All posts by Sonia Wong

Sonia Wong is a Toronto-based food blogger who enjoys cooking recipes that are unfussy, nutrition-conscious and always delicious. And since she believes in the whole family enjoying one meal, you can be sure her recipes are kid-approved, but still tasty for adults. She shares her recipe on her Taste Canada Award-nominated food blog saltnpepperhere.com and Instagram @saltnpepperhere. Her two young daughters often assist in the kitchen, empowering her to practice parental patience and showing her that it can be perfectly acceptable to “puree” roasted butternut squash with just two bare hands.
Three Japanese fruit sandos with strawberries, mango and kiwis

This Japanese Fruit Sando is the Sandwich of the Summer

Fresh fruit and sweetened whipped cream sandwiched inside fluffy white bread is a fun and easy no-bake treat to make. Called a fruit sando in Japan, it is made with Japanese milk bread (shokupan) which is wonderfully light and springy with a little bit of chew. Most East Asian grocery stores or bakeries will have them. If you can’t get a hold of it, the closest substitution is thickly-cut Texas toast or any thickly-cut, fluffy soft bread you can find. Use your favourite seasonal fresh fruit such as strawberries, kiwis, mangos, blueberries, etc. in this Kindred Kitchen recipe. Whatever you choose, arrange the fruit strategically along the cut line for an oh-so beautiful reveal.

Three Japanese fruit sandos with strawberries, mango and kiwis

Japanese Fruit Sando

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Rest Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 3 sandwiches

Ingredients:

7 large strawberries, stems trimmed off
3 kiwis, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
1 mango, peeled and pitted and fleshy sides cut into long thick slices
1 passionfruit (optional)
1 cup whipping cream
6 Tbsp powdered sugar
6 slices of Japanese milk bread or other fluffy white bread

Three Japanese fruit sandos with strawberries, mango and kiwis ingredients on countertop

Directions:

1. Wash and pat the fruit with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Trim, peel, pit and cut as required (see above).

2. Pour whipping cream and sugar into a chilled bowl and whisk until stiff peaks. You’ll want the cream to be on thicker side, but also be careful not to overwhip. With a stand mixer, this takes 60 seconds.

Related: Bucket List Burgers and Sandwiches You Need to Try

3. Lay out bread slices and spoon ⅓  cup of whipped cream on each of the six slices. If you have a little bit of whipped cream remaining, hang onto that for the moment. Spread the cream evenly, leaving a small border around the edges which will be trimmed off later.

4. On three of the bread slices, arrange your fruit (in this case: strawberries, mango slices with passionfruit pulp dribbled on top and kiwi halves). Pay attention to how you place the fruit along the intended diagonal cut line since that’s what will be shown when the sandos are cut in half. Fill in larger gaps between fruits with any remaining whipped cream. Place the other bread slices on top.

Three Japanese fruit sandos with strawberries, mango and kiwis

5. Without changing the orientation of the sando, wrap each one tightly in a piece of plastic food wrap while pressing gently, but firmly down on it. Use a marker to draw a line on the plastic wrap where the intended cut will be so you know where to cut it later.

Three Japanese fruit sandos with strawberries, mango and kiwis wrapped in plastic wrap

6. Chill in refrigerator 30-60 minutes. When the rest time is over, make note of the marker line and unwrap each sando. Make a clean, firm cut along the line using a long, sharp knife. Trim off the four crusts (my kids snack on these). Wipe knife clean between every cut. Separate the sando halves to reveal your beautiful fruit design.

Like Sonia’s fruit sando recipe? Try her three-ingredient kimchi chicken patties or sweet and sour shrimp and tofu recipe.

Sweet and sour shrimp and tofu in two bowls

This Sweet and Sour Shrimp and Tofu Recipe is Better Than Takeout

I love home-cooked meals, but believe me when I say I don’t love spending all my time in the kitchen! Efficient cooking is key and nothing is more easy than a “one and done” meal where all the protein and veggies are cooked in one vessel. In this Kindred Kitchen sweet and sour shrimp and tofu recipe, most of the work is upfront prepping the ingredients — and then everything gets cooked in very quick succession all in one wok or pan. It’s one of my back pocket weeknight meals and so delicious served over rice or noodles.

Sweet and sour shrimp and tofu in two bowls

Sweet and Sour Shrimp and Tofu

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

1 lb jumbo shrimp, shells removed and deveined
¾ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp roasted sesame oil
3-4 dashes white pepper powder
3 scallions, cut into 1 ½” segments + 1 scallion chopped for garnish
2 slices fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 sweet bell pepper, cut into ¾” pieces
1 large or 2 small mangoes, cut into ¾” pieces (or pineapple)
1 package extra-firm tofu, cut into ¾” cubes
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbsp arrowroot starch (or cornstarch)
1 Tbsp Chinese cooking rice wine (or dry cooking sherry or Japanese mirin)
3 Tbsp Japanese rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
3 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
High-heat neutral oil for stir-frying
Toasted cashews for garnish

Sweet and sour shrimp and tofu ingredients on countertop

Directions:

1. In a bowl, toss shrimp with the salt, sesame oil and white pepper power. Set aside to marinade while you prep and cut the scallions, ginger, garlic, pepper, mangoes and tofu according to directions above.

2. In a separate bowl or large jar, whisk together broth, arrowroot starch, Chinese cooking wine, Japanese rice vinegar, honey and tamari. Set aside, keeping the whisk to give it a quick stir just before using.

Related: These Simple Stir-Fry Recipes Will Convince You to Cook More

3. Heat wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of oil and the shrimp. Saute until shrimp just turn fully pink, ensuring not to overcook. They get reheated again at the end. Scoop them out and set aside.

Sweet and sour shrimp and tofu being cooked in wok

4. To the same wok or pan, add another drizzle of oil and the ginger slices, moving them around with your spatula for 5 seconds. Add scallions and cook 10 seconds. Add minced garlic and cook another 10 seconds.

5. Add bell peppers to the wok, sauteing briefly until tender, but still crisp. Add tofu and saute until heated through. Sprinkle kosher salt all over.

6. Whisk prepared sauce and pour in, bring it to a gentle simmer to thicken.

Sweet and sour shrimp and tofu being cooked in wok

7. Once visibly thickened, add mangoes as well as the cooked shrimp. Cook briefly only to heat them through. You’ll want the mangoes to retain their shape and most of the texture, and the shrimp to still be juicy. Taste and do a final seasoning with salt as needed.

8. Serve over steamed rice or noodles, with a sprinkle of scallions and/or toasted cashews to garnish.

Sweet and sour shrimp and tofu in one bowl

Like Sonia’s sweet and sour shrimp and tofu recipe? Try her hot dog fried rice or her three-ingredient kimchi chicken patties.

kimchi chicken patties on plate

30-Minute, 3-Ingredient Kimchi Chicken Patties Your Kids Will Love

Kimchi is the MVP in this Kindred Kitchen recipe. It’s a clever shortcut to maximum flavour in this easy 3-ingredient dish (we don’t count salt and oil as ingredients here). If you’re familiar with kimchi, you’ll know it’s loaded with garlic (a lot of it!), scallions, white onion and ginger. It has kick from Korean red chili pepper flakes and that signature tang from the fermentation process which perks everything up. Even if you or your children don’t eat kimchi straight up, its punchiness mellows out during cooking and imbues a subtler version of its complex flavour. Serve the patties inside a slider bun, pita bread or lettuce wrap. Or enjoy them as they are, alongside your favourite side for a wholesome meal. Scale up this recipe as needed. I make a double batch for my family of four with a few left over.

kimchi chicken patties on plate

30-Minute Kimchi Chicken Patties

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 10 patties

Ingredients:

1 lb ground chicken
½ cup finely-chopped kimchi that has been gently squeezed of excess brine
1 tsp tamari or light soy sauce
Kosher salt, to taste
Oil for pan frying
Chopped scallions for garnish (optional)

kimchi chicken patty ingredients on countertop

Directions:

1. Place ground chicken, kimchi, tamari or light soy sauce and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Seasoning tip: start with a little less salt than you think you need, approximately ½ tsp. Mix well and scoop 1 tsp of meat mixture onto a small plate and microwave 20 seconds to cook. Taste and add more kosher salt and/or tamari as needed. Once ready, heat a skillet over a medium to medium-high heat.

kimchi chicken patty ingredients being mixed together

2. While the skillet is heating up, form the patties and place them on a tray. To do so, scoop out ¼ cup of mixture per patty, shaping them into slightly flattened circles about 2 ½ inches in diameter and just under ¾ inches thick. Use your fingertips or back of a spoon to indent them slightly in the center. This encourages even cooking and minimizes shrinking as they cook.

Related: Easy 3-Ingredient Dishes From The Pioneer Woman

3. Add a drizzle of oil to the pan and cook the patties in batches, leaving a little bit of space around them. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the other side or until patties are golden brown and cooked all the way through. If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature at the center of the patty should be 165°F for fully cooked chicken. Garnish with chopped scallions, if desired. Enjoy!

kimchi chicken patties in frying pan

Like Sonia’s kimchi chicken patties? Try her hot dog fried rice or check out her expert food photo tips to show off your baked goods.

Beautiful shot of fresh pastries

5 Expert Food Photography Tips to Show Off Your Baked Goods

The true hero of every food photo is, without a doubt, the food itself. Since you’ve nailed creating the perfect baked goodies, here are my five tips to take the most enticing photos of them, whether you wield a camera or a mobile phone!

