December Things | Coupons, Lobster, Turkey Marinade

Happy holidays, friends! ❄️

According to over 63,000 votes on Google Surveys, these are voters’ favourite parts of Christmas:

  • 3% carolling
  • 14% Christmas decorations
  • 9% Christmas dinner
  • 6% Christmas movies
  • 9% Christmas music
  • 24% presents
  • 7% Santa Claus
  • 28% time with family and friends

What do you think?

This holiday, I’ve been home for a week so far and have had so much deliciousness. First up, a tasty plate of Hainanese chicken rice, a fried egg, sauteed asparagus, and seared tofu with green onions. Mom is an amazing chef.

Another day, I loved chocolate oatmeal with crunchy peanut butter, along with the richest honey Greek yogurt and blackberries.

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Mom’s Taiwanese dishes are lovely. I loved this rouzao rice (minced pork rice) with stir-fried broccoli and carrots.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet up with the super intelligent, articulate, hardworking, and food-loving SHANNA YEUNG! I had such a fangirl moment when my mom and I saw her parking her car and coming over. Shanna suggested Kinemi Kitchen, a quiet Italian restaurant in a Vancouver strip mall. While unassuming from the outside, Kinemi Kitchen smelled amazing and served up the best cheesy baked lobster I’ve ever had, atop a bed of linguine and veggies in garlicky rosé sauce and parmesan,

We also had dessert: taro Nutella bubble tea sans bubbles and red bean cheesecake bubble tea – also sans bubbles. Before I knew it, I was on my way home!

Mom and I did some baking shortly after:

Chocolate Cheesecake

Serves one 9” pan (16 servings)

INGREDIENTS

  • 18 to 24 Oreo cookies or graham crackers, crushed finely (1.5 cups)
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar, optional (I didn’t use this)
  • 2 to 6 tbsp melted butter (depends on how much cookie you use)
  • 3 8-oz packages softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips, melted  in a double boiler and cooled
  • sprinkle of cinnamon, optional
  • 1/2 espresso powder, optional
  • 3 large eggs

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine cookie crumbs, icing sugar, and butter. Press into the bottom of a 9” springform pan.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, or until you smell a strong chocolate aroma.
  4. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt.
  5. Add chocolate. Mix well.
  6. Add eggs one at a time. Mix on low speed until just blended.
  7. Add optional cinnamon and espresso powder, if desired.
  8. Pour over crust.
  9. Bake 55 mins, or until centre is set. Turn off the oven. Crack the door open several inches. Allow the cake to cool in the oven for 1 hour. Remove.
  10. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen the cake.
  11. Cool before removing the rim.
  12. Refrigerate cheesecake for four hours.
  13. Serve with berries (raspberries are awesome), caramel sauce, and whipped cream.

The day before, I had the opportunity to speak at my high school about travelling, co-op, volunteer work, and life in university. It was a wonderful experience, and neat to see all the hopeful, excited grade twelve students.

On a completely different note, I emailed a bunch of companies during the fall (to ask for free samples) and recently made a compilation of all the companies that responded to me with coupons. These were all mailed to my house.

Basically, what I’m saying is: if you have free time, or no life like I do, email these companies and get some free coupons. Mom and I ended up getting juice, maple syrup, bread, three boxes of tea, nut butter, two large containers of hummus, and frozen chicken and cheese taquitos – for just over $1.00.

Operation Coupon

  • Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery $1 off (x5 coupons)
  • Tetley CARE Lemon Ginger tea bag
  • Tetley Ayurvedic Balance Herbal tea bag
  • Tetley free herbal iced tea
  • Tetley herbal iced tea save $1 (x2 coupons)
  • Ozery Bakery $1 off (x3 coupons)
  • Ozery Bakery one free package of any product (max value $5)
  • Ocean Spray save 50 cents
  • Quaker, Aunt Jemima, Rice-A-Roni $2 coupon
  • Maple Lodge Farms $1 (x2 coupons)
  • Nature save 50 cents (x5 coupons)
  • Hain Celestial $1 off (x2 coupons)
  • Earth Balance $1 off (x2 coupons)
  • El Monterey Free product (max value $16.99)
  • El Monterey save $1 (x3 coupons)
  • Welch’s save 50 cents (x2 coupons)
  • TAZO free box of filter bag tea or tea latte concentrate (max value $5.99) x2 coupons
  • Sabra hummus free product (max value $5.99) x2 coupons
  • Smucker’s save 55 cents (x2 coupons)
  • Clover Leaf tuna snacks save 50 cents (x3 coupons)
  • Eden or Sobaya $1 off (x3 coupons)
  • Splenda $1 off (x2 coupons)
  • Twinning free box of tea, any size (max value $9.99)
  • Organic Meadow save 75 cents (x3 coupons)

That’s pretty much it for today. It’s Christmas Eve already, so I’m going to help with Mom’s turkey cooking. Here is what she used to make the turkey really flavourful.

