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.

3 Kid-Friendly Halloween Dessert Decorating Ideas Inspired by The Big Bake

Sure, we can let the pandemic dampen another Halloween or we can make this year’s celebration special in a different way. Wicked or whimsical, macabre or kawaii, the thing that can be said about Halloween treats is that they are always fun and creative. Unleash your inner artist and delight the children (and adults) in your life with these bewitching desserts.  All three ideas require no baking – unless you want to!  Store-bought baked goods can be elevated with colourful candy melts, royal icing, melted chocolate, fondant and candies to lively (or ghoulish) effect. Everything you need can be sourced from the grocery store, doughnut shop, bulk store or art supply store.

Related: Try This Halloween Pumpkin Bundt Cake

The only from-scratch thing pictured is the buns, which you can sub with frozen or fresh rolls from the supermarket. The fun with these projects is in the design and decorating. Follow my lead or make your own phantom fantasies come to life. My daughters gleefully ate their way through a fair share of these confections, confirming they are as tasty as they are aesthetic. I’m giving you the download on how I created these three boo-licious treats so you can try your hand at one or all of them this holiday. Involve the little boos for a fun at-home activity. Queue the Halloween playlist and get decorating!

Six Halloween-themed decorated donuts on a pan sheet

Candy-Coated Donut Characters

Ingredients:
Plain doughnuts
Candy melts in desired colours (I used white, pink, green, orange)
Vegetable shortening for adjusting consistency of melted coating as needed (optional)
Small pack of white fondant (for mummy wrapping and eyeball)
Whole almonds for ears and little hands (or use candy corn if nut-allergic)
Dark chocolate chips and candy eyeballs (for eyes)
Chocolate Pocky for alien antennae and pumpkin stem
One dark chocolate ball for spider body
Candy corn or other small candy
Black royal icing

Related: This Candy-Filled Pumpkin Pail is the Perfect Halloween Showstopper

Directions:
1. Prepare candy melt as directed on the package. If the mixture seems thick and somewhat seized, add a dab of shortening to thin out and make it smooth. Pour enough candy melt into a small dish so that it will come halfway up the doughnut. Before dipping, poke in whole almonds for any ears and/or hands in the design. If making the three-eyed alien, break off the plain cookie end of a Pocky and insert it for the antennae.

2. Dip one side of the doughnut to coat. The candy coating will not be smooth immediately. Shake the doughnut side to side quickly to even out the candy coating – yes it actually works! For all black details, I used black royal icing piped out of a bag with a tiny hole cut at the tip for making precise, thin lines.  Add decorations as per below.

Related: How to Melt and Temper Chocolate for Perfect Candy Making

For the mummy (top left):
I used pink candy melt as the base. For the mummy wrap, roll out white fondant to 1/8” thickness and cut into thin strips. Drape them onto the donut. Attach candy eyes to the wet candy coating to adhere.

For the skeleton (top middle):
While the candy melt is still wet, adhere two dark chocolate chips with their flat base facing out to create the eyes. Dry thoroughly before decorating with icing. Dot nostrils and draw mouth with black icing.

For the alien (top right):
Before dipping in candy coating, make sure you’ve inserted two almonds on the sides for ears and the cookie end of a Pocky for the antennae. Place three candy eyes while the candy melt is still wet (otherwise glue it on with royal icing). Wait for the candy coating to dry completely before piping the mouth with black icing.

For the spider (bottom right): I used pink candy melt as the base. Add chocolate ball while still wet. Let dry thoroughly. Pipe spider legs with black icing. Use small dabs of black icing to glue candy corn and candy eyes onto the chocolate ball.

For the pumpkin (bottom middle): Before dipping into candy melt, insert almonds for hands. Let dry thoroughly. Draw face with black icing. Break off the chocolate end of a Pocky and insert it as the stem.

