I’d say.


Winter Melon

winter melon soup

Winter Melon Soup
Recipe by Phoebe

Winter Melon
Dried Chinese mushrooms
Chicken Breasts (x2)
Jinhua Ham
Dried scallop (optional)

Cutting Board
Thermal Cooker
(using the Japanese Import Thermos Thermal Cooker)

*Our friend who gave the massive winter melon already removed the little fur on the melon with newspaper so it is easier to handle)*

  1. Soak dried Chinese mushrooms in bowl of water
  2. Cut the winter melon. Remove both the skin and seeds.
  3. Cut winter melon chunks to desired size (bigger pieces is normally better as the melon will disintegrate if too small)
  4. Put melon in stainless steel inner pot.
  5. Put in chicken breasts and shrimps.
  6. After a little while, pour the water of the Chinese mushrooms and toss mushrooms with other ingredients.
  7. Cut a small piece of Jinhua ham (do not put too much or it will be salty).
  8. Add water to the inner stainless steel pot and simmer to a boil (big bubbles).
  9. Put into the insulated outer container to cook for a few hours.

The soup turned out so good. Winter melon was cooked perfectly. The chicken, shrimps and mushrooms enhanced the flavor of the winter melon and soup in a whole. This is a fairly time consuming process to make any kind of Chinese soup so kudos to Phoebe for taking on this challenge.

Main Meal

Dim Sum

My contribution is the much more easy and simple meal here. The pasta is a mix of gluten-free spaghetti and Catelli Protein spaghettini. The vegetables are cooked in the pan and has carrots, brussel sprouts and portobello mushrooms. The chicken here is the highlight as I used chicken thighs and a local spice that I bought from Rustique Pies called Dim Sum which is a fun take with five spices. This dry rub was the highlight of my dish and I have to say that it turned out pretty good. It was slightly spicy though but worked so well.

The original concept was to have it all cooked together as one big pasta dish however, my pan just wasn’t big enough so I ended up doing it like this. The idea is that the seasoning from the chicken and vegetables will give the pasta taste so depending on how it was mixed, the pasta could have felt bland as I only put a little oil and salt in there. Most of the flavors was the in the chicken and vegetables.

winter nelon

Winter Melon and Jinhua Ham
Recipe by Phoebe

Winter Melon
Jinhua Ham
Honey (maple syrup taste better if I recall)

Cutting board
Deep flat pan with lid
Steaming Dish
Steaming Rack

  1. Cut winter melon to bigger pieces, remove seeds and skin.
  2. Prepare pot with water to steam.
  3. Gently slice in the middle of the big chunks and put in steaming dish.
  4. Cut the Jinhua ham in slices and place a slice into the middle of the melon chunks.
  5. Drizzle the melon and ham with a spoonful of honey
  6. Steam until melon and ham are cooked. Winter melon will become transparent when cooked.

This winter melon and Jinhua ham dish was done really well. For one, the winter melon was cooked perfectly. The balance here is mostly however between the honey’s sweetness and the Jinhua ham’s saltiness. Phoebe made a point above about how maple syrup was the original ingredient which we didn’t happen to have a small portion to use so she went with honey. In my opinion, this did turn out that honey didn’t quite overcome the powerful saltiness of Jinhua ham. However, that’s my opinion. I know that for someone who likes saltier foods (and not bland like myself), this worked pretty well.


Pumpkin Cookies

Pumpkin Cookies

Recipe found via Pinterest:

I was actually able to use this recipe exactly as it was. The only ingredient that I didn’t use was the nutmeg. Also, I ended up cutting the recipe in half because I didn’t want to 3 dozen. However, seeing as everyone loved it and pretty much ate it all in the evening. Probably 3 dozen would have been good. This one was really good. For one, it was fluffy and soft. Phoebe had a comment about how it wasn’t heavy on cinnamon as she doesn’t like cinnamon as much but it worked with this recipe as it was fairly subtle and balanced between the ingredients.

 This wraps up this month’s Battle of Ingredients!
Next month, we head out like past years to MTL a Table in November before we head back to the kitchen and homecooking.

Baking: Pumpkin Cookies

Yesterday I talked about having a fun baking date with one of my girl friends and the first thing we made was some chocolate sugar cookies. After some discussions, we decided to make Pumpkin Cookies. This recipe is also from Martha Stewart’s Cookies.

Pumpkin Cookies

Makes 6 dozens

Pumpkin Cookies


2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large egg
1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

 1. Preheat the oven to 375F.  Whisk together, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a bowl.

2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.   Mix in eggs.  Reduce speed to low.  Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla; mix until well blended, about 2 minutes.  Add flour mixture; mix until combined.