Related: Steve Hodge’s Best Tips for a Successful Bakery

Good Light or Bust

This is my first tip for good reason! The light you shoot your subject in is the biggest determinant between a flat, mediocre photo and a stellar one.

• Natural Light: The good news is, natural sunlight is a great light source for food photos and costs nothing—but you must know how to use it right. Study the light available in your home, bakery or studio and observe how the light looks at different times of day, including intensity, colour temperature (cool versus warm) and shadows. If you have windows facing different directions, compare how the light looks next to each of those too.

• Direct Light:  Strong, direct light can be edgy and dramatic, but it’s trickier to master.

• Diffused Light: Indirect light is the easiest to make food appealing. What is “diffused indirect light”?  Think of the light that comes in through your window mid-morning before the sun’s position and intensity casts shadows inside, or an overcast day when clouds disperse its rays. Another element of light is the direction from which it hits the subject: from the side, behind or above. In general, the most forgiving natural light for a beginner photographer is diffused indirect sunlight coming from the side of the subject i.e. placing your subject at or near table-height beside a window where there are no shadows or harsh sunlight.  A north-facing window, if you have one, is favoured by food photographers because of the softer, bluer light.

• Artificial Light: Be sure to turn off every artificial indoor light. No food looks good with even the faintest bit of icky yellow cast.

Related: Explore Bakeries From Project Bakeover

Gotta Hit Them Angles

There are three commonly-used angles to shoot food:  straight-on from the front, three-quarter downward angle, or overhead.  A good exercise is to look through your camera lens or screen as you move around the subject to figure out which angle showcases the attributes you want to highlight. Below are general rules with practical examples, but be sure to explore all three (and angles in between) to find the best one.

• Straight-On: Ideal to showcase height and/or interesting layers for cupcakes, layered cakes, stack of cookies or bars.

• Three-Quarter: Best for showing off items with layers or fillings in bars, macarons, filled tarts, profiteroles, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls.

• Overhead: Perfect for flat foods or foods with interesting shapes, surfaces or toppings e.g. pizzas, galettes, pop tarts, cookies, doughnuts, macarons, cinnamon rolls.

Overhead shot of a cauliflower pizza
Photo courtesy of Sonia Wong

See More: Here Are Our Favourite Bakeries Across Canada

Bring Images to Life

Composition: How elements are arranged in your shot to be aesthetically pleasing. Keep in mind:

Rule of Thirds: Imagine overlaying a grid of nine boxes over your image, then place your points of interest at the four intersecting points of the grid.

Leading Lines: Use lines to lead a viewer’s eye to the focal point e.g. a cake knife pointing toward the confection.

Repetition: Place multiples of the same item or items of similar shape. Grouping in odd numbers is ideal.  

Symmetry and Asymmetry: There is beauty and balance in symmetry, but be careful it doesn’t look boring or manufactured. Asymmetry can evoke interest. Try using negative space as well, in practicing asymmetrical composition.

Layers: Photos are two dimensional. Introducing layers creates depth and texture. Layers can take the form of the backdrop, linens, plate, cooling rack, a sprig of mint atop a cupcake or a sprinkling of powdered sugar on a tart.

Shot of a cupcake with pink buttercream icing on a plate with a mint green
Cupcake from Bluegrass & Buttercream bakery. Photo courtesy of Project Bakeover

• Colour: Different hues evoke different emotions or impressions. Blue feels calm, orange feels warm, green feels fresh and brown feels earthy. There’s also established guidance for mixing colours in visually appealing ways such as complementary, monochromatic and analogous combinations. Complementary tones sit opposite on the colour wheel i.e. pink cupcake set on a green surface. Monochromatic combos use hues, tints and shades of the same colour i.e. red strawberries on pink frosting. Analogous combo involves three adjacent colours i.e. red, orange and yellow heirloom tomato slices arranged on a vegetable tart. Think about the impression you want your food to make and choose your colours intentionally for the props and elements in the frame.

• Props: Anything that helps your image tell a complete story is a prop. You may use glassware, napkins, plates, pinch bowls, baking tins, cake stands, cutlery, etc. to add interest by way of texture, shape and height. You can also use raw ingredients from the recipe as a prop to convey freshness, such as juicy berries, vibrant herbs, a dribble of maple syrup or a dusting of flour on the table. Scatter bits of the food around it to hint at its texture, such as streusel crumbs or bits of chopped nuts. You can place utensils used in preparation, serving or enjoyment of the food to make the viewer feel part of the experience, such as a used whisk or spoon shattered through the sugary crust of a crème brulée tart. Be sure the prop makes sense and relates to the hero food.