For the cyclops (bottom left):
Before dipping into candy melt, insert almonds for ears. Dip in green candy melt. Roll a piece of white fondant and cut a circle that will completely cover the donut hole (I used the larger end of a big piping tip). Place over the donut hole while the candy melt is still wet to adhere. Let dry thoroughly. Pipe a black circle on the white fondant for the pupil. I had a flat white disc sprinkle in a sprinkle mix, so I added that for a little “sparkle” in the eye. You can create the same effect with a tiny circle of white fondant.

Related: Spooky S’Mores Bars Are the Perfect Halloween Treat

Nine decorated buns with Halloween theme

Chocolate Decorated Buns

Ingredients:
One batch of rolls, homemade or frozen store-bought and baked according to package directions
Melted dark chocolate
Candy eye
Optional if making from scratch: culinary matcha and turmeric powder to add colour to dough

Directions:
1. If you’re baking dinner rolls from frozen store-bought, prepare them based on package directions and allow to cool fully on a rack before decorating. If you’re making the rolls from scratch, consider using the milk bread recipe in my Honey Scallion Wool Roll Bread, without the filling. Form the dough into balls (about 55g each), stuff them with chocolate chips if you like and bake as dinner rolls for 35 minutes. For optional colouring, after the 10-min kneading step, split the dough into three equal pieces. For one third, knead 1 tbsp culinary matcha for 2 minutes. For second third, knead ½ tsp turmeric powder for 2 minutes. Leave the final third plain.

2. Once your rolls are fully cooled, melt dark chocolate until smooth. Place in a piping bag with a small tip cut at the end. Pipe decorations as desired. For my spider, I also attached candy eyes using small dots of melted chocolate.

Sheet pan of chocolate cake dessert with RIP signs and a hanging ghost overtop

Chocolate Cake Graveyard With Hanging Ghost

Ingredients:
Chocolate sheet cake, homemade or store-bought
Oreo cookie crumbs
Crackers or cookies for gravestones
Chocolate rock candies (from bulk store)
Melted dark chocolate for writing on gravestones
For hanging ghost: small piece of white fondant, small candy ball or a small rolled up ball of fondant, piece of twine for hanging
Small branch for the tree (make sure it’s not from a toxic plant)

Related: Pull-Apart Graveyard Cupcakes

Directions:
1. Melt chocolate until smooth and place in a piping bag with a tiny tip cut off. Write “RIP” on cookies for the gravestones. Let dry. For the hanging ghost, roll a piece of white fondant 1/8” inch thick and cut a small circle about 2” in diameter. Roll another piece of fondant into a small ball to fit inside as the ghost head – you can also use a small candy ball. Gently double-knot a piece of twine around the collar, with one end long enough for hanging. Dot two small eyes with melted chocolate.

2. Cover chocolate sheet cake with a generous layer of Oreo cookie crumbs for soil. Insert cookie gravestones into the cake. Scatter rock candies.  Trim the bottom of your tree branch for appropriate scale to your cake. Wrap the bottom 1-2” of the branch with cling wrap so it doesn’t come in direct contact with cake, but is concealed once inserted. Insert branch into the cake. Hang fondant ghost off a branch. You may need to tilt the tree to counterbalance the weight of the ghost. Use rock candies at the tree base to stabilize it. 

Tune into The Big Bake: Halloween on September 27 at 8 PM ET to see new episodes. 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.

a fluffy loaf of wool bread on a piece of patterned parchment paper

You Must Make This Trending Salted Honey Scallion Wool Bread

Wool Roll Breads entered the viral food scene earlier this year thanks to their super Instagrammable aesthetic. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a yeasted white bread studded with a sweet or savoury filling, cut and arranged to bake up and resemble a pleasingly plump roll of wool or yarn. This version combines both sweet and savoury elements with a sublime honey scallion butter filling (because I’m truly all about that sweet-savoury combo!). The dough is made using the tangzhong method, a Chinese yeasted bread technique popularized by its use in Japanese milk breads that yields the lightest, fluffiest texture everyone goes mad for.