3. Transfer 1 1/2 cups batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip.  Pipe 1 1/2 inch rounds onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.  Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until tops spring back, about 12 minutes.  Cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely.


  • Ground nutmeg instead of freshly grated
  • Almond milk instead of evaporated milk
  • All of step 3 was replaced with scooping up with the ice cream scoop and making small cookies.
  • We put it in the oven for 12 minutes and ended up putting them in for another 5 minutes or so. It seemed to be better cooked that way.

These pumpkin cookies are pretty delicious.  This is only half the recipe because it should go with a brown-butter icing but we didn’t make that. If you do want that recipe, just email or comment below and I’ll send it to you. The consistency of these tasted a little like pumpkin bread/scone hybrid.  The texture was fluffy and soft.  It wasn’t too sugary and yet filled with the seasonal spices.  Its pretty good.

The only thing to note for this one is that we didn’t realize that it made 6 dozens so it took us by surprise a little.  Its a reminder that we should always read much more carefully how much a batter serves and not just what ingredients on hand.  Both are equally important.  Still, it was a ton of fun 🙂

Are you a fan of pumpkin-flavored desserts? What do you like to make with pumpkin puree?

Pumpkin Pancakes!

My boyfriend and I don’t spend a lot of time making breakfast together in the mornings because of our work schedules but we totally love making breakfast style dinners.  Usually it involves potatoes and sausages and eggs.  On Sunday, I had this sudden craving for pumpkin pancakes.  Don’t ask me why.  Maybe its because I remembered I had a can of canned pumpkin or maybe it was looking through the Looneyspoons recipe book and finding the recipe for pumpkin pancakes but he agreed with the idea and after I mixed up the batter, he cooked it (because he’s better at it than I am).

As mentioned before, this is from the Looneyspoons collection cookbook. After the recipe, I’ll talk about the changes I did.

pumpkin pancakes

Pumpkin Pancakes

Makes 12 medium pancakes

*1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
*1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
*1/2 tsp each baking soda and salt
*1 can evaporated milk
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)
2 eggs
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup each vanilla-flavored yogurt and pure maple syrup1. Preheat griddle to medium-high heat.  Combine both flours, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Mix well. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin, sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla.

2. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

3. Spoon batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto preheated griddle that has been lightly coated with cooking spray.  Gently spread batter to about a 4 inch diameter.  Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes per side, or until pancakes are golden brown and cooked through.  Be careful not to burn them.  Serve immediately topped with vanilla yogurt and maple syrup.

pumpkin pancakes

As any recipes, I worked with what was available to me.  You will notice changes or omissions shown with  the asterisks (*).  In this one, the only omission with baking soda.  I know its sad that I don’t have any at home. Other than that, all-purpose flour and wheat flour was replaced by gluten-free all-purpose flour. Pumpkin pie spice was replaced with allspice. The evaporated milk was replace by 1 cup almond milk.  I only topped with vanilla-flavored yogurt and my boyfriend only topped it with maple syrup.

Another change would be that I don’t have a griddle so no preheating of that.  I just put together the batter and made it in a non-stick pan. We also always have a problem with the thickness of the batter so we always have to add more milk or water to make it a little more liquid.

I love pumpkin pancakes (although I should try making other flavors eventually). This one was pretty good. It wasn’t too sweet and it tasted a little of pumpkins and all that.  It was fluffy and delicious 🙂 How else do you describe pancakes anyways? I thought they were really great and its easy to put together. Plus, vanilla yogurt is absolutely awesome as a topping and I’m not a huge fan of it to begin with.

Do you like pancakes? 

Hong Kong Restaurant: Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao

Last time I went to Hong Kong, I had praised this restaurant called C-Jade for its Teochew style food located in New Town Plaza. You can read about it HERE.

Unfortunately, it had closed some time during the 1.5 years I was away.  Luckily, in the vicinity there was another one in the same chain but this time specializing in noodles and Soup-filled dumplings. Its called Crystal Jade and located right across from The Spaghetti House.  This was the one where the previous evening we had been waiting on at the same time but didn’t get a seat quick enough. This time, we managed to get a seat relatively quickly.

Here’s what we had to share with each other:

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Vegetable & Meat Buns

Crystal Jade Restaurant

5 Grains Fried Rice with Shrimp and Scrambled Eggs

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Chicken Pot

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Shanghai Ramen


Crystal Jade is pretty good at what it does.  Everything tasted really good.  My favorite in this meal has to go to the 5 grain fried rice.  I’m a huge fan of fried rice but not 5 grains however this one was spot-on tasty.  Healthy and delicious? Count me in any time 😉 I’m definitely going to try to replicate this one in my spare time one of these days!

