Battle of Ingredients 2018: Chinese New Year Edition

Welcome to the first Battle of Ingredients of 2018. Let’s call this Year 2! We didn’t get a full year for 2017 but this year, we are already much more organized. Battle of Ingredients has changed over the months and we are working with themed dinners more than we are working on ingredients however, we do try to stick within using seasonal ingredients available to the province of Quebec or ingredients related to the theme we are working with.

I have added Battle of Ingredients to the menu on top so you can check out any of the past events we’ve done that you may have missed in 2017.

The first Battle of Ingredients this year is a little belated celebration of Chinese New Year! Phoebe and I welcome everyone to enjoy this lovely event. Our best friend is back home so we luckily had her drop by to be part of this event along with the usual cast of guests.

Wine of the Night

Main Meal

Battle of Ingredients

Honey-Garlic Chicken Stir-Fry (Kim)

My contribution of the event comes from a recipe that Phoebe shared with me earlier in the week on Pinterest right HERE.

Stir-fry dishes always are a staple of a Chinese meal. I’m not a very skilled cook so this dish worked perfect for us. Its pretty easy to make. The original recipe asks for carrots but being the forgetful person I was, I picked them up at the grocery story to look at but forgot to put them in the basket so I replaced it with green beans. I kind of supersized the menu so I had to modify the sauce a little bit. My meal actually turned out to be a healthy blandness that I like but I offered salt and pepper to everyone to add if they preferred it stronger. The way to improve this one would be to use the chicken broth instead of water. However, this meal did make for some tender chicken as I did use thighs and vegetables had a nice crunch.

Battle of Ingredients

Ginger-Garlic Abalone (Phoebe)

Phoebe went with a lovely abalone dish. Abalone is a staple of a classy Chinese dinner ingredient. Sometimes the simplest way to make a dish is to go back to the basics. She used frozen abalones along with ginger and garlic on the top and put it to steam. It still had a little bit of the fishy taste here but to us, it was still very good. However, she did forget to bring green onions which would have helped with added a little more flavors to mask the seafood taste that some people (aka my husband) doesn’t like.

Sticky Rice (Outside contribution aka my mom)

Sticky rice is one of the Chinese dishes that you can find at dim sum restaurants and its also one of my favorite things to eat. Luckily, my mom had a potluck the day before and she contributed the sticky rice that one of her friends made to use for our Battle of Ingredients. It was delicious. One year, I will figure it out and I’ll give it a go.


Tangerines, Dark Chocolate & Wife Cakes

I slacked off on my original plan to make Baked New Year Cake (recipe HERE) and Egg Tarts (recipe HERE). However, we did have some tangerines which is pretty normal to have for a Chinese New Year fruit dessert as well as some Wife Cakes, which is a delicious Hong Kong pastry made with winter melon. Without any coordination, both Phoebe and I ended up picking up some Theobroma Chocolate from Costco. I like the Raspberry flavor Dark Chocolate one and she got the Original 72% Original Chocolate one.

That wraps up our Chinese New Year Edition of Battle of Ingredients!
We had a few months of hiatus but we are back!
We are getting back into the groove of things 🙂
Our next one will be next month with a little Easter celebration!


Dinner: One Pot Chicken and Sausage Pasta

Efficient meal solutions are my favorite thing to look up. The one that has caught my eye recently are all those one pot meal recipes. Its always felt very weird even if the idea does work. The coincidence of the situation was that we had sausage and chicken that needed to be cooked and a crazy amount of pasta so I decided to find a Pinterest recipe which didn’t actually happen that matched with I wanted but found a similar one so used it as a guideline.

One Pot Chicken and Sausage Pasta

One Pot Chicken and Sausage Pasta

This is the recipe that I used as a guideline to see how it all worked:


4 cloves garlic, minced
4 chicken drumsticks, skin removed and meat separated from bone
4 honey-garlic sausages, cut in pieces
1 zucchini, chopped
dried pasta
chicken broth
salt & pepper
olive oil

  1. Heat olive oil in a large cooking pot over medium heat.
  2. Add chicken, both the bite size pieces and the bones to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken.
  3. Add in the sausages to the pot and cover the pot so it can cook through.
  4. Add in the garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add in chicken broth and dried pasta. The broth has to cover the meat and pasta. Add water if not enough broth.
  6. Stir the ingredients together and bring to a simmer.
  7. When it simmers, lower the heat. Cover and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  8. Make sure pasta is cooked. Remove the pot from heat.