This recipe is a standard milk bread recipe which can be formed into a regular loaf of bread in a 9.5” x 4.5” loaf pan, too. But hey, what would be the fun in pulling out an ordinary loaf of bread when you can pull out this show-stopping wool roll bread with a little more effort? (Note: For bread recipes like this, I highly recommend weighing the ingredients on a kitchen scale for better accuracy and results).

a fluffy loaf of wool bread on a piece of patterned parchment paper

Salted Honey Scallion Wool Bread

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Rise Time: 1-3 hours
Total Time: 2-4 hours
Servings: 1 loaf

Ingredients:
For the tangzhong roux starter:
3 Tbsp (24g) bread flour
½ cup (120ml) water and/or milk of choice

For the yeast mixture:
½ cup (120ml) lukewarm milk of choice, plus more for brushing the bread
1 tsp (4g) sugar
2 tsp (7g) dry active yeast

For the dough:
2⅔ cup (340g) bread flour
2 Tbsp (24g) sugar
1 tsp (4g) salt
Cooled tangzhong from above
Activated yeast mixture from above
1 large egg (55g), room temperature
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, room temperature

For the filling:
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 Tbsp (45ml) honey
2 scallions, finely chopped
2½ tsp (10g) salt

ingredients for wool bread on a grey countertop

Directions:
1. Make tangzhong roux starter by whisking the flour and water in a small pot over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until thickened to the consistency of pudding. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

2. For the yeast mixture, activate the yeast by warming the milk in the microwave for 20 seconds to a lukewarm temperature (between 100°F-110°F). Whisk sugar into the milk to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast in, whisking quickly to minimize clumps. Bloom for 10 minutes or until frothy.

Related: Restaurant-Worthy Chinese Scallion Pancakes You Can Make at Home

3. Make the dough by adding bread flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix dry ingredients well. Once tangzhong is cooled and yeast is activated, add those along with the egg. Turn mixer on low speed and mix for 5 minutes. Add butter in 3-4 portions, allowing each to incorporate, waiting 10 seconds in between before adding the next. Turn mixer to medium speed and knead for 10 minutes or until it pulls away from the bowl, forming a dough that is smooth, stretchy and fairly tacky. Tug and stretch a piece of dough using your fingers to confirm it can stretch and hold a thin film. Shape dough into a ball and place in greased bowl. Cover with kitchen towel or cling wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 40-60 minutes or up to 2 hours depending on ambient temperature and climate. You may proof at room temperature or inside a turned-off oven with the light turned on to speed it along, especially in colder months.

a ball of dough resting for scallion wool bread

4. Meanwhile, make the filling by mixing butter, honey, scallions and salt in a medium-sized bowl with a spatula. Spread mixture onto a piece of cling wrap. Use spatula to form it into a 5” x 3” rectangle. Wrap and chill in freezer to harden. This makes it easier to fill the dough later.

Related: This Jalapeno Appenzeller Bread is a Cheese Lover’s Dream

5. Shortly before dough has doubled in size, grease a 9” round pan with butter and line with parchment. Set oven rack to center or just below, making sure there is sufficient clearance for bread to rise during baking. Place a large sheet pan on a lower rack or directly beneath the loaf pan to catch any drippings or filling that may burst through while baking. Preheat oven to 350°F.a ball of risen dough for scallion wool bread

6. Once dough has doubled in size, punch it down with a fist and turn onto lightly floured surface. Pat with hands to flatten and pop any air bubbles. Cut dough into 5 equal pieces (if using a kitchen scale, each piece should weigh about 140g). Shape pieces into balls, cover and rest for 10 minutes.