A few days later, I met up with my soon-to-be-wed cousin and her mom (another aunt), along with my mom for lunch also at Crystal Jade.  The menu doesn’t vary very much between lunch and dinner but with another group, we also got to try something new.  My cousin chose for us.  My aunt was on her vegetarian day of the month so we had to adjust a few dishes to suit her diet that day.

Crystal Jade Restaurant


Crystal Jade Restaurant

Dumplings with Chili Oil on the side

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Taro Pastry

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Soup-filled Dumplings

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Beancurd rolls

Vegetarian Dumplings

Vegetarian Dumplings

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Fried Pumpkin Pastries

For this lunch, the noodles which I can’t remember exactly what was in it was really good.  The soup-filled dumplings were splendid and the best of all was the beancurd rolls.  They were so delicious.  The fried pumpkin and taro had a very good taste but I’ve never been a huge fan of these sort of dishes.

From what I know, Crystal Jade is a chain that specializes on different types of Chinese cuisine.  I enjoyed this one more than the Teochew style or maybe its just my memory fading from the previous experience.  Plus, I love Shanghai cuisine a lot.  This place is really awesome.  The service is decent and its very accessible in New Town Plaza in Shatin.

I had some great foodie memories here 🙂

Have you ever tasted Shanghai cuisine? Are you a fan of dumplings and/or vegetarian food?

Christmas Baking: Pumpkin Bread!

I had some pumpkin puree left over from making pumpkin pancakes in the morning so I decided to make this Pumpkin Bread from the Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook.  That book didn’t fail me last year at all and plus, it looked really good.  It also fit the bill of wanting something on the healthier side.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven


Makes 2 loaves 8 inch pan or 1 loaf 9 inch pan


1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1 2/3 cups sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tsps vanilla

4 eggs

3 cups whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)

2 tsps baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts

1/2 cup raisins, if desired

Out of pan and waiting for overnight cooling before eating

Out of pan and waiting for overnight cooling before eating

1. Move oven rack to the low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven.  Heat oven to 350F.  Grease bottoms only of two 8×4 inch loaf pans or one 9×5 inch loaf pan with shortening or cooking spray.

2. In large bowl, stir pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs until well mixed.  Stir in remaining ingredients except nuts and raisins.  Stir in nuts and raisins.  Divide batter evenly between 8 inch pans or pour into 9 inch pan.

3. Bake 8 inch loaves 50 to 60 minutes.  9 inch loaf 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hours 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pans on wire rack.

4. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans to wire rack.  Cool completely, about 2 hours before slicing.  Wrap lightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerate up to 10 days.

Pumpkin Bread

Want a slice of Pumpkin Bread? 🙂

There were a few modifications or choices I made.  One was that I used whole wheat flour but you could use all purpose flour.  Second is that I used dried cranberries instead of raisins since I didn’t have any.  As for coarsely chopped nuts, I used pecans. I’m pretty sure vanilla meant vanilla extract.

Making bread in general is pretty straight forward.  Its just combining all the ingredients together and then putting in the oven.  The only deal is that oven time usually takes longer than say making cookies so you’d need to expect a bit longer, especially for cool down before serving as well.

This Pumpkin Bread recipe is totally worth it though. Its super delicious.  The nuts and cranberries give it a nice complement to the taste and makes it a little more chewy.  Its smells good and it looks fantastic as well 🙂 I’d definitely do this again!

Do you like Pumpkin bread? What type of bread do you like to make/eat?




Halloween: Pumpkin Inferno at Upper Canada Village

A year ago, my visit to Pumpkin Inferno was what brought my views up to this crazy level that took me about another 6 months to break.  Word of mouth is a crazy and awesome thing, just my boyfriend’s coworker sharing it on their Facebook page and boom! My views were crazy.  If you’d like to see that post, check it out HERE!

This year, I went with not only my boyfriend but 6 other friends including fellow blogger Day’s. Earlier than last year, so that it wouldn’t be as cold.  This past weekend was the first weekend of its launch (if I’m not mistaken) and man, was it ever crowded at the beginning of the trail.

Compared to last year, they had similar pumpkin carvings but they did change the trail and modify how certain exhibits looked and then they added one new exhibit called The House of Horoscopes.

A quick look at the better pictures that I took for Pumpkin Inferno! 🙂

It was still very fun.  Plus, the crowd spread out once we got into the wider area where the actual trail spreads out to both sides.  Going earlier this year also gave us a warmer weather.  If you do go, dress warm.  I felt comfortable with jeans, tank top, t-shirt and sweater (layers do miracles) and then even added a scarf once the sun completely went down.