Mom’s Special Turkey Seasonings

  • olive oil
  • butter
  • soy sauce
  • Dijon mustard
  • lemon juice from a fresh lemon
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • Italian seasoning
  • poultry seasoning
  • Montreal chicken seasoning
  • dried oregano
  • dried parsley
  • dried thyme
  • dried rosemary
  • dried basil
  • paprika

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Swirl Banana Muffins

I can’t believe that there are less than three days until Christmas. This semester seemed to fly by, and the holidays really snuck up on me.

I have a delicious muffin recipe to share with you guys today. It involves powdered peanut butter, chocolate and bananas, so we really can’t go wrong here. I know I shared a recipe just yesterday, but… chocolate.

Mmmm. These froze exceptionally well and made a perfect yogurt/oatmeal topping.

 Give it a try!
Peanut Butter & Chocolate Swirl Banana Muffins
Serves: 9
INGREDIENTS
  • 2 medium bananas, ripe
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ¼ cup milk (I used almond, but coconut, cows, or soy would work)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup spelt flour
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life)
  • 3 tablespoons PB2
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Line nine muffin tins with paper/foil liners, or grease a nonstick muffin tin. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mash bananas with a fork.
  4. Add oil, egg, milk, and vanilla. Whisk well.
  5. Add flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda and stir until just combined.
  6. Add oats and stir.
  7. Melt chocolate chips in microwave safe measuring cup for 30-45 seconds. Stir until smooth.
  8. Cool slightly, then add ½ of batter to measuring cup and stir until combined.
  9. Add PB2 to the remaining batter and mix well.
  10. Scoop 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of PB2 batter and 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of chocolate batter in a lined muffin tin.
  11. Swirl batters together with a toothpick.
  12. Repeat for remaining batter.
  13. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
178 calories, 19g sugar, 3.2g protein
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It’s been frosty recently! The roads have all been iced over.

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And a hot chocolate at Princess Cafe with my friend Lily! This was taken before our final exams ended.

And a potluck dinner enjoyed with fellow volunteers at school. Highlights include that incredible thyme sweet potato hash and great, creamy mac and cheese.

I even bought a new notebook a couple weeks ago, hoping it would motivate me to study.

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SO glad finals are over! Now I don’t need to serve my meals with a side of biochemistry or physiology.

Here’s that quinoa veggie casserole again. I always devour this!

Mmmmm. Perfectly comforting, satisfying, and warm in my belly.

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At home in BC, Mom made my brownie recipe! She said that the family devoured it. Wish I was there to have some. Mom’s baking always looks fantastic.

Relatable.

I found some old Nepal pictures on the Volunteering Solutions Instagram page. I lived in Nepal throughout the month of August and it was a spectacular experience. Blows my mind to think that, six months ago, I was one of those little flying paragliding dots.

Since we’re nearing the end of 2016, it’s almost time to buy a new planner! Planners are my love. I could search for ages for the perfect planner, and have plans to go to Staples this morning to check ’em out.

Hope y’all have the loveliest rest of the week!

From Thanksgiving to Healthy Blueberry “Buttermilk” Pancakes

Happy belated Thanksgiving, my Canadian friends!

I hope you all had an incredible day full of great food, laughter, and special moments with family and friends. I’m writing this as I enjoy my breakfast – whole wheat pita bread with a ton of melted butter, scrambled eggs with cheddar and spinach, and yogurt with peanut butter, raspberries, granola, and some chocolate banana bread. I always tend to go a little overboard with breakfast on days that I don’t have school. Since yesterday was Thanksgiving, students at the University of Waterloo also get Tuesday and Wednesday off to make a full “reading week”. I’m planning to spend the next couple of days just relaxing!

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Mom made a pseudo-Thanksgiving dinner that involved bone broth, pumpkin pie from Superstore, two pizzas and Church’s chicken, and a big, beautiful salad. Those crackers look kind of interesting, too.

At my friend Mary’s house, the table was set beautifully. I loved the cornucopia centrepiece and fall-accented tablecloth.

This was my first plate! I definitely had seconds. Moving clockwise from 12:00 – mashed acorn “pepper” squash, roasted turkey breast, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, apple and butternut squash hash, roasted sweet potatoes, raw carrot and green beans, the best celery-bacon-bread stuffing I’ve ever tasted, and strawberry jello with pineapple. The stuffing and squash mashes were incredible. What did you enjoy for Thanksgiving dinner?

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We’re kind of moving back in time here, but a couple days ago I enjoyed chocolate oatmeal with peanut butter and a serving of yogurt with fruit for breakfast.

I had my first Skype interview! It was done in a big room with six cubicles. All the interviewees got to wear headsets with microphones to speak to the hiring managers. My interview was around 30 minutes long, and I loved getting to meet my potential boss and some of her colleagues. It was a cool experience, but I didn’t like how the camera was much higher than the screen. It made “eye contact” a little awkward! Have you ever done a Skype interview?

For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to snap photos of my oatmeal on my bed? Pumpkin oats are finally IN now!

Another day I had whole wheat bread with smashed avocado, a delicious filet of spicy salmon, and some roasted brown sugar squash. An amazing lunch!

LASAGNA! ❤ This vegetarian lasagna was made with heaps of zucchini, mushrooms, and peppers, along with a whole box of spinach and fresh ricotta cheese and a ball of mozzarella. I had this two days in a row and froze the rest. YUM.

And pumpkin baked oatmeal was made and enjoyed for a couple days! This recipe serves 2, and you can use either rolled oats or quick oats. I found a vegan recipe since I was out of eggs and was pleased by how tasty this was.

Simple Vegan Pumpin Baked Oatmeal
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease baking dish.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients and mix well. Fold in raisins or nuts, if desired.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

My sister’s best friend, Brianna, delivered a tray full of banana bread and pumpkin sugar cookies to Seline. They loved these, and it inspired me to bake something with the rest of my ripe bananas!

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I made my go-to recipe for chocolate banana squares. I still have a hard time believing this amazing vegan recipe is low-sugar, oil/butter-free, and made with whole wheat flour. Granola was also made, this time using quick oats, maple syrup and coconut oil, and walnuts. I love, love, love this granola recipe.

Some of it was jarred and given to the Zach family (Mary’s family). I told you, we’re going in a weird order today… reverse chronological?!

Needless to say, I had a ton of dishes to wash afterwards, so I enjoyed washing them while watching Mockingjay Part II on my laptop. Have you guys seen that movie? Thoughts? PS: watching something while doing dishes makes it much less of a chore 🙂

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Another day, I thought I would take a nap at 6:00 PM, wake up in an hour, and then cook a delicious salmon filet. I must have been incredibly tired because I didn’t wake up until 9:00 PM, and it was so dark outside! Oops. Instead, I rolled groggily out of bed and felt instantly refreshed once I smelled this simple red curry with eggplant, mushrooms, spinach, and red pepper cooking… in the microwave. I also thanked past Cindy for making this!

A couple days ago, I tried a new recipe for pancakes. I made the following changes:
– halved the recipe
– replaced banana with a whole egg (instead of half an egg)
– greased pan with butter
– added a pinch of salt
– used frozen blueberries
– used oat flour instead of whole oats, since I don’t have a blender
– used just a sprinkle of cinnamon
– enjoyed with maple syrup

Next time, I will add more blueberries since it was easy to flip. I will also add more cinnamon next time.

It tasted like a buttermilk pancake in flavour, but the texture was a bit creamier, gummier, and was fragrant like oats. I loved it and will be making this recipe again. I highly recommend it if you’re a pancake lover like me! Next time, I might also experiment with other fruit like raspberries or even chocolate chips.

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Next time, I will add more blueberries since it was easy to flip. I will also add more cinnamon next time. It tasted like a buttermilk pancake in flavour, but the texture was a bit creamier, gummier, and was fragrant like oats. I loved it and will be making this recipe again. I highly recommend it if you’re a pancake lover like me! Next time, I might also experiment with other fruit like raspberries or even chocolate chips.

Still, absolutely 100% deliciousness.

A different recipe this time, but still using oat flour. I think I may have cooked these too long or over-mixed the batter, because it was quite firm and hard to chew. The flavour was excellent though, so I think the recipe just needs a bit of tweaking.

Last Friday, I went to downtown Toronto for my interview at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The best part of the day was going to Rahier in the morning for an earl grey tea latte and an almond croissant.

I was walking down the street to the hospital when I noticed another bakery – Patisserie LaCigogne, so I HAD to indulge in another croissant. Yup, I had two decadent chocolate almond croissants in less than an hour. It was a sweet day, literally and figuratively.

Mom Meals! Does anything catch your eye here? For me, it’s the MUFFINS and that kabocha soup! It’s crazy how much you can do with kabocha. Here in Waterloo, it’s called “buttercup squash”. I’ve made curries and pancakes out of kabocha, but there are a million other uses that you can read about here. Yes, kabocha pudding is a thing – and leave it to Miss SuperFitBabe to invent that!

I don’t know why I love these photos so much. It’s crazy what good-ish lighting can do for a food shot! I made a red eggplant curry with spinach and served it on quinoa, with lots of peanuts. Yummy.

Dessert was arguably yummier, with raspberries, peanut butter yogurt, granola, and a square of chocolate banana bread.

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More squash and more salmon – I ended up standing over the sink, stuffing squash into my mouth before I had to head out the door! These were ADDICTIVE.

Skies are cool.

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On a different note, I wrote an article a while back about my time in Nepal, and how doing yoga there was different from yoga here in North America. This was for a Yoga Teacher Training assignment, and I was lucky to have my article actually published by both Yoga Today, Yoga Anonymous, and Gaiam! For some reason, I’m super proud of that 🙂

This infographic was neat!

And something punny that I found on Facebook 🙂

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That’s it for today! Hope everyone has a great rest of the week. Can’t believe the weekend is already here!

PS: check out the world’s most random tags that I used for this post 😛

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. 🙂