Related: How to Make Everything Garlic Bread Knots
rectangles of dough for scallion wool bread topped with scallion and honey mixture

7. Meanwhile, Cut chilled scallion filling into 5 equal pieces.

Related: This Easy Recipe for Soft Rolls Uses Less Than 10 Pantry Ingredients!
the 4 steps of rolling scallion wool bread being shown

8. Then, using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a loosely rectangular shape, about 9” x 4”. Lightly mark midway point of the rectangle with a horizontal line by pressing down gently (not cutting through) using a dough scraper or back of a long knife. Make lengthwise cuts below the demarcation into thin “wool strands”. I like to very lightly dust the area first before making the cuts so the dough doesn’t stick to the knife blade.  Place a piece of scallion filling on the uncut portion of the rectangle and roll to form a cylinder with the wool strands showing on the outside. Repeat with remaining 4 pieces of dough and filling. Arrange in pan right up against the outer edges. The center will fill in one the dough rises.

dough for scallion wool bread in a round baking dish

8. Cover and let it rise again until it has doubled in size, filling up the pan and rising well above the top of the pan, again between 40-60 minutes or more depending on ambient temperature. Brush the top gently with milk and bake 30-35 minutes. Tent with foil if the top is getting darker than you like. You can check doneness by lifting the bread out of the pan and inserting a skewer from the side into the center – it should emerge dry. If you have an instant thermometer, the internal temperature of the bread should be between 190°F-205°F. Place pan on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then remove bread and place directly on wire rack to finish cooling. Bread can be eaten warm or sliced after it fully cools. Store in an airtight container or ziptop bag out of direct sunlight for a couple of days.

a closeup of scallion wool bread

Love Sonia’s wool bread? Try her corn mochi cake next!

slices of sweet corn mochi cake on a blue plate

This Delightfully Chewy Mochi Cake is Made with Fresh Corn

It is prudent to preface this recipe with a warning: May lead to repeated urges to go back for more! This is my seasonal spin on the iconic Hawaiian butter mochi, a treat made primarily with glutinous rice flour and coconut milk which yields an addictively gooey yet chewy texture with crisp edges. This idea came to me in early summer when the arrival of fresh, local corn was still a (highly-anticipated) few weeks away. Now in peak corn season, I can confirm this is the best thing I have made with corn all summer.

Fresh corn kernels are blended right into the batter of this cake until smooth. The result is a mochi cake that showcases corn at its peak, adding a nuanced dimension that layers oh-so-well with the flavours of coconut milk, vanilla and butter. Did I mention how low-effort this is? Everything goes into the blender to make the batter. Honestly, the hardest part is waiting for the cake to cool before tearing into it.

slices of sweet corn mochi cake on a blue plate

Sweet Corn Mochi Cake

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Total Time: 70 minutes
Servings: 16 pieces

Ingredients:
2½ cups corn kernels, preferably fresh cut from 2-3 cobs
½ cup full fat coconut milk
¼ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus more for greasing baking pan
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups glutinous rice flour (I use Koda Farms Blue Star Mochiko)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Ingredients for sweet corn mochi cake on a white countertop

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease baking pan with butter. You can use any of the following pans: 8” x 8” or 9” x 9” square baking pan, 8” or 9” round baking pan or similarly-sized cast iron skillet.

2. Place corn kernels and coconut milk in a high-speed blender. Blend until very smooth. Place remaining ingredients and blend again until smooth.

Note: If you don’t have a high-speed blender, use an immersion blender or food processor to blend the corn and coconut milk until smooth. Then, in a medium bowl, whisk the “corn milk” with melted butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. In a separate large bowl, whisk glutinous rice flour, baking powder and salt. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Whisk until very smooth and no streaks of white remain. There is no gluten in “glutinous rice flour” so you don’t need to worry about over-mixing this batter.

3. Pour batter into greased baking pan. Give the pan a few hard taps on the counter to knock out air bubbles. Bake for 40-60 minutes, or until center is set but bounces back when pushed, and edges are golden brown.

Related: 18 Fresh Corn Recipes That Are the Perfect Late-Summer Dinner

Batter for sweet corn mochi cake being poured into a baking pan

4. Set pan on a wire rack to cool fully to room temperature. If you can’t wait until it cools to room temperature, the mochi cake will be more custardy and gooey but not yet its maximum chewiness. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature up to one day or in the fridge for longer periods.

Note: Mochi cakes in general are notably less chewy with the passage of time, so be sure to eat it fresh for maximum texture.

