Firecracker Chicken

Prep time: 7 to 10 minutes
Cooking time: Less than 20 minutes on stove top
Calories per serving: 562 (based on 2 servings)

I love Chinese food, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The spicy ones attract me the most 😀
Of course there are days when you crave Chinese takeout, then it hits you. If you give in to that craving, you will be going way over your allowed calories for the day. Then it would mean you’ve got to double or triple your workout for the day or the next day.
I had some leftover chicken when I recently craved some Chinese goodness. I had enough to make into at least two servings so I went for it – Firecracker Chicken, mmmm – I couldn’t wait!
I checked my pantry right away and confirmed I had everything I needed and here they are:

1 lb chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup cornstarch
salt and pepper (about 1/4 tsp and 1/8 tsp respectively)

1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper, a dashSauce:
1/4 c sriracha sauce (reduce to 1/8 if you wish to tone down the heat level)
2 tbsps honey
garlic powder, 1/4 tsp
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
sesame seeds for garnishing (optional)

Canola or vegetable oil for frying, about 1/2 cup

Pro tip: I used cornstarch even though it has a bit more calories and carbs than flour. Why, you ask? Because it is gluten free. Additionally, cornstarch will give you a crispier, crumblier texture compared to flour. Who doesn’t want crispy? I know I do 🙂

So let’s get to it. Making these bad boys is so easy! All you need to do is the following:
1) Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, about 1 1/2 ” each.
2) Heat the oil in a big enough frying pan over medium heat.
2) In a medium bowl, mix together the cornstarch with the salt and pepper.
3) In another bowl, season the beaten egg with salt and pepper as well.
4) Dip the chicken pieces in the cornstarch mixture, then into the egg mixture.
5) Next once all the pieces have been dipped into the egg mixture, dip them in the remaining cornstarch mixture.
6) At this point, your pan is hot enough so get frying! Do not overcrowd the pan for you to manage it easily. Adjust the temperature if needed as you don’t want to not get the chicken cooked through. You want each piece to be nicely browned. It takes about 5 minutes each side to cook through.
7. Once the chicken is done, transfer them in a plate lined with some paper towels. Set aside.
8. In a medium sauce pan, mix together the sriracha, honey, garlic powder, and apple cider vinegar over medium low heat. Let simmer and set aside.
9. Lastly, in a mixing bowl, toss the chicken with the sauce and coat each chicken piece as evenly as possible. Garnish with sesame seeds or some chopped scallions. Enjoy with a warm bowl of steamed jasmine rice.
I know 562 is lot of calories but that’s still pretty good compared to your typical takeout! Besides, takeout is loaded with sodium and having control over that when you make your own is always a plus!
Eat well and be well. – Ella Bella
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Korean-Inspired Sautéed Beef

Prep time: About 5 minutes
Cooking time: Less than 20 minutes on stove top
Calories per serving: Only 348 calories/per serving based on 4 servings, 16 oz beef

dukbokki 2

If you miss Korean food like I do, this might just help with the craving. This recipe is inspired by a dish called Beef Dukbokki. I first had Beef Dukbokki through Blue Apron. A friend who orders from them online had to be away for the weekend. She thought I could enjoy working on her pre-ordered meal kits. Of course I willingly obliged! Just my luck – one of the kits was this Korean dish.
The original recipe uses Korean rice cakes as well as snap peas. Please feel free to use these if you can source them in your local Asian store. However, note that the calorie count will definitely be higher. Another note, the original recipe wasn’t spicy but they used a side of kimchi with it. My solution was to add some chili flakes for a little bit of hit since I didn’t have any kimchi handy.
Let’s get cooking, shall we?
Here is a list of what you need:

