Back in BC

Hello! I just got my wisdom tooth out. It was the second tooth that I had removed. My first one came out about two years ago.

Here is a flashback to Prince Edward Island. This was my office at the University of Prince Edward Island, and the dinner that we had on our last day. Seline ate the chicken masala skillet, and I had a lovely summer salad, a piece of pan-fried Atlantic salmon, and a great bowl of chowder. Seline and I shared the cinnamon roll on a skillet, topped with vanilla ice cream, for dessert. This was a great dinner from Fishbones.

This is our bedroom and bathroom, which we will be very sad to leave. We loved living in Charlottetown, and we will miss our lovely room and washroom.

Some final moments in downtown Charlottetown, including pics from our daily walk home. I always feel so connected with the PLACES that we visit, and I don’t want to forget the little mundane details.

Before our flight, Seline and I ate sandwiches. Her sandwich, unpictured, was a pesto chicken ciabatta from Receiver Coffee. I had a turkey and harvarti sandwich on multigrain bread from Leonhard’s Restaurant and Cafe. This great sandwich was loaded with a lot of turkey, mixed greens, and mustard dressing.

Things We Did (and Didn’t) Do in Charlottetown

NEVER GOT TO SEE

  • Papa Joe’s
  • Hopyard Beer Bar (fries, pub food)
  • The Chip Shack
  • Terry Berries 20 Great George St, 11-7 hours

RESTAURANTS WE’VE ALREADY VISITED

  • COWS (ice cream) x6
  • Leonhard’s (breakfast and lunch) x4
  • Himalayan Indian Cuisine x4
  • Dairy Queen x4
  • Small Print Board Game Cafe x3
  • Pilot House x3
  • Brakish x2
  • Piatto Pizzeria
  • Dave’s Lobster Charlottetown
  • John Brown Grille
  • Beanz Espresso Bar and Cafe
  • Fishies on the Roof
  • Lobster on the Wharf
  • Merchantman Fresh Seafood and Oyster Bar (S favourite)
  • Receiver Coffee Co.
  • The Gahan House
  • Terre Rouge (brunch; dinner)
  • The Dining Room at the Culinary Institute
  • Mavor’s
  • La Sazon de Mexico
  • Fishes on the Roof / Fishbones
  • Row House Lobster Co.
  • Kettle Black
  • Water Prince Corner Shop
  • Sims Corner Steakhouse and Oyster Bar
  • Claddagh Oyster House
  • Cedar’s Eatery
  • Brickhouse Kitchen & Bar (S favourite)
  • RedWater Rustic Grille

We were very happy to see family when we got back home. We were also happy to go to Ikea! We love Ikea.

Arnie didn’t really miss me, but he was really cute.

For the first few days back in BC, we had plenty of errands to run. Often, I ate waffles in the morning and then we’d go to places like Home Depot.

Mom’s cooking is always a delight. The other day, she made corn on the cob with butter, sautéed garlic green beans, scrambled eggs with shrimp, and chicken thighs sautéed with mushrooms and onions.

One of my good friends from UPEI will come to Vancouver soon. We might have vegan high tea in Vancouver together.

I also had time to go skating! It was nice to be back on the ice and skate around in circles. I want to skate for the University of Waterloo varsity figure skating team in September, but I don’t have my doubles any more.

Another couple of great dinners cooked up with family:

  1. Chicken florentine rolls with asparagus, feta, spinach // roasted baby potatoes // garlic and cheddar pita // brown butter sage mushroom quinoa risotto
  2. Chicken with creamy mushroom sauce // homemade cheesy onion bread // sautéed garlic green beans // gratin dauphinoise

Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 200g button mushrooms (white), sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1 heaping tbsp all-purpose flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 600g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1in pieces
  • 1 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped sage
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil and butter in large frying pan.
  2. Cook mushrooms for 5 minutes until brown.
  3. Add onion. Cook for 2-3 mins until soft.
  4. Add garlic. Cook for 1 minute.
  5. Remove vegetables from pan. Wipe pan clean with paper towels.
  6. Heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in the pan.
  7. Season flour heavily with salt and pepper. Toss chicken in flour, shaking off excess.
  8. Cook chicken for 8-10 mins, turning, until golden all over.
  9. Add stock, sage, and boil.
  10. Add mushroom mixture. Simmer 5 mins, stirring occasionally, until sauce reduces.
  11. Add cream. Cook 2-3 mins until chicken is cooked and sauce is thick and creamy.

Gratin Dauphinoise

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kg Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 tbsp softened butter
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Finely slice potatoes.
  3. Rub 8×8 deep-sided ovenproof dish with butter.
  4. Spread in half the potatoes.
  5. Sprinkle with garlic. Season, and arrange potatoes nicely on top.
  6. Pour in the cream. You should just be able to see the cream coming up around the edges.
  7. Dot the top with remaining butter.
  8. Put dish on large baking sheet.
  9. Cook in centre of the oven for 1 hour, until potatoes are soft, cream has evaporated, and top is golden.
  10. Rest 10 minutes before serving.

This chocolate cake was on my to-bake list for a long time, and we finally made it! It stuck to the pan, but was still really delicious.

Paula Shoyer’s Chocolate Quinoa Cake

Serves 12

INGREDIENTS

  • 130g quinoa, 1.5 cups water (or 2 1/4 cups cooked)
  • melted coconut oil for greasing
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup orange juice from 1 orange
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 300g sugar
  • 80g dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 55g bittersweet (70%) chocolate

GLAZE

  • 140g bittersweet (70%) chocolate
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, careful when adding

DIRECTIONS

  1. Boil quinoa and water over medium heat.
  2. Reduce heat to low. Cover saucepan. Cook quinoa until liquid is absorbed. It should be funny cooked and not crunchy.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle cocoa powder over the greased pan. Shake the pan to remove excess starch.
  4. Place quinoa in a blender. Add orange juice, eggs, vanilla, oil, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Process until mixture is very smooth.
  5. Melt chocolate over a double boiled. Add chocolate to quinoa batter and process until well-mixed. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan. Bake 50 mins, or until skewer comes out clean.
  6. Let cake cool 10 mins. Turn it out of the pan onto a wire cooling rack. Let it cool on the rack.
  7. Melt chocolate for glaze in a double boiler. Add oil and vanilla. Whisk well. Let glaze sit 5 mins. Whisk it again. Use silicone spatula to spread the glaze over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.
  8. Serve at room temperature. Store leftovers airtight at room temperature.

One more new-ish dinner – creamy salmon pasta.

Salmon Pasta

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • dried pasta
  • salt and pepper
  • 3.5 oz heavy cream
  • salmon
  • 1 tbsp chopped capers
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped dill
  • parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Fry salmon. Break into pieces.
  2. Cook pasta in large pan of salted water.
  3. Mix cream with capers, lemon zest, and dill. Season heavily.
  4. Drain pasta. Reserve 1 ladle of cooking water.
  5. Return pasta to pan with water.
  6. Toss sauce with pasta. Add shredded salmon. Stir enough to mix. Add parmesan cheese.
  7. Serve with more parmesan.

That’s pretty much it for now.

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Have a good rest of the week.

Shepherd’s π

Very rarely do I meet a brownie recipe that I don’t 100% adore. This was one of those recipes. I followed this recipe by Chocolate Covered Katie, who I am really not a fan of. Gritty, too-chewy, and unpleasantly dense with minimal chocolate flavour, these brownies were certainly not my favourite. Plus, my constructive criticism to her recipe was deleted from her blog. Okay…

Dressed up with some yogurt, nut butter, and granola, these brownies weren’t too awful. 🙂

This frittata-like thing was made with leftover steamed broccoli, chopped into tiny pieces and whisked up with three eggs, salt, pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder with a splash of milk. Then, I cooked it in a nonstick skillet over medium low heat, covered, until the top looked cooked. I added maple goat cheddar on the top, then slid the frittata onto a baking dish for broiling in the oven. The top became perfectly crispy, and tasted fantastic with some avocado toast.

This recipe will be repeated with feta and spinach soon!

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Pancakes! I used this recipe for thick, super hearty pancakes. With hazelnut flour instead of almond flour, these were ultra-flavourful. Delicious with some creamy yogurt and crispy granola.

Cafe Polonez is a Polish restaurant in Roncesvalles in West Toronto. I ate all of the following:

  • 2 potato pancakes
  • 1 cabbage roll stuffed with mushrooms and rice, topped with mushroom gravy
  • 2 cheddar cheese and potato pierogies
  • 2 cottage cheese and potato pierogies
  • lots of sour cream

How do you spell pierogies? This was my first time enjoying Polish food, and I have to say that I’m a big fan. Will definitely be back to Cafe Polonez because I want more of that incredible cabbage roll!

This recipe was made when I realized that I had half a jar of spaghetti sauce to use up.

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • quinoa (1/2 cup)
  • spaghetti sauce (1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 2 whole peppers, tops cut off.
  • as much cheese as you’d like

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mix all ingredients except peppers.
  2. Stuff peppers with mixture. I alternated between layers of the quinoa mixture and maple goat cheddar.
  3. Bake 30 mins covered. Remove foil.
  4. Increase heat to 400. Bake 20 minutes.

No pictures, sadly. 😦


Shepherd’s pie on Pi Day! March 14, that is.

I roasted three sweet potatoes in the oven for an hour, then pureed them with a splash of milk, salt, and pepper to make this creamy topping. The filling was made with frozen mixed vegetables, chopped mushrooms, and lots of brown lentils.

This is how I made the lentils:

Easy Stovetop Lentils

Makes as much or as little as you’d like – just use 1 part lentils to 2 parts water 🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Rinse lentils thoroughly. Pick out shrivelled lentils or debris.
  2. Combine lentils and water. IMPORTANT: here, you can add other flavour-boosters, like a couple of bay leaves or some cloves of garlic. I added some big chunks of onion. Do not add salt here.
  3. Bring to rapid simmer over medium high heat.
  4. Reduce heat to gentle simmer.
  5. Cook 25 minutes.
  6. Salt lentils when they are tender, no longer crunchy. Stir in salt. Taste and add more if needed.
  7. Keep refrigerated for about one week. Add to soups, salads, or other recipes.

Super yummy! Turns out 1 cup of lentils and 3 sweet potatoes will make about 3 servings.

This comforting meal was born when I didn’t have any vegetables on hand. Behold – the sweet potato cauliflower gratin! I made this with one roasted sweet potato, roasted cauliflower, gruyere cheese, tons of crushed butter crackers (like breadcrumbs…ish) and dried basil. Toast was topped with a lot of garlic butter, because garlic bread makes any meal better. 🙂

That’s it for this snowy, windy, Thursday morning!

The 42-Ingredient Salad

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Thai restaurant. I’m pretty leery of them since I love cooking Thai food at home, whether that’s a flavourful curry or a tasty pad thai. This meal, from PAI Toronto, did not disappoint. I loved scraping the coconut meat out of the coconut itself!

I know you want this. It’s a cinnamon sugar cone, chocolate soft-serve, Nutella spread, butter toffee bits, cocoa drizzle and salted caramel brownies.

From the website: Chimneys, or Kurtoskalacs, are freshly baked Hungarian bread-like pastries that have a satisfying crunch on the outside and a light and fluffy dough on the inside. They have a hollow, cylindrical shape and you can pull them apart like a spiral as you eat. We bake traditional Chimneys Cakes and also Chimney Cones™ (aka “Doughnut Cones”). Our base dough is made fresh on the premises daily with 100% natural and mostly organic ingredients and is vegan. There are only seven ingredients.

Croissants freeze so well. These were stored in the freezer until a sad day that I ran out of bread. 🙂

Banana smoothie in a bowl with muffin on top.

A Cuban brunch spot in Roncesvalles, called La Cubana, serves up some mean baked eggs! The queso cheese and spicy rice and beans were my favourite. Yuca was so tasty with the crispy cabbage.

Oatmeal gives me life. Especially pear oatmeal with granola and PB, one of my new favourite combinations.

So many eggs have been devoured lately!

Chabrol is a French restaurant in Yorkville. I enjoyed this entire escarole gratin and an apple tart which is baked on the SPOT, with homemade puff pastry. I enjoyed every bite of this classic, simple, but ultra-satisfying meal.

Toronto truly has so much to offer. The Royal Ontario Museum is such a spectacular place. I’m the first to admit that I’m not a big art lover or history buff, but I thoroughly enjoyed browsing the Biodiversity floor, where I learned that 99% of known species are smaller than a bee. WHOA!

The famous 45-ingredient salad from Hibiscus was also enjoyed. The glass noodles on top had incredible texture, and I loved the creamy ginger soup. That’s a raw cracker on the side, made with dehydrated rye and other cracker-ish ingredients. I liked the kidney beans and sweet potato mash in this bowl, which I do want to recreate!

My doggie Arnie is doing great back home in BC. He had surgery a couple weeks ago to remove a tumour on his back, and recovery has been going quite well. He still loves to run and play!

I’m not really sure why I’m showing you these half-eaten meals, but I already uploaded the photos, so…

Have a phenomenal rest of the week, all!

10 Ways Food Blogging Ruined My Life

 Welcome to my first post of 2016…
  • Becoming a foodie abolished my inability to realize that I will never be a perfect eater, exerciser, or writer. I’m never going to throw my hair into a perfect messy bun and complete a 5-mile run before dawn, then come home for an organic kale-goji-maca-spirulina (what even IS spirulina?) smoothie. I will never master the art of photography or write flawless blog posts. And that’s okay. It’s fine if I feel sore one day and skip a workout. It’s not a problem if I “accidentally” have two extra scoops of nut butter after my morning oatmeal (this happens regularly!). Food-blogging has helped me understand that the most I can do is my best, and that I should always shoot for the moon knowing that I will land among the stars if I miss.

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Quinoa tossed with roasted zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, and white cheddar

 

  • It took away all of my laziness and lack of creativity – because I love playing with food. Honestly, oatmeal artwork seems like a pretty trivial and ridiculous hobby, but it’s so therapeutic. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of devouring a big bowl that’s been decorated in a way that makes you happy. I’ve mentioned this before, but a bowl of cooked rolled oats is essentially a blank canvas for any ingredient you wish: you can let your imagination run wild with oatmeal and do some very, very innovative designs on those oats.

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Green smoothie bowl made with one frozen banana, 2 tbsp peanut butter, almond milk, 2 tbsp cocoa powder, pinch of salt, some cinnamon, and lots of spinach – topped with berries and crushed coconut cashews

 

  • It smashed my fear of travelling alone, or doing things by myself. Because food is the motivation for 99% of my adventures (no kidding here, I went to Paris solely for the croissants), I know that I will never get tired, afraid, or worried along the way. Food is always on my mind and inspires me to be brave and walk just a little further. The craziest thing I’ve ever done for food was probably ride the Metro for two hours in Quebec last summer, then walk for a good half hour just for the shredded duck and fig jam sandwich in Montreal. Totally worth it.

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Whole Foods hot bar buffet lunch: favourites included the chicken tomato stew, smoked mozzarella pasta salad, and mashed yams

 

  • Becoming a foodie took away any shyness and anxiety I had previously, towards interacting with people my age. Knowing about food and being able to talk about it made me a much more outgoing person. Now, when I meet new people, it’s so easy to strike up a conversation and keep it going, especially if one of us has food involved. I just have so, so much to say about food!

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Chocolate-banana oatmeal with crumbled hazelnut chocolate muffin, blackberries, and sunflower butter with crushed coconut cashews

 

  • It vanquished my ability to criticize other people or judge them without knowing them. How can I point out other people’s weaknesses without first analyzing my own? Reading about the lives of other food bloggers has really opened my eyes about countless other factors in their lives: most of the time, it’s not all about food. I’ve learned so much about their underlying fears and problems, and I can relate to so many of them. Now, it’s hard for me to make a negative pre-assessment of someone without understanding their past or celebrating their strengths at the same time.

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Tea time at Aunt Mimi’s: Whole Foods cheesecake, Whole Foods apricot and blueberry coffee cake, with some dark roast coffee with brown sugar and whole milk

 

  • It completely destroyed any desire I had to be average, “okay”, or normal. Why should you be mediocre when you can be innovative? Inspiring?  Encouraging? Original? Food blogging, cooking and baking, and even talking about food have helped me discover my “voice” and passion for health.
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Get-together at family friend’s house: stir-fried vegetables with shrimp, eggs with radish, tofu, pan-fried fish

 

  • It shut down all my frustration and inability to cope with “uh-oh” situations. There isn’t much you can do when the beautifully-ripened avocado turns out to have mushy brown flesh, when you find bugs in your spinach, or when your sister accidentally gobbles up the famous Parisian macaron you were planning to enjoy. Now, I’m realizing these little things are really not the big deal I hyped them up to be at the time. These little things just aren’t worth stressing over.

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Get-together with Dad’s coworkers and their families: fruit, asparagus + scallops, eggs + leeks, stir-fried udon and vegetables, cantaloupe, and purple yam + taro tapioca soup with coconut milk for dessert

 

  • It screwed up any dread or anxiety I felt before addressing adults. Speaking to my elders has always been a forte, but I’ve refined this skill so much that I actually look forward to interviews and answering tricky questions. When I used to volunteer at the Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Coquitlam, it was terrifying to think that I had to spend several hours a week engaging in conversation with sick and injured people aged 70 and above, many with physical and cognitive disabilities. The challenging thing was knowing that I shouldn’t talk to them about clothing (they have to wear hospital gowns), their significant others (may or may not still be with them), their illness or injury (no one wants to talk about this!), or their hospital room (many of them were bitter about their rooms and roommates). Initially, I felt like there was absolutely nothing to chat about with these elderly patients – until I realized that most of them loved sharing stories about their hometowns and the food they enjoyed there. Sometimes, patients told me about their beloved recipes, childhood meals – which, gosh, are SO different from today’s salmon-and-quinoa dinner – cooking hacks, and more. One time, a lady called Maria from Greece described how she made tzatziki based on her grandmother’s recipe. The secrets include a pinch of white pepper and salting and wringing out the grated cucumber to prevent it from diluting the yogurt.

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Curry-yogurt chicken drumstick, quinoa with roasted sweet potato, roasted broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and zucchini // vegan pumpkin spice latte chocolate pudding cake with maple yogurt and crushed coconut cashews

 

  • It drained any chances I had of missing out on getting to know countless supportive and inspirational people, many of whom are dietitians-to-be or share my passion for food. The network of foodies, online and offline, is truly amazing. I wasn’t intending on naming some of them, but now I feel like sharing their wonderful blogs with you guys – please do check out some of my absolute favourite people on the Internet: the supportive and hilarious Stephanie from Mindful Eats and Treats, the sweet, down-to-earth domestic goddess Kate of The Domestikated Life, the sophisticated and talented photographer Jack of Jack’s Balancing Act, the crazy-creative and thoughtful Cassie at SuperFitBabe, and Cora of My Little Tablespoon, who is not only a brilliant writer, but also a recipe queen. You guys inspire me with each and every blog post, and I know that I will always be in store for a treat whenever you publish something new. Thank you for that.

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Carrot cake oatmeal with mashed banana, chia and flax, topped with crumbled banana almond muffin and sunflower butter

 

  • It destroyed my fear of food. Not much else needs to be said here.

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Tofu fried rice with vegetables // spinach and ricotta ravioli with roasted red pepper and parmesan

 

I know that there might be some negative habits and behaviours involved with being a healthy food blogger, but for the most part, they certainly don’t. In fact, the compassionate comments and words of encouragement far outweigh the dark side of being a foodie! Blogging about food and life has encouraged me to gradually mature into the well-rounded and accomplished adult I hope to become, armed with all the skills and assets I need to tackle personal and professional situations in the future.