Related: Make the Most of Corn Season with These Sweet Corn Arepas

4 slices of sweet corn mochi cake piled high on a ceramic plate

Like Sonia’s mochi cake? Try her Japanese-inspired rolled omelette next!

three rolled hotdog omelettes on parchment paper

Hot Dogs for Breakfast? Yes Please! You Need to Try This Japanese-Inspired Rolled Hot Dog Omelette

Inspired by both Japanese rolled egg omelettes (tamagoyaki) and trendy Korean rice dogs, this Hot Dog Rolled Omelette recipe is a fun, reimagined version of a classic breakfast omelette . My daughters say this recipe is like wrapping a hot dog in three cozy layers of eggy blanket, which is pretty accurate. Be sure to serve with a squiggle of your favourite sauce(s) such as Japanese mayo, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce or tonkatsu sauce for the full effect.

A square or rectangular omelette pan is normally used for rolled omelettes, and can be purchased online or at Japanese kitchenware stores. However, a small round egg pan can be made to work as well. You can also create a similar look by folding in the two side flaps of each egg layer to form straight edges first, before proceeding to roll. Online how-to videos are a great resource for visual guidance.three rolled hotdog omelettes on parchment paper

Rolled Hot Dog Omelettes

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

For the omelettes
8 large eggs
2 Tbsp water
¼ tsp salt
1 scallion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, diced
¼ cup corn kernels
4 small hot dogs
Neutral oil, for frying

Optional sauces for serving:
Japanese mayonnaise
Ketchup
Mustard
Hot sauce
Tonkatsu sauce

mise en place for rolled hotdog omelettes

Directions:

1. Whisk eggs, water and salt together. Stir in scallions, bell peppers and corn kernels.

Related: Here’s How to Cook Eggs Perfectly Every Time

eggs, scallions and peppers being mixed together in a ceramic bowl

2. Heat pan over medium heat. Set out a small dish of oil and fold a half-piece of paper towel into a 2” x 1” rectangle to be used for oiling the pan.

3. Using tongs or chopsticks, dip folded paper towel into oil and brush it onto the pan to very lightly grease. Pan fry hot dogs until warmed through and slightly browned. Set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low and let pan cool off a little.

scrambled eggs, peppers and scallions in an oiled square pan

4. Brush pan again with oil. Pour a thin layer of egg mixture into the pan, swirling to coat evenly. In my 6” x 7” pan, I use 3-4 Tbsp of egg mixture per layer. When the top is still slightly runny but the bottom is cooked enough to roll, place a hot dog about an inch from the far end of the pan and. Using two utensils (e.g. spatulas, tongs, chopsticks) start rolling the egg over and around the hotdog towards you.

A hotdog placed over omelette mixture in a square pan, ready to be rolled

5. Once the hot dog is fully rolled, push it back to the far end. Brush oil onto the pan and pour a second thin layer of egg mixture in. Swirl to cover the entire area of the pan not occupied by the rolled up hot dog. Adjust heat between low and medium as needed so the egg doesn’t cook too quickly. Again, cook the egg mixture to the point that it still looks runny on the top but the bottom has cooked enough to allow rolling. Roll hot dog towards you again, pulling the second egg layer over and around as you roll.

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

a rolled hotdog omelette in a pan

6. Repeat step 5 one more time with a third egg layer. Once rolled, cook the finished hot dog omelette about five seconds more to ensure it is cooked through.

7. Optional step: roll the warm omelette inside a parchment and/or bamboo mat and very gently shape with hands into a uniformly-rounded tube. Allow it to cool a few minutes before unwrapping.

a hotdog omelette being rolled up in parchment paper and a bamboo mat

8. Serve hot dog rolled omelettes with your choice of sauces.

Like Sonia’s hot dog rolled omelette recipe? Try her Japanese fruit sandos next!

Cross-section of pretty sandwiches made of white bread with whipped cream and sliced fruits

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.

pretty Japanese-inspired sandwiches with whipped cream and sliced fruit

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!