1/2 tsp EVOO

1 to 1.25 lbs ground beef (I used 80/20 ground chuck)
3 tbsps light soy sauce
3 tbsps brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger or 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp pepper (less or more to taste)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 of a medium yellow onion, diced
1 tsp red chili pepper flakes (optional)
3 stalks of green onion or 5 stalks of chives for garnishing
1 to 2 tsps of black and white sesame seeds (the regular sesame seeds will do just as fine)
Sweat the garlic in hot olive oil for about 2 minutes on medium high heat. Then add in the onion to sweat as well for another 3 minutes.
Add the beef and saute with the garlic and onion until brown. This takes about 7 to 8 minutes. You would want to drain the beef mixture with a strainer if there seems to be too much oil.
Then add the soy sauce and brown sugar along with the ginger and pepper (and chili flakes too if you are using them) and give it a good stir to distribute the flavors evenly. Simmer over medium heat for about 7 to 8 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
Transfer to a plate or bowl. Garnish with scallions or chives and sesame seeds.
Serve over steamed jasmine rice or any rice of your choice.
Eat well and be well. -Ella Bella
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Ella Bella’s Creamy Mushroom Soup

Prep time: About 5 minutes
Cooking time: Less than 30 minutes on stove top
Calories per serving: Only 224 (based on 6 servings, about 1.5 cups each):


I’ve always loved Mushroom soup. I don’t know about you though, I know I have outgrown the ones you get in a can. I won’t mention the brand, haha. These canned ones are just too, uhmmm, unhealthy. Tasty, but unhealthy. The sodium content is way too high.

So I’ve already made this recipe twice this year. No meat on the first time. I added some cubed chicken the second time. You won’t believe how easy it is to make this! I wanted to share the recipe while the weather is still perfect for soup.

Here are the ingredients:
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
16 oz (2 cups) baby bella mushrooms, bruinoise cut (very small dice)
4 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth (more if desired)
1 ½ cups evaporated milk (you may also use evaporated skim milk)
2 cups wild rice (I used Carolina Rice Long Grain Wild Rice with Seasonings)
2 tbsps cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste

1) Dissolve the cornstarch in water in a small bowl. Make sure to give it a good whisk so that no clumps build up. Set aside.
2) On a medium sauce pan, heat up the olive oil over medium high. Sweat (not sauté) the garlic for about 1 minute, then add and sweat the onion for about a minute.
3) Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 3 minutes. Then, add in the broth.
4) Pour in the wild rice and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium low. Let the rice cook. This would take about 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure to watch the heat as you don’t want it to dry up. Adjust the heat as needed. Give it a taste and add salt if needed. You would definitely want to season with some ground black pepper.
5) Add more broth until you reach your desired consistency. Next, add in the milk and let simmer for about 3 minutes. Give your soup a good mix. I added more broth to mine as I wanted the ratio to be more balanced.
6) Lastly, put in the cornstarch mixture and give it a good stir. This would act as the thickener. Keep simmering on low for another two to three minutes, or until your desired thickness is achieved. Serve hot as a starter, or as a meal with a panini or sandwich of choice.


If you use regular rice, you will most likely need to adjust the spices according to taste.

You may use heavy cream instead of evaporated milk if you wish. If you do, add ½ cup water to 1 cup of heavy cream. Just keep in mind that the calorie count will increase 😉

Eat well and be well. – Ella Bella

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Pork Empanadas

Prep time: About 30 minutes (dough prep considered)

Cooking time: Filling: About 15 minutes, Pockets’ Baking Time: About 25 minutes

Calories per serving: 221 (based on 24 empanadas)

pork empanadas 

My husband had his annual summer gathering with his friends recently and since I have made banoffee pie for them in the past, it was sort of expected that I made something again. Everyone knows I love cooking so it’s really something I was looking forward to.

Initially, I thought of making Lumpia (Filipino-style spring rolls), but for convenience purposes, I had to think of something else.

And then, ting! Empanadas came to mind. I was initially thinking of going the classic chicken empanada route, but then, I ended up forgetting the chicken breasts! Hahaha.

I took a quick look at the prime pork roast I got which I was gonna make pulled pork with. I had the make the empanadas that night so I told myself, to hell with it, let’s make this work.

Without further ado, here are the ingredients:

For the dough:

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tbsps granulated sugar

6 tbsps shortening or unsalted butter

½ cup ice cold water

½ tsp white vinegar

1.5 tsps baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 egg for egg wash

For the filling:

1.5 lbs prime roast pork, cut into small bits

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 tbsp olive or canola oil

½ cup low sodium beef or chicken stock

1 cup julienne carrots

½ cup Frozen peas

1 medium-sized potato, cut into small cubes

About 1 tbsp sea salt

About 1 tsp black pepper

¼ cup mild green chiles (optional)

½ tsp paprika

A dash of ground turmeric


Make the dough first.

In a small mixing bowl, slightly beat the egg, add the vinegar, and set aside.

In a separate bowl (medium size will do but large is recommended), mix together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Add the cold water gradually and mix with a wooden spoon/ladle. Gradually add in the cold water. Mix until you reach the consistency of dough, which would be lumpy at this point.

Next, on a floured surface, knead the dough to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Form into a ball and wrap with cling wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Prepare the filling.

Sweat (not sauté) the garlic and onions in an oiled hot pan (on medium high heat). Make sure it’s big enough for all the ingredients otherwise it might be a little challenging to stir them all later.

Add the pork bits and potato cubes and let them brown. Add the salt, pepper, paprika and turmeric so as to build your flavor profile. This process should take about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure to watch it so as to not burn any of the sides.

Then, add stock into the pork mixture. I added the peas at this point since I used frozen ones. Turn the heat down to medium low and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Next, add in the carrots and keep simmering for about 5 minutes. Add the chiles and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside and let cool for a few minutes (about 10 minutes).

pork empanadas 3

Get your chilled dough and get ready to roll 🙂 You would also want to preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) at this time.

The secret to dough rolling as I have found is making sure your dough is chilled. I have also used both unsalted butter and shortening. The main difference I found is that when you use shortening, the crust seems to come out flakier.

Anyway, it’s always best to have some extra flour beside you when you are rolling your dough. That way, you can flour your rolling pin whenever dough starts sticking to it.

pork empanadas 2

Flatten your dough on a slightly floured surface. Roll with the rolling pin and make small circles. Either use a cup base for shaping or make small balls (about the size of a golf ball) and roll each into 1/8 of an inch (0.3 cm) thickness. Each should be about 4 inches in diameter.

Fill each pocket with the pork filling. Fold, fill then seal. Just put enough filling then pinch the edges so it seals. I use a fork to make it look a little fancier when they finish baking.

pork empanadas 1

Lastly, brush each pocket with egg wash and stick a fork in each of them. This allows the filling to “breathe.” The egg wash makes the pockets “shine” and look smoother when they are baked.

Line a large baking pan with parchment paper (for easy clean up). Please each pocket onto the lined pan, about 1 or more inches apart. Bake for 25 minutes. Enjoy warm with a cup of coffee or tea or have two for a quick lunch or dinner.

                                                                                  Eat well and be well. – Ella Bella

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Ella Bella’s Skinny Cornbread

Prep time: About 10 minutes

Cooking time: About 20 to 25 minutes

Calories per serving: 200 (based on 24 squares)


When I got fresh corn from my step kids’ mom recently, my immediate thought was to make some nice, yummy cornbread. I also started missing the corn muffins that I used to get at Kenny Rogers’ Roasters when I was still living in the Philippines. That definitely reinforced my craving for some good corn bread.

Cornbread can be a snack or side – it’s really up to you. Making this is also quick and easy. The folks who tried them gave good reviews so I guarantee it will be a hit 😉

You also would need very few ingredients. Here they are:

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup corn meal

4 eggs, yolks separated from the whites

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

¾ cup unsalted butter, melted

¾ cup honey

½ cup granulated sugar

1 ½ tbsp baking powder

½ can cream corn

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).
  • Combine the egg yolks, milk, butter, honey and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk.
  • Gradually add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. I used a wooden spoon to do this job. Add the cream corn and mix well, but be careful to not over mix.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. I used my electric mixer to make this easier. The peaks will form in about 5 minutes using a mixer, could be double that if you are doing it manually.
  • Fold in the egg white mixture onto the batter. I found that the wooden spoon worked really well in making sure the batter is mixed just right.
  • Finally, pour the batter onto a greased 9×13 inch baking pan and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. The top should ideally be lightly brown.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s best to serve cornbread warm. I usually let it cool for about 7 to 10 minutes before slicing into serving pieces. Trust me, the cream corn does add a nice texture and dimension to this classic favorite.

I’ve had these with coffee as a snack and it was fantastic. Have it your way 😉

                                                                                                      Eat well and be well. – Ella Bella


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Ella Bella’s Coconut Chicken Tenders

Prep time: About 5 minutes

Cooking time: About 10-14 minutes

Calories per serving: 194 calories (based on 4 servings)

coconut chicken

Coconut is probably one of the most amazing ingredients in the planet. It’s so versatile as it can be used in both savory and sweet recipes.

Our cuisine, Filipino cuisine, uses it a lot. It’s one of our main products thus it has inspired a ton of homemade dishes.

I personally love coconut shrimp. However, my family is not as adventurous as I am so I thought of trying to come up with my own coconut chicken tenders recipe.

So here we go. Ingredients are simple and easy to find:

About 1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into strips

½ cup lite coconut milk

Sea salt, to taste (few pinches)

½ tsp white pepper

½ tsp turmeric

For the coconut coating:

½ unsweetened shredded coconut

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp white pepper

Pinch of sea salt

Let’s get to it. I’m hungry 🙂

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the coconut milk, sea salt, pepper and turmeric until well incorporated. Add in the chicken tenders/strips. Transfer them in a lidded container. Let it marinate for at least 2 hours, overnight marinating preferred.

Once the chicken is ready, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C). Then, prep up the coconut coating.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix in the coconut, sea salt, pepper and paprika. Roll each chicken tender onto the coconut mixture. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Spray with baking spray before putting on the tenders.

Bake them for about 10 to 14 minutes. I prefer each side to be lightly browned so I turn them after 10 minutes and let them brown evenly.

Serve with the side dish of your choice. If you’re interested to learn making cauliflower fried “rice” here’s the link:

Eat well and be well. – Ella Bella


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Ella Bella’s Breakfast Burrito

Prep time: About 3 minutes

Cooking time: About 10 minutes

Calories per serving: (With 2 eggs = 549 calories, 1 egg = 486 calories, no egg = 423 calories)

Breakfast Burrito

Hello everyone! Happy to be back 😉

I have been suffering from wrist issues since late last year and it just took its toll on me. Such is why I took a break from blogging. I can’t tell you enough how much I missed it, especially the cooking part!

I always appreciate a hearty breakfast. This burrito is protein-packed and if you’re like me, you wouldn’t even feel hungry for about 4 to 5 hours. The other awesome thing about it is that it’s easy to assemble. I think it might be a breakfast staple for you as it has been for me.

Here is a list of what you will need:

2 medium eggs, beaten

Sweet peppers, finely chopped (about ¼ cup) or fresh baby spinach

¼ cup Refried beans (I used Pinto Beans)

1/2 cup cooked rice

2 tbsps grated mozzarella cheese

2 tbsps grated mild cheddar cheese

A dash of sea salt

A dash of black pepper

A dash of paprika

One whole wheat tortilla wrap, burrito size

  • In a large skillet, heat up some olive or canola oil in medium high heat. Pour in the beaten eggs and cook it, scramble-style.
  • Put in the rice as if you are making fried rice, then mix together with the scrambled eggs, add in the beans and keep mixing them together until well blended. Add the bell peppers or spinach (or any greens of your choice and let them cook for a few minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika.
  • Add in the cheeses until everything is well incorporated. The cheese should be slightly melted so your mixture will be a little gooey. Yum! Set the mixture aside.
  • In the same skillet, warm up your tortilla for about a minute or two each side. Transfer warm tortilla on a plate and put on the rice-beans mixture and roll into a burrito.

Note: You don’t have to use whole wheat tortilla. You can also experiment with spices to use, as well as the cheese. Just be mindful of the calorie count if you’re making substitutions.

                                                                                        Eat well and be well. – Ella Bella

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