Its definitely a great experience! I still had lots of fun. The creativity behind this entire event is so awesome!

The House of Horoscopes was my favorite as if there wasn’t that many people, the best way was to lie down on the grass and admire the details, just like you would if you were looking up at the stars and searching constellations.  By the way, there are certain areas in the path where its darker and if you lift your head, you see a sky full of stars.  We took in a bit of that rare scene.  Living in the big city has that disadvantage.  We’re lucky if we even see a star in the sky, let alone a sky dotted with them just sparkling away!

If you are close to Upper Canada Village, its well worth it.  Our drive was about an hour and 40 minutes each way and it wasn’t long and tiring either.  Nothing really ever replaces fun times with friends 🙂

Pumpkin Spice Muffins!

You don’t actually get into Halloween spirit without having something or another made with pumpkin.  I don’t cook pumpkin or squash much but I do bake. The debate was really between Pumpkin Pie and something in the form of a muffin or scone or cookie.  I went with muffins as they are easy and should be as close to foolproof as I can get for the first time baking with something new.

These are called Pumpkin Spice Muffins (at least I call them that).  The recipe that I got it from was from Looneyspoons and of course, they had another witty and long name, it was Pumpkin and Spice and Everything Nice.  Just to say, I followed everything to the recipe and only had two omissions. I’ll talk about that in a bit.

PUMPKIN SPICE MUFFINS (Looneyspoons Collection by Janet and Greta Podleski)

Makes 12 muffins


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I made my own with 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger and 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogourt

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup finely grated carrots

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans



1. Preheat oven at 375F.  Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, whole wheat flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, yogourt, maple syrup, butter, egg and vanilla.  Stir in carrots.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir using a wooden spoon just until moistened.  Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.  Batter will be thick.

4. Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups.  Bake for 20-22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center of muffin comes out  clean.  Cool on wire rack.


Looks pretty good, right? I’m eating one of these as I’m typing up this post and its exceeded what I thought it’d taste like.  I was always worried that the pumpkin taste would be strong and it isn’t.  Its a well-balanced muffin.  Its not dry either so thats too my taste as well. I did make a few modifications. I had to take out the yogourt and chocolate chips from the recipe and instead of chopped walnuts, I put in chopped almonds.  Thats about all that I have to say. The taste is definitely pretty good.  I was pleasantly surprise and maybe will make it again next year.

Although, due to this recipe, I have the remaining can of pumpkin to use up and I have no idea what to do with it.  I’m pretty sure I’ll look for something randomly and make it.  I should be back with more pumpkin in some form of meal. Any suggestions?

As always, if you try out this recipe, please tell me how it turned out.  I’d love to know if you liked it or if you would make any changes to it, that sort of thing.

Pumpkin Inferno!

So continues the Halloween month, right? Its not only going to be movies, as you saw with my Japanese Pavillion post.

On Sunday evening, my boyfriend and I drove over to Morrisburg, Ontario (about a 2 hour drive) to go see Pumpkin Inferno at Upper Canada Village.  Pumpkin Inferno is this year’s event from 6:30pm – 9:30pm and it features a little trail in the dark with  jack-o-lanterns.  Maybe you don’t think its impressive but check this out: 6000 Jack O Lanterns everyone! Thats is a lot! On top of that, there were different themes as we walked along.  Some were multiple pumpkins put together to shape up a person, a thing, a creature, an animal, etc.  It was pretty amazing! If anyone is in the area, you definitely should check it out! My suggestion though (something my boyfriend and I forgot to do) is to dress warm.  You are in the middle of nowhere so its cold.

I took it as a little night shooting, to get to know my camera just a little better also.  Here are a few to share with you!

It was a little trail with different themes and scenarios.  I showed you a few here in somewhat of the correct order.  The first part was a Sound and Light Show and it was really amazing.  After that was a Haunted Mill and dived under the sea.  We went into heritage town with totem poles.  Then, we walked through Candyland, to insect world, into the Wild West with Zombie Westerns.  We went to China and Egypt (even Polynesia, but I didn’t add that here).  We saw the Headless Horseman and Mermaids guarding the bridge to safety.

There’s a lot more than what I showed here.  It was pretty cool.  They even had pirates and their treasure and clocks, zombie weddings and RCMPs, Lizards and Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.  It was all so beautiful.  My pictures really don’t do this event justice.  I highly recommend it to those around the area.  Dress up and go out! If you have kids, bring them along! I think for us, we saw only one other couple without kids, if not, they were there to do photo shooting with all their gear.

Nice little tour to ring in Halloween, right?