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Whole wheat pita topped with sweet potato slices, spinach scrambled eggs, goat cheese, and sweet potato aioli // quinoa with butternut squash and tomato sauce, pine nuts, veggies

 

Cheers to the delicious life: a life filled with friendship, laughter, cake, cheese and chocolate.

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Classic Mom dinner: lotus root patties, taro and chicken stew, stir-fried vegetables with sesame

 

50 Things I Learned from my Roommate

What comes with a full heart and a full stomach?

An empty wallet.

Haha. That’s my idea of a joke – and yes, my jokes are always lame and fail to make any sense. But in my defense, it’s partially true! The first week of my winter break, back home in BC, has been nothing less than indulgent, relaxing, and full of laughter and fun moments with family and friends. But a constantly-exploding belly and lots of extra sleep are making me into one happy girl! I’ve done quite a few things on my winter to-do list already, which is satisfying. Well, I’ve done the exciting things. Not the boring ones.

How is your winter holiday so far? Have you done anything memorable with friends and family?

Before I move on to the epic compilation of things my roommate and her boyfriend taught me in the past four months, I wanted to tell you a teeny, kind-of-pointless story about what I did today.

My morning started with a spinach-banana-peanut butter-cocoa-date smoothie, a chickpea blondie, and a relaxing hot yoga class. Then, I met up with my good friends Jia (who my mom calls “Chia”) and Hollie. We’ve known each other for years and were thrilled to reunite and spend the afternoon together. Jia studies English in UBC’s arts program, and Hollie is in Science with a scholarship to SFU. We met up before noon and zipped downtown for some lunch, after a 15-minute walk down Vancouver’s sketchiest street.

The menu at Railtown Café is quite elaborate, at least in my opinion. 🙂 I had a massive internal debate about whether I should order the sandwich or the salad, but ended up with a build-your-own salad which you’ll see in a couple scrolls. Check out their menu and all those delectable salad combinations and sandwich ideas!

By the way, I took photos on my normal camera but was too lazy to upload them for the post, hence the not-so-nice photos below. I snapped these with my phone in a rush to dig in, but anyways, behold the iPhone photos.

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Lesson of the day: it’s a bad idea to order a big drink, a squash-based soup, and a salad topped with about 79 different things.

I had the roasted winter vegetable soup with pumpkin seeds on top, as well as a dark hot chocolate that tasted just like regular hot chocolate. It was a little powdery and grainy in the end, so I wouldn’t recommend the drink. My salad was so deluxe and I’ll write down some of the toppings below:

  • Arugula base
  • Sliced grilled chicken breast – was debating about getting the poached salmon, but their chicken looked really juicy and yummy 🙂
  • Sliced avocado
  • Beets
  • Roasted yams
  • Pesto chickpeas
  • Pesto mozzarella slices
  • Feta cheese
  • Squash chips (the BEST part!)
  • Toasted pumpkin seed vinaigrette

Check out their menu for a ton of salad topping ideas: http://railtowncafe.ca/see-our-menu/

YUM. A lovely combination of freshness, saltiness, texture, acidity, richness, sweetness, and bitterness. I told my friends that I wanted to eat this salad every day for the rest of my life.

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For dessert, I ordered a peanut butter crunch bar and a chocolate-hazelnut muffin. Both were fantastic and we split them mostly 3 ways.

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The muffin was soft, very cinnamon-y, and had great flavor from the hazelnuts. The exterior was perfectly crisp and I would definitely order this tender, delicious muffin again. The peanut butter crunch bar had four distinct layers and was a truly amazing dessert. This peanut butter masterpiece was composed of:

  1. Chewy peanut butter cookie with real peanut chunks embedded throughout (bottom)
  2. Crispy chocolate layer, like a thinner, crispier Rice Crispy with no rice flavor
  3. Peanut butter custard that was not too sweet nor salty
  4. Chocolate ganache, most likely milk chocolate (top)

Peanut butter haters, this thing will convert you.

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We talked lots about our “new” lives in university, and Jia’s busy second year. I was also so happy to hear that my friends are secret readers of the blog 😉 We had some fun and memorable conversations, including this one:

Me: So I have a house-mate. We share a bathroom and kitchen but have our own rooms. She graduated and is now working in the area, so she’s a little older, a LOT more mature, and super nice.

Hollie: Oh yeah! I saw that on your blog.

Jia: She made a pumpkin pie! (she was referring to THIS pumpkin pie, that they made from scratch around Thanksgiving).

Hollie: You’re so lucky. That’s awesome.

And she is absolutely right. 🙂 Madhulika and her boyfriend Arsalan are wonderful and wise people with lots of tricks and tips and life hacks. Here we go!


One more thing before the ultimate list – check this out. My friend shared it on Facebook and I have to agree with quite a few of these points. What do you think?

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Anyways, here is the list:

  1. Drink water slowly. Take little sips as you work to increase absorption.
  2. Make a Linkedin account to network with people as soon as possible.
  3. Broil open-faced sandwiches for melty, bubbly cheese
  4. Spread peanut butter with a spoon and eat it on a napkin to save dishes.
  5. Eat baked salmon with a little pad of butter on top
  6. Paprika and cajun spices work with anything!
  7. Make a big lasagna and freeze individual-sized portions to reheat whenever you need a quick meal
  8. While you’re at it, don’t add too much tomato sauce, or it might overpower the pasta, cheese, and vegetables
  9. Adding some chicken broth to ground chicken makes it nice and saucy
  10. Ground chicken works as a perfect sub for ground beef, for a fraction of the fat and just as much flavour
  11. Goat cheese works with anything. Sandwiches, salads, lasagna – whatever it is, goat cheese can be crumbled on top for maximum deliciousness.
  12. Speaking of goat cheese, you can never have enough. Ever.
  13. Always check the weather before you go out – it can be a beautiful sunny day that’s freezing cold!
  14. Princess Cafe can, and absolutely should, be a weekly thing. Get the curried tuna. And the soup. And the bean salad.
  15. Turn off the lights to conserve energy if you aren’t using them
  16. If you realize you’re full in the middle of your meal, stop, wrap up the leftover food, and save it for another meal rather than stuffing yourself and feeling uncomfortable afterwards
  17. Don’t leave things lying around – watches, cameras, pencil boxes – keep them safe in your room: I’m SO bad with this and always leave little things on the counter
  18. Cutting and chopping veggies ahead of time will save time on busy weekdays
  19. Butternut squash soup is the most filling thing ever
  20. A pinch of cayenne adds zest to anything
  21. The bigger and sharper your knife, the more you’ll enjoy chopping veggies
  22. Marinate and bake chicken breast chunks in rose pasta sauce as a low-sugar substitute for barbecue sauce
  23. Morning showers are really refreshing!
  24. The vegetable water left over from cooking vegetables is actually delicious: carrots make it a little sweet!
  25. Potatoes take freaking forever. Plan ahead!
  26. Washing fluffy towels with your best pants is a bad idea. Lint overload!
  27. When adding spices to food, ALWAYS pour a little palmful of the spice into one palm and use fingers from the other hand to pinch and sprinkle. Then taste as you go!
  28. Check your freezer to make sure you aren’t forgetting about any food you stored in there previously 🙂
  29. Boil sweet potatoes before roasting them. You can check to see when they are ready by sticking a fork inside – if the potato chunk slides down by gravity, you’re ready to bake!
  30. Make a big batch of veggies, chicken, and rice for lots of meals. You’ll be thankful on busy afternoons!
  31. Roast all kinds of squash with the cut side down. That way, the flesh is enclosed and it will steam itself and cook faster
  32. Buy good-quality rainboots and use them for five years rather than picking up a cheaper but non-waterproof pair.
  33. Splurge on a good, high-quality blender.
  34. Don’t try to balance a mixing board on a cutting board – if it falls and knocks over a glass (not your own!) that’s gonna shatter on the ground… that’s bad. Trust me, I know this one from experience.
  35. Add something spicy to mac and cheese! Cayenne or jalapeños are cool… well, never mind, they’re actually hot. Put breadcrumbs on top and bake it.
  36. Speaking of mac and cheese, you don’t even need butter to make a roux. Just cook a mixture of flour and milk before adding cheddar!
  37. There are two types of pumpkins: carving pumpkins and pie pumpkins. The two types of pumpkins can both be used for pie. If you have a carving pumpkin, remember that it is more watery and will require extra cooking time (also, they’re massive).
  38. It’s so much more fun to work out with EARPHONES and music!
  39. If you deal with raw meat or fish, spray down the counter surface afterwards just to be safe.
  40. Make sandwiches on a paper towel so you don’t have to wash another plate
  41. Add coconut milk at the very end of cooking something because coconut flavour will disappear with too much heat. Basically, add some coconut milk when making curries, then add the majority of it at the very end.
  42. Cook spices with a little oil for more flavour
  43. Everything is good with butter, pecans, butternut, and garlic
  44. Wash your dishes while cooking, waiting for things to boil, etc. It makes time go by faster and saves dishwashing time and space afterwards!
  45. Winter boots are so important. Buy ones with good traction!
  46. Do not dump a bunch of pepper on your food.
  47. Wear oven mitts all the time. And don’t touch boiling hot casserole dishes that just emerged from the oven… ouch.
  48. Chicken Cordon Bleu can be made easy with a butter and flour roux mixed with ham, with cooked chicken, chopped pickles and Dijon mustard stirred in. With gruyere or harvarti cheese grated in, top this mixture on sliced baguette and sprinkle with more cheese before broiling. Voila – easy, mess-free, no-roll, easy to cook and eat cordon bleu. Fancy but simple!
  49. Dice your own tomatoes for pasta sauce, and mix them with garlic and caramelized onions, plus spices like thyme and oregano. You can also stir in some ricotta. This pasta sauce is so much better than canned.
  50. If you laugh while drinking tea, you’ll probably spill it on your lap and bedsheets, and make it look like you peed your pants!

Love these!

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I love cheesy things. Literal and figurative cheesy things.

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One more thing – I want to make this Asian noodle bowl and some vegan parmesan cheese. I know how random this is, but I stumbled upon them online and really want to give ’em both a try soon 🙂

That is it for today – I have an EARLY 6:00 AM hot yoga session tomorrow morning as well as a fun spin class, so I’m off to bed. Have a great evening!

Aroma Cafe: A Cozy Corner

Good morning beautiful people!

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I have some quotes to share with you today. These ones really spoke to me and I hope they will inspire you, or at the very least, make you think a little bit. 🙂

  • You can’t start the next chapter if you keep re-reading the last one
  • When nothing goes right, turn left
  • Time heals everything. Give the time some time.
  • If Plan A fails, there are 25 letters left.
  • If an egg is broken by an outside force, life ends. If the egg is broken by an inside force, then life begins. Great things happen from the inside.
  • Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil your present.

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Last week, I had a relaxing lunch for one at Aroma Cafe, which is located on Erb Street in Uptown Waterloo. It’s located in the middle of a beautiful atrium surrounded by other shops.

Their menu is quite elaborate and features things like smoked salmon croissants (made in-house), sweet potato sandwiches, and hormone-free meats in their paninis. They make a fresh soup every morning and serve homemade baked goods. There’s a new salad every day, and the desserts are deluxe and switch regularly. The best part? All their breads are made from scratch in-house!

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I settled down in one corner after ordering the “half” turkey panini with harvarti cheese, tomato, avocado (substituted for bacon), and garlic aioli. Can you believe this is the half-portion? It was ridiculously filling and made with lots of love and care. The soup of the day was zucchini-butternut with herbs.

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My sandwich was warm and toasty. The bread was my favourite part: chewy, warm, and tasted so fresh and homemade.

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Dessert was a gluten-free hazelnut mocha torte. This was fantastic as well. I asked for it to be cut in half so I could save some for later. It was really yummy, and quite rich and dense being gluten-free. The coconut on top added great texture and the chocolate ganache layer was my favourite.

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Time to do some research (on cafes to visit during my 2 weeks in BC!) before helping Mom with dinner and maybe baking some dessert. Hope your Christmas was the merriest and I will update you a couple more times before 2016. 🙂