Sep 27, 2020

Chicken and Bacon Penne in Creamy Tomato Sauce

It seems like there were quite a number of last minute changes for my recent cooking plans. Early on I planned to make chicken and rice casserole, but couldn't find any cream of mushroom soup nor onion soup. So the meal changed to a totally different colorful roasted veggies with salmon instead. For this recipe, I was having troubles finding think-cut pancetta. Easier to solve the problem this time by simply switching from pancetta to thick-cut bacon instead. The flavor might not be 100% as I imagined, but it's bacon, of course the penne still taste pretty good.

Chicken and bacon penne in creamy tomato sauce -

Ingredients (about 6 portions)?

  • 1 pack/500 grams penne pasta
  • 2 pieces/350 grams chicken breast
  • 400 grams thick-cut bacon
  • 1 big box baby salad greens
  • 110 grams medium button mushrooms
  • 1 can/400 grams diced tomatoes
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons mixed Italian seasoning
  • Some smoked paprika
  • Some salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 200ml heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup grated aged Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley


Peel and chop the garlic cloves. Finely chop the parsley. Trim off the very end of button mushrooms. Grate the cheese. 

Season the chicken breasts with some salt and smoked paprika on both sides. Cut the bacon into medium sized pieces.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add in few pinches of salt then cook the pasta till almost al-dente in texture. Once ready, drain and set aside for later use. 

Take another large pot or big pan with some depth, drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and turn to medium high heat. Once the oil gets hot, add in seasoned chicken breasts. Sear till colored, flip and continue to sear the other side till slightly browned.

Remove the chicken and let it cool on the side. Once able to handle by hand, cut into bite size pieces.

Use the same pot and still using medium high heat. Add in all the bacon along with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Give it a quick stir once a while. Cook till some bacon fats start to render then add in chopped garlic, continue to cook for another 30 seconds or so.

Add in the mushrooms, baby salad greens, 1 more teaspoon of salt, and 2 teaspoons of mixed Italian seasoning. Cook for about 1 minute.

Pour in drained diced tomatoes along with heavy whipping cream. Also transfer the chicken back to the mixture. Bring the whole thing to a boil then lower the heat to keep at a simmer for up to couple minutes.

Mix in grated cheese. Add in penne and most of the chopped parsley. Mix and cook till penne reaches desired texture, shouldn't take long here, few minutes max.

Plate and top with remaining chopped parsley. Add more grated cheese on top if preferred.

Don't worry, or more so don't even try to fully cook the chicken breasts in the beginning. The main purpose is to get that nice sear on the surface. The meat can always get cooked-through once adding back to the pot later on.

A little note on the amount of salt used. Since we are using some grated aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is already kind of salty, if you're not 100% sure, it might be better to under-salt the pasta first. Give it a taste after adding the cheese, you can always add more salt as the cooking goes on. However, if you over-salt the mixture too early, it'll be hard to rescue the meal from there.

Other pasta recipes:

Sep 21, 2020

Super Addicting M&M's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Needless to say, the best part about homemade cookies, besides taste, is that sweet aroma filling the entire house. Nostalgic to a point, after all, I did grow up with these colorful M&M's chocolate chips. Adding these chocolate bits to cookies and baking them till the middle cracks, oh my, just by the thought of it can make my mouth watering.

M&M's chocolate chip cookies -

Ingredients (about 10 to 12 pieces)?

  • 1/2 cup or 115 grams unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup M&M's chocolate chips (plus more for extra toppings)
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chip 


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/190 degrees Celsius. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Keep the butter in room temperature till softened, with texture assembles semi-melted ice cream.

In a large mixing bowl, I used the mixer bowl directly, add in softened butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Mix till combined.

Break in one egg, also add in the vanilla extract. Mix again till combined.

Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix till combined.

Fold in both the chocolate chips and M&M's colorful chocolate chips. Transfer the entire dough to the fridge before baking. Wait till the dough hardens a bit, about 10 minutes. 

When ready, scoop the dough to the baking sheet. This recipe yields about 10 to 12 cookies, so even out the dough into individual balls and slightly press them down. Insert some extra colorful M&M's chocolate chips onto the cookie dough for an even better visual effect. On top of that, the more chocolate chips the merrier. 

Remember to space out each dough because they'll flatten out a little during the baking process.

Into the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or till the edges turned slightly browned. It took about 10 minutes for my batch. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set the cookies on a rack to cool down. However, be careful of little thieves that might steal these fresh cookies once out of the oven.