The one pot experiment was pretty successful. What makes things that simmer or bake in the oven really great is that you can set a timer and walk away to do something else. In terms of cooking, it still takes the same amount of time if you did it all separately, except here the bulk of time is on preparation and it frees up a little more time as everything cooks are about the same time. I would love to try this with some variety.

Have you tried doing one pot recipes?

Recipe: Maple-Bourbon Wings

It feels like forever since I’ve picked up the cookbook and actually did a recipe! Hopefully, it’ll happen more frequently in the near future. The plans are always there but somehow the time just isn’t.

This past weekend, I decided to try out a recipe from the latest issue of Food Network for October 2017. They have a Fried Maple-Bourbon Wings and frying is so annoying, including the clean-up work afterwards that I decided to use their recipe but modify a little to bake in the oven.

Here’s the recipe and how it turned out.

Maple-Bourbon Wings
(inspired by Fried Maple Bourbon Wings in Food Network October 2017 Issue)

Maple Bourbon Wings


2 lbs Chicken Wings
1 small shallot
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup bourbon
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles)

  1. Preheat oven at 375C.
  2. Mince the shallot in a small bowl. Add in maple syrup and bourbon and oil. Stir together. Then add in ketchup and dijon mustard. Mix well.  Add adobo sauce if you’d like (we didn’t).
  3. In a larger bowl, cover the sauce over the chicken wings. If you have time, its best to cover and let marinate it in the fridge for as long as you can.
  4. In a lined sheet pan, lay out your wings in a single layer. Remember to keep a little distance so it doesn’t stick together. Oil if using aluminum sheet as to not stick. Pour remaining sauce over the wings.
  5. Put in oven for 25 minutes, turning halfway or until cooked through.

With that said, that was still a diversion of the actual recipe. If you want to challenge yourself to the fried one. just drop me an email and I can send it to you. Or leave a comment or whatnot. Regardless, I did keep a part of the original recipe there in terms of ingredients although removing a few things you need to fry it, like flour and such. My substitutes here really came down to using green onions instead of shallots. Normally, we don’t have shallots here unless it comes with a box and in that case, we have already used it. Green onions are not only in our backyard but also frequently not always used up to the max in the meal boxes so we have left over whenever its for garnish or whatnot.

This recipe is pretty good overall. The maple and bourbon mixture is just right. However, you should use shallots and not green onion. We assume that gave it an odd taste that took time to get used to. Ours could benefit with marinating more than 15 minutes or whatever. I usually would take the time to do it or just simmer it in the pan to let the flavors seep into the meat. It was a last minute decision to put this together.

Now to think about what to do with our second batch of chicken wings? Any suggestions?

Dessert: Chocolate Mousse

Father’s Day was almost a week ago and its taken me this long to get this going. Mostly because I misplaced the recipe. These things happen and I’m able to share it now. Full disclosure that a few years back, I did attempt to make Chocolate Mousse and it was a failure to say the least. Something along the lines of a chocolate liquid. Although, apparently, it still was a delicious chocolate-y drink. With more kitchen tools and more experience, we decided to give this a second shot and with a new recipe.

This time, I’m working with Food Network Magazine’s Chocolate Lover’s Handbook, called Chocolate-Chestnut Mousse but modified it to not use chestnut puree. We did end up using a replacement for it to give it a thicker consistency. We used a roasted nut chocolate spread and it worked really well. Here’s how it look. (Sorry for bad presentation)

Chocolate Mousse

Serves: 4 (halved from the original 8)


4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup chocolate spread
1/8 tsp pure almond extract
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
1 cup heavy cream

  1. Put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring, until melted, about 2 minutes. Blend the chocolate spread, almond extract, salt and 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and fold in half of the melted chocolate.
  2. Beat the heavy cream and the remaining 1 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar with a mixer until soft peaks form. Reserve 1/2 cup for topping. Fold one-quarter of the remaining whipped cream into the chocolate spread mixture, then fold in the rest. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Divide the mousse among dessert glasses. Top with the reserved whipped cream. Remelt the remaining chocolate in the microwave, if necessary, then drizzle on top.

Surprisingly, chocolate mousse is pretty easy to make, although very hard to get the right consistency. This recipe worked really well. I’d venture to say that if you don’t have fancy chocolate spread that Nutella might work also or peanut butter even. It probably would still have similar results. I did this one the night before I had to go over to my in-laws and bring this over and that also helps. However, ours didn’t have the drizzle because I did make a mistake and put too much confectioners’ sugar so had probably instead of the 1 tablespoon for the whipped cream mix, I had two because I read it wrong.

Of course, if you do want to do the actual recipe, it serves 8. Double all the ingredients from the list above and replace the chocolate spread with chestnut puree.

Despite the mistake in the ingredients, I think not putting the drizzle worked to balance the taste. My in-laws liked it a lot and said the sweetness was just enough. My husband also liked it a lot. Unfortunately, because of the heavy cream and the semi-sweet chocolate, it had milk so I couldn’t try it out for myself.

Have you made Chocolate Mousse? What recipe do you use?

Dessert: Classic Brownies

Mother’s Day was this past weekend. My husband made a request to bake some brownies for my mother-in-law.

Last year’s Food Network magazine came incredibly handy as it was all about chocolatey desserts. This is the recipe that I used. Do note that this is the full recipe that they had and I halved most of the ingredients as I used a square pan which was maybe 8 by 8 inch or so.

(from Food Network magazine Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook)


Makes: 36

Cooking spray
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang on two sides; coat the foil with cooking spray. Melt the butter and chocolate in a large saucepan over low heat; let cool slightly. Stir in sugar and eggs. Whisk in the flour, cocoa powder and salt.
  2. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on a rack, then cut into bars.

The only substitute used here was the semisweet chocolate was instead semisweet chocolate chips. Also, I forgot to set low heat when melting the butter and chocolate so not sure if that changed the consistency. It might have since I felt like the recipe didn’t make as thick as I’d like but it did rise a little in the oven.

However, we did leave before my in-laws had a chance to try this out. My husband told me they said it was delicious and liked it. My only concern was not that it wouldn’t taste good but that while adjusting the recipe to a lesser portion, it would change the consistency. It did look like it had a decent consistency if not thinner than usual brownies.

 Do you like making brownies?
My next project is to make vegan brownies. Hopefully I’ll work on that soon! 🙂

Battle of Ingredients #2: Maple Syrup

Welcome to Round 2 of Battle of Ingredients!
If you missed the first round, you can find it here. I will be putting something on the side or above so that it’ll be easier to track soon.

This month’s Battle of Ingredients is all about maple syrup! Why? Because here in our lovely province of Quebec, we have the cabane a sucre (aka sugar shack) tradition. Maple syrup is a big deal around this parts (and apparently also in Riverdale according to the new TV series). It was a no brainer for myself and Phoebe that it would be our choice ingredient as well as trying out a new formula of doing a collaborated full course meal. All our dishes had maple syrup so lets just say, we were in for a sugar rush.

Let’s check out our menu, along with the wines we used to pair with it (although one of them we didn’t end up drinking…yet).



We drank the Kung Fu Girl which is one of my favorite wines. Apparently, it has somewhat of a sour taste which I never really thought about but always found it smooth. Regardless, hopefully we’ll keep the Fetzer in our fridge till the next Battle.

Appetizer – Kim

Bourbon Maple Glazed Chicken Wings

Bourbon Maple Glazed Chicken Wings

Recipe via Pinterest:

A very simple recipe to put together in general although you do need to simmer the sauce before putting it on the chicken wings and then have to simmer again to thicken it. I somehow managed to get it thicker the first time so that it wasn’t necessary to simmer again. I did have extra sauce however it was covered enough so I put it to the side in case anyone wanted anymore. This one was delicious and definitely a hit. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I used our good bourbon without knowing it. Whatever the reason, these turned out much better than I expected and honestly, I kind of want to make another batch already.

From our friends: Not dry at all with the sauce, and it matched well. No extra sauce needed for me!

Main Meal + Side – Phoebe

Prosciutto Maple Salmon

Prosciutto Maple Salmon

Recipe via Pinterest:

Phoebe chose this recipe off Pinterest. We don’t usually get the chance to use prosciutto frequently and never had thought to use to wrap around fish and yet, it came together really nicely. She hadn’t worked with dill before and I haven’t been a fan either, however we do have dill lovers at the table. This came together really nicely. Phoebe was a little nervous about the whole grilling part before baking it and we timed it all very nice to serve this and the sides, which we will talk about below.

From our friends: I personally find the dill to match well with the fish. Again, not dry the way it was made, the only slight annoyance was that the prociutto is hard to cut through, so putting any sort of pressure would crush the salmon under… But with patience of sliding your knife back and forth, it’s perfect.

Maple Syrup Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Maple Syrup Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Recipe via Pinterest:

Huge fan of brussel sprouts here, I found this recipe for Phoebe and she was totally into it, which is great. I’ve always wondered how maple syrup in Brussel Sprouts would work and actually it was the one the absorbed the maple syrup enough to actually taste it the most. It was much more subtle in the salmon for example. However, in the balance of the meal, it worked well.


Chewy Maple Cookies

Chewy Maple Cookies

Recipe via Pinterest:

I decided on making these cookies very last minute. Like an hour before our cooking meet-up. Fact is, I was going to make Maple Ice but that needed Maple Water and Ice Cream Maker, both things that I don’t have or haven’t figured out how to use yet. Then there was the idea of making little maple syrup tarts but that was really complex with heating the pizza stone plate in the oven beforehand and the worry that it would just fail because I was changing this complicated tart recipe from a pie pan to little tarts. Anyways, point is cookies are the safe bet and thankfully, it worked well to not hog up the oven and we were able to get everything we needed done and ready on track.

From our friends: Cookies were good! Wasn’t dry, but wasn’t butter fest either! Maybe it would be even better with some nut in it like cashew, but then again, might alter the taste… But it was great.

Maple Flavored Popcorn (Bad Monkey)

Bad Monkey Maple Flavored Popcorn

In addition, Phoebe brought this Bad Monkey brand Maple Syrup flavored popcorn to match with the theme. I don’t eat a lot of popcorn for health issues but I did try a few and it was pretty delicious. Phoebe did find it a little on the sweet side however our friends did like this one as well. they actually put the popcorn and the cookie together and apparently, it went well together particularly because of the contrast in textures.

That’s it for this Battle!
Maple Syrup was a fun adventure and on all fronts this was a win.
We learned some new recipes and had a great time with friends.
Next month’s Battle is still deciding what will be the star(s) of the show! 

Perhaps this will be the structure from now on as it is easier to get together an acceptable meal but we will shift the courses around to who is responsible next time.
We will see…like I said in the first round, a work in progress. If you have any suggestions, do share with us. 🙂

Battle of Ingredients #1: Carrots and Noodles

It is finally here!
A new segment with Phoebe from Starry Traveler’s Road!
Thanks so much for joining us!

Battle of Ingredients

INTRODUCTION – What is Battle of Ingredients?

Battle of Ingredients (name subject to future change maybe) is the brainchild of myself and Phoebe who really love to talk about tons of things but our families have somewhat become foodie buddies. We talk food a lot and go to restaurants even more but we each have our food restrictions and our habits and with this Battle of Ingredients, we have two goals.

One: we want to learn more about the Quebec foods through different seasons which will be a huge focus on how we pick our ingredients.
Two: To expand and explore new recipes and ways to cook as well as try out new ingredients.

However, we do also want to say that this is a battle of ingredients but we use the word ‘battle’ loosely because we aren’t actually battling each other. Our judges are family and close friends and they offer us suggestions on how to improve our recipes. Its more the challenge of figuring out a good way to incorporate the selected ingredients. There will be times, like the next one, where we will be working together to put together a meal with the next selected seasonal ingredients which will be announced at the end of this post.

Battle of Ingredients #1: Carrots & Noodles

The first challenge is a simple one. We wanted something that we could use readily, plus carrots are about the best looking vegetable available at our supermarkets now. The meat is free to our choosing and noodles is for a nice carbs base that everyone gets a good energy boost. Two noodle dishes are heavy so we served them in moderate portions.

Homey Osso Bucco with Udon

Osso Bucco

Homey Osso Bucco with Udon

I know Kim wanted to try osso bucco and it is freezing outside thanks to Canadian winter, so I decided to cook this dish as part of the cook-off. This is one of my mom’s thermal cooker recipes that I managed to replicate with some adaptations over the years.

Given I had to prepare more portions than usual, I had a hard time putting numbers on the quantities of ingredients.

  • Osso bucco
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Sweet onions (normal onions are okay, but I prefer sweet ones)
  • Bay leaves
  • Chicken stock (powder)
  • Water
  • Udon


1. Wash the osso bucco and put in the inner pot.
2. Wash and chop all the veggies to your desired size (please note if it is too little, veggies will disintegrate into the soup). Put in the inner pot on top of the meat (I usually cut carrots first because they are bulky when compared to celery and onions).
3. Wash the bay leaf and put into the inner pot (I always prefer 2-3 in my cooking).
4. Pour water into the inner pot and make sure it covers the meat and veggies.
5. Boil it until it starts bubbling and add chicken powder to taste (One thing that I noticed if you are cooking more portions than usual, you may need to reboil to ensure the osso bucco is thoroughly cooked).
6. Boil it a bit longer and put the inner pot into the vacuum insulated cooker.
7. Let it cook over night.

While my family usually eat this with rice, I prefer udon after doing a lot of testing in dorms. My mom used to vacuum seal some with veggies so I can enjoy it while doing my assignments. I remember trying rice vermicelli, egg noodles, pasta and udon. Rice vermicelli got soggy really quickly while egg noodles held themselves a little better. Pasta was okay, but udon stood out for remaining bouncy when it took me a little while to finish dinner.

That is pretty much it for my recipe. Hope you enjoy it! 😊

Chicken Rice Noodles with Carrots and Cucumbers

Chicken Rice Noodles

Chicken Rice Noodles with Carrots and Cucumbers

Unlike Phoebe, my recipe is somewhat of a combination of a few things I like making. I did end up forgetting something in this one and our judges definitely did realize even if I don’t honestly mind that much.  Here are the ingredients I used:

  • Rice Noodles
  • Nantes Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Eggs
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Chicken Thighs
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Green onions
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sesame Oil

How to make it:

1. In a bowl, mix together sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and garlic. Set aside.
2. Prepare the chicken. Cut the chicken lengthwise and mix with the marinade above.
3. Boil water in a saucer. When it starts to boil, put in the rice noodles to cook. Place in for few minutes. Remove and put in strainer. Rinse with cold water. Rest strainer on a bowl to let water drain.
4. Peel the carrots and cucumbers and chop them lengthwise (or however you like them that makes it easier to cook). Mince the garlic and chop the ginger.
5. Heat up the wok on medium-high heat. Put in some oil (sesame, olive, whichever you use; I used avocado oil) and let it heat up.
6. Put in some garlic and ginger into the wok. Afterwards, add the carrots and cucumbers. Let them cook through and remove on plate.
7. If you need, add a little bit of oil to the wok and cook the scrambled eggs.
8. Next, cook the chicken with marinade as sauce.
9. Once its cooked through, add back the eggs, carrots and cucumbers. Let it cook a little more and add the noodles to heat everything back up.
10. Remove from heat and put in plate.


Phoebe’s Osso Bucco was cooked thoroughly and enough time. The only comment was on the choice of using the Udon noodles and that dials down to a personal preference.

Kim’s Chicken Rice Noodles was cooked well however it was on the more bland side. Something that Kim suspected out of her eating habits and the fact that she forgot to use broth. The suggestion was to use chicken broth to add some natural flavor instead of using salt and it would help infuse the meal overall.

This concludes our first BATTLE OF INGREDIENTS!
Hope you enjoyed it!

The next battle will be held next month as a collaborated full course meal featuring MAPLE SYRUP!
Right in time for cabane a sucre season!