Capture Food At Its Freshest

With some exception, many baked goods look their best when freshly prepared. Think about the shine of chocolate chips on a just-baked cookie, the glisten of freshly dripped glaze on a cake or gooey cheese on a hot pizza. These details make them inherently more drool-worthy! This means you should prepare as much of your set up as possible before the food is ready. Pull the table next to the window, set up any surfaces or backdrops, grab all the props you might need, fire up your playlist, and if you’re using one, have the tripod set up with the camera. Arrange props (sans the hero food) in a way you think will look good, and once the hero food hits the scene, ideally you only need to make a few final adjustments before you click away.

Beautiful shot of various pastries
Photo courtesy of Sonia Wong

Editing Magic

Brightness, colour saturation, white balance, contrast, shadows: these are some of the basic adjustments you can tweak in editing software to create a more professional and polished result. You don’t need to be an expert photographer or to shell out big money for software. There are powerful mobile editing apps available, some free to download (Lightroom and Snapseed for example). Taking an excellent photo straight out of camera is always #goals, but that rarely happens. Image editing can save a photo or enhance an already strong one. That said, I caution the impulse to over-edit. It’s easy to get carried away and end up with harsh, fake-looking results, so use a gentle touch!

Tune into Project Bakeover Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

hot dog fried rice in black wok

Your Kiddos Will Not Stop Asking You to Cook This Hot Dog Fried Rice Recipe

It’s pretty much a fact that all kids (and many of us adults) love hot dogs. It’s also a fact that they are devoid of any meaningful nutrition. But alas, they find redemption in this hot dog fried rice recipe, alongside eggs, green beans and tofu. Tofu skeptics: this might just be your gateway tofu dish! This has long since been a family favourite at my house and I think it could be at yours too. (This dish can be enjoyed by everyone from age 3 and up). Be sure to cut hot dogs into small ⅛-inch slices so they’re not choking hazards for very young children. For a gluten-free version of this Kindred Kitchen recipe, opt for gluten-free hot dogs and tamari in place of soy sauce.

hot dog fried rice in skillet with wooden spoon

Hot Dog Fried Rice

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4-5

Ingredients:

6 cups cooked rice (2½ cups uncooked rice), cooled and refrigerated 1-2 days
4 large eggs
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt to taste
High-heat neutral oil
4 hot dogs, thinly sliced to ⅛-inch pieces
1 package (400 g) extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry, cut into ⅓-inch cubes
1 ½ tsp soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free), divided
½ lb green beans, stem trimmed and cut into ⅓-inch pieces
2 tsp finely minced ginger
3 tsp finely minced garlic (from 4-5 medium cloves)
3 scallions, finely chopped (reserve a little bit for garnish)

hot dog fried rice ingredients on kitchen counter

Directions:

1. Take cooked rice out from the fridge and break up any clumps of rice thoroughly with your hands. Set aside. Then whisk eggs with sesame oil and a pinch of salt in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

person fluffing rice in black bowl

2. Prepare all other ingredients. The key to any stir-fry is to not crowd the pan, cooking and seasoning every ingredient separately.

3. Preheat a wok or large heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Drizzle oil and add whisked seasoned eggs, moving it around constantly with a spatula until eggs are starting to set. but still quite runny. (They will cook more at the end). Scoop out and set aside.

Related: Easy and Tasty Ways to Use Leftover Rice

4. Turn heat up to medium-high. Drizzle a tiny bit of oil and add sliced hot dogs. Stir-fry until heated through and edges are just starting to brown and even crisp up if you like. Scoop out and set aside, leaving behind any oil that came out of the hot dogs.

5. If needed, drizzle a bit more oil and add the tofu cubes. Stir-fry gently so as not to break them. Let the tofu heat through and get a little brown on the edges. Season with ¾ tsp soy sauce (or tamari) and salt to taste. Cook for 30 seconds, scoop out and set aside.

cooking cubes of tofu in black wok

6. Next, drizzle a bit of oil and stir-fry the cut green beans until tender, but still crisp, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and ¾ tsp soy sauce (or tamari). Again, scoop out and set aside.

7. Heat 2-3 Tbsp of oil and add the minced ginger. Move it around and cook for 5-10 seconds. Add the minced garlic and cook for 5-10 seconds or until the garlic is just turning golden, being careful not to let it burn. Stir in most of the chopped scallions, remembering to reserve some for garnish. Add 1 Tbsp more oil and make sure the oil is heated and quite hot at this point (but before smoking) before adding the chilled cooked rice. Stir everything to distribute everything evenly. Cook until rice is fully heated through.

Related: How to Cook a Perfect Pot of Rice on the Stove

8. Add back the hot dogs, tofu and green beans. Mix well and allow to heat back through for a minute. Finally, add the runny eggs and stir to distribute. Stir-fry another minute to cook eggs fully. Turn heat off and taste. Add salt if needed. Garnish with scallions. Enjoy!

hot dog fried rice in black wok

Like this hot dog fried rice recipe? Try this vegetarian mujadara!