Absolutely loving that fresh off the oven smell. A little vanilla, heated sugar, and semi-melted chocolate, all these wonderful scent lingers in every corner of the house. It's like my homemade aroma, the kind that gives comfort, and perhaps tickling sweet cravings.

Some people like to wait till the cookies hardened before eating them. However, I do adore the soft texture when fresh off the heat, with still warm and melty oozing chocolate throughout. Once the cookies cool down, the texture still remain on the softer side for this recipe.

On a side note, this recipe only yields 10 to 12 pieces cookies, which was gone in the blink of an eye. So if you can, or perhaps for myself too, try to double up the ingredients and make two dozen cookies at once. Trust me, the more the merrier.

Sep 15, 2020

Colorful Roasted Veggies with Salmon

It was supposed to be a baked chicken and rice casserole recipe, but surprisingly I couldn't find canned cream of mushroom nor onion soup. Onion soup, that I can understand, after all, not that many locals use such ingredient in everyday cooking. Cream of mushroom on the other hand, was commonly found next to canned chicken stock. Not sure about the reasons behind it, but I can only find cream of mushroom with 30% chance when going to a grocery store.

I guess no more baked chicken and rice casserole until I manage to source these two key ingredients, or till I prep them from scratch. So I completely steered away from the original plan and changed to roasted veggies with salmon fillets, at least I can find all the ingredients needed at that moment.

Colorful roasted veggies with salmon -


  • 1 to 2 salmon fillets
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 small broccoli
  • 1/3 small purple cabbage
  • 1 handful peas
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius. Add the unsalted butter to a baking sheet, into the oven till butter just melted. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle some salt and black pepper on both sides of salmon fillets. The fillets are going to be baked as a whole first, then cut into bite size chunks after cooking.

Cut the tomatoes into chunks. Peel the purple cabbage into smaller pieces. Destem and remove the pits from yellow bell pepper, then cut the remaining section into larger chunks. Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves.

Break broccoli into smaller florets. Do not discard the broccoli stem. Simply trim off the outer tougher layer then cut the remaining stem into larger pieces, it'll be just as tender and delicious.

Transfer prepped veggies to the baking sheet. Add in 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder, and 1/4 teaspoon all spice. Mix well and make sure all the ingredients are coated with melted butter and powdered seasonings.

Top the mixture with seasoned salmon fillets. Drizzle some olive oil on top of the salmon and veggies. Into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or till tomatoes are slightly burst with juice. No need to over-bake these ingredients till slightly burnt. Just a touch of heat should be enough.

Meanwhile, prepare a small pot of water. Add some salt along with peas. Bring to a boil, cook for one minute. Drain well.

Remove the baking sheet from heat once ready. Transfer baked salmon fillets to cutting board and cut into larger chunks. Give the other baked ingredients a few tosses then transfer to serving plate. Top with salmon bites and garnish with peas. Also sprinkle some freshly grind black pepper all over.

That buttery touch is essential. Melted butter, together with some olive oil and salmon fat, all these provide a moist touch to roasted veggies.

It works nicely as a healthy lunch or weekend brunch. There're a good variety of veggies with different colors too. Truly a healthy meal without sacrificing taste.

So from rice casserole to colorful roasted veggies with salmon, at least in the end I still get something baked and something delicious. Until then, let me try to stock on cream of mushroom and onion soup if I see any.

Other salmon recipes:

Sep 10, 2020

Japanese Stir-Fry Noodles Yakisoba (焼きそば)

No kidding, this recipe truly worth a try. The yakisoba was so good that I was planned for 6 servings, but ended up with 4 gigantic plate of food. Why? Because such comforting recipe can be too dangerous and making eaters wanting for more. I had to re-arrange the portion to satisfy that growing appetite.

Japanese stir-fry noodles yakisoba (焼きそば) -

Ingredients (supposedly 6 servings)?

  • 2 packs/1200 grams yakisoba noodles (yellow and slightly oiled noodles)
  • 320 grams ground pork
  • 6 to 8 slices pork loin
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1/2 small cabbage
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Some olive oil
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper
  • Some Katsuobushi
  • Some Japanese mayonnaise 
  • Some dried seaweed flakes
  • Some beni shōga/red pickled ginger (optional)


Peel and slice the onion. Chop the cabbage into smaller pieces. Season the pork loin slices with some salt and black pepper on both sides.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil then quickly add in the yakisoba or selected oiled yellow noodles. This is only to wash away extra oil, so a quick dip will do. Drain and set aside for later use.

Prepare a wok or a big non-stick pan, drizzle about 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and turn to medium high heat. Once warmed up, break in the eggs one by one to make sunny side up eggs. Sear till the edges of the egg white turn slightly browned or tiny bit burnt, but make sure the center yolk remains slightly undercooked. Make the sunny side up eggs in two or three batches if needed, for instance, if the cookware is not wide enough. Once the eggs are ready, scoop out for later use.

Use the same cookware, add in 1 more tablespoon of olive oil if the surface is too dry. Continue to use medium high heat, transfer pork slices over and sear till slightly colored. Flip and continue to sear till colored on the other side. Again, scoop out for later use.

Still using the same cookware and medium high heat. This time, add in ground pork and stir-fry till about half way cooked through. Add in onion slices and cabbage. Turn to high heat. Cook till the cabbage softened, or till it reaches desired texture. Some like it soft, some like it crunchy, so the cooking time varies here.

Transfer drained noodles over and give it a quick mix. Pour in 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 4 tablespoons oyster sauce, and 2 tablespoons water. The ratio is about 2:2:1 for Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, and water. Mix well, and continue to cook for 30 seconds to a minute. Taste and adjust with extra seasonings if needed.

Arrange the yakisoba to serving plates. Top each serving with 1 to 2 pork loin slices. Also top each serving with one sunny side up egg. Generously drizzle Japanese mayonnaise all over and sprinkle some dried seaweed flakes. Add some katsuobushi right before serving, so that the katsuobushi will start "dancing" when in contact with heat, making a pleasing visual presentation.

If red pickled ginger is available, serve along with the yakisoba.

This recipe makes a good bento/lunch box meal too. However, in that case, perhaps try to mix in the katsuobushi with the noodles instead of adding on top. Even though you won't be able to see dancing katsuobushi, at least the flavors are still up there, comforting and making one wanting for more.   

Extended Reading:

Sep 3, 2020

Steamed Fish Fillets with Aged Shaoxing Wine 陳紹蒸魚片

Usually, or more so I was accustomed to use rice cooking wine when steaming fish. The clear kind of Chinese rice cooking wine. However, this time I've switched to a stronger scented yellow wine, in this case, aged Shaoxing wine for a flavor boost. The end result got quite a kick to it but not over-powering to a point blanketing all the other seasonings used. Consider it a good steer away from my common seasonings.

Steamed fish fillets with aged Shaoxing wine 陳紹蒸魚片 - 


  • 240 grams Taiwanese snapper fillets
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 140 grams/2 loosely packed cups mixed mushrooms
  • 3 to 4 bok choi
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon aged Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce paste
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • Few splashes Chinese rice cooking wine 
  • Tiny pinch salt
  • Tiny pinch black pepper


Slice the fish into smaller fillet pieces. Add a few drops of Chinese rice cooking wine and let it marinate for few minutes. It'll help reduce some fishy or earthy scent from the fish.

Destem and cut the tomato into smaller chunks. If using larger bok choi, cut or tear into smaller pieces. Destem the mushrooms. Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves.

Take a serving plate or a container, add in fish fillets, 1 tablespoon of aged Shaoxing wine, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce paste, 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of sugar, garlics, tomatoes, bok choy, mushrooms, tiny pinch of salt, and tiny pinch of black pepper.

Use a steamer, per my case, I used Taiwanese Tatung cooker, steam for 15 minutes. Doesn't really matter if you start steaming before or after the temperature rises, the fish used here won't get too tough or bad texture even if cooked a bit too long. Once done, turn off the power and let the residual heat to continue cooking the fish for another 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Re-plate if needed and serve right away.

The fish used here, Taiwanese snapper, it's cheap but not the most delicious option. Sometimes it'll come with an earthy scent. So to incorporate stronger alcohol, like aged Shaoxing wine, works really well to wash away that perhaps unpleasant flavor.

On top of that, I omitted the use of sesame oil in the end because I would rather let the aged Shaoxing wine shine instead of over-mixing with also strong-scented sesame oil. If you insist, simply splash some sesame oil before serving.

You can also include some ginger and scallion, or even red chilies. Adding these extra ingredients will only boost up the flavors, don't worry about over-complicating the dish. However, with aged Shaoxing wine and garlics along, still a well-present, easy-cleaning recipe.

Other recipes using fish fillets: