Lately

Aloha everyone! How was your week?
I hope your week was less hectic than mine. I’m so busy now that I’m starting to work again. That’s 6:00-9:00 twice a week. Add that to loads of volunteering, school, exams, and studying for SATS. All that on top of skating and aerial silks! Did I mention I also have to squeeze in some time to, ummmm… sleep? 😉
Yup, I’m BOOKED! My only worry for not getting a volunteer position at the local hospital? That I won’t have enough time to make a committment. I know it’s just a few hours a week, but those hours do matter in the end. However, volunteering at the hospital will be one of my #1 priorities – I will definitely make time for that. 😀

Ahem! Sorry! Tangent! (trig is on my mind too).

So… the past few days have been good to me. Oh! Yesterday, my mom and I made a DEE-licious lemon yogurt cake from scratch! There’s nothing better than spending a Friday evening baking with Mommy. ♥ We used this recipe by Whole Foods, and used 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest instead of almond extract (don’t have it). It turned out amazingly well. Anything lemon-flavoured has my approval! The crust that formed on top and on the sides was definitely the best part. This lemon cake didn’t crumble and have that melt-in-your-mouth texture of the lemon pound cake my mom and I made a few months ago. Probably because this recipe ditched a cup of butter and used plain nonfat yogurt instead! Nonetheless, I loved the cake – it was tender yet chewy and not overly sweet. We had to buy a bag of cane sugar just for this recipe, and it was worth it. I guess you could also use granulated sugar, but why? Ours was from TJs. 😛

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Anyways, here’s a classic Mom dinner from two nights ago.

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We’ve got broccolette sauteed with mushrooms and baby scallops (so good, and they impart a sea-salty taste to the whole dish, LOVE).

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Under that? Onion scrambled eggs with extra pepper! So good. I love getting the big chunks of egg, especially when the insides are still a little runny. O-M-Good.

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Lastly, we have Mom’s classic hong-shao {braised} chicken. Oh-so-tender chicken thighs are simmered for HOURS in a flavourful mixture of soy sauce, garlic, star anise, red chili peppers, and scallions. Mom also adds daikon (white carrot, like we say in Chinese) and regular ‘ole orange carrots. They literally become pillows of soy sauce – they are SO tender, and even better the next day. I loved this meal for leftovers at school! And gosh – check out that toasted sesame. Don’t leave it out! Adds a ton of flavour.

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Served on white rice. I had these three dishes over quinoa for lunch. No pics because I’m forgetful! :mrgreen: But wow, my mom sure can COOK! GO MOM GO!

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The next day, I had oatmeal with blueberries and blackberries. Followed the usual recipe, and topped it with an amazing local cinnamon honey from Costco. After I finished the berries, I topped it all with granola. 🙂

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Lunch was a salad.

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I was inspired by this recipe, by Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats. She inspired me to try spaghetti squash, maple-soy salmon, simple stuff like almond butter, fried trout on a pilaf (15 mins!), healthy wraps, oatmeal with sliced banana, cranberries, and almonds, coconut chicken curry (hey, I could have a bowl of this right now ☺ ), and even Caesar salad! LOVE that girl. What did I eat before I started reading her blog? :O

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Anyways! This salad was super. 50/50 spring mix + spinach topped with blueberries, blackberries, goat cheese, and pecans. Dressing was simple: extra virgin olive oil + balsamic vinegar + Dijon mustard + honey + salt + pepper. I usually just make enough for one serving.

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I had the same thing again for dinner the next day. So yummy! This time, the dressing had half of a microplaned clove of garlic. Usually I don’t eat raw garlic because of the bad breath – but this time it was totally worth it. I may have been breathing fire for a whole night (sorry Seline) but… it was worth it! I wouldn’t do half a clove next time though. It was too spicy!

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The cinnamon-honey and butter roasted pecans that I baked also rocked my socks off. I’ve been eating them for a snack and using them to top my salads/oatmeal/yogurt. I literally JUST walked into my kitchen and grabbed three pecans to nibble on. 🙂 The cinnamon-honey on top is to die for. It goes with the flavour of the pecans perfectly. I followed IGE’s recipe, but made a few teeny changes. What you can (and should) do is microwave cinnamon-honey (or regular honey if ya don’t have any) with butter until melted. Use a 2:1 ratio. If you have 1 tablespoon cinnamon-honey, use 1/2 tablespoon butter, etc. Mix with pecans until coated, spread ’em out on an oiled baking tray and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees until toasty, then remove to a plate to let cool. Make a lot, because these will go FAST!

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One regret – I didn’t add grilled chicken or fish. I was hungry again at 10:00pm, even though I thought this would be enough. Even though I had two three slices of lemon yogurt cake, my tummy was grumbling before bed! 😦

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Does IGE’s salad look like mine? 😀

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Today’s breakfast was… interesting. I opened the fridge to find that the milk expired TODAY – and I used it. Come on, I was desperate for oatmeal and there is no way in heck I’m using water to cook my beloved rolled oats. So expired milk it was! Turned out really well – I didn’t detect a trace of sourness. Topped with almond butter, those amazing pecans, blueberries, and toasted coconut (skillet).

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In case you’re wondering… it’s 7:00 pm now. I just had a pretty FABULOUS dinner that was seriously pretty incredible. Homemade pizza! I tried to make it like my all-time favourite Mediterranean pizza from Boston Pizza, but it wasn’t even close. What the whole fam made was was basically whole wheat pizza dough from our local bakery, topped with spicy tomato pizza sauce, cheese (mozzarella AND goat cheese!) and some of my fave veggies (mushrooms, etc.!) Sounds totally scrumptious, but I thought it was a little too bread-y. The dough, even though I rolled it out really thin, puffed up quite a bit. I also think the cheese (from Costco, I think it’s Kraft?) was of a terrible quality. The mozzarella, instead of melty on and into the pizza, simply became a blanket. I like my cheese melted into the pizza. I totally want to spill all the deets, but you’ll have to wait and see! Will post about this ‘za soon.

Now, I’m chomping on an amazing dessert. Greek Gods honey yogurt + frreeesssshhhhh blueberries and blackberries + chunks of that lemon yogurt cake that I mentioned above! Sprinkled with chia seeds. Mmmm! Made this dessert a la this recipe. The best bites? Definitely the blueberries. I haven’t had blueberries in way too long! These, from Costco, are my favourite kind – they’re big, super sweet, and hard. I like the hard blueberries the best! I’m still eating this dessert as I type this right now… I wish this could last forever. Go berries + yogurt + crumbled cake!

And… I should really be moving on to my homework now. I can’t wait until tomorrow’s breakfast – I’ll be making healthy pancakes with mashed banana AND berries. OMG! 😀 (And yes, I am aware that I just ate… and that I’m totally stuffed!)

Last thing: check THESE out! I know I say this a lot, but OMG! Flourless, butterless muffins (that are mostly sweetened naturally!) with a chocolate middle? I have to try this recipe soon. Simply Scratch is one of my favourite bloggers – I’ve made her super tasty chili-garlic roasted broccoli before – read all about it on this post!

Okay! I guess that’s it for now. Bye! Have a wonderful Sunday everyone. 🙂

Unusual Dinner w/ Chinese Salad + TJs Shopping List

Hi! How are you all doing? It’s Thursday, but it’s totally the weekend because of Easter. Woohoo! No school tomorrow and no school on Monday – yippee yah yah! Too bad it’s raining like crazy outside now, because I would really like some fresh air. Oh, well… maybe I’ll actually have a productive evening today. I feel like there is so much to do now – how about you?!

These photos are from a delicious dinner we had last week. Not a likely combination, but these three ingredients (prepared separately!) work so well together.

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Maple-soy salmon was the star. Simply mix soy sauce and maple syrup in a big container and plop the trout (yeah, yeah, I call it salmon) inside to marinate. You could also add garlic and black pepper to the marinade, but we usually go the simple lazy route. We usually marinate it for a whole afternoon, but my mom’s friend, who gave us the recipe, marinates hers for TWO DAYS. I find that marinating it for too long makes it lose that delicate fishy flavour that I love so much. As you know, simple salt and pepper trout with lemon is perfectly delicious on its own. Even in a wrap with veggies!

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We also had steamed edamame. Boil some water with salt + star anise (my mom swears it adds flavour, but I don’t taste it). Remove when done and sprinkle with whatevah!

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We always seem to have butternut squash with salmon. Here it is! Tossed with butter, salt, and pepper, then placed in the oven for about 25 minutes. Yum! Funny how I started to like butternut squash in the spring! Just like how I only started eating berries in the fall. I’m a season behind. 😦

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Fluffy white rice under it all. How do some people have a meal without rice? I mean, Cooking Light shows meals that are basically protein + vegetable. Could you eat only a salmon filet with some green beans? I totally can’t! A meal isn’t a meal without rice, right? Thoughts?

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On the side we have a Chinese chicken salad. These are rice noodles – handmade by my mom! I was so impressed. They were chewy and tasted even better than store-bought – plus they had only two ingredients (water is one of them). It’s tossed with strips of cucumber, shredded rotisserie chicken, and strips of pan-fried egg (cooked like an omelet). The mouthwatering sesame dressing was made of sesame paste *AKA tahini*, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, a little sugar, a little salt, soy sauce, minced garlic, homemade chili oil (canola infused with red pepper flakes), and some water to get it to the right consistency. Incredible! We always go heavy on the sauce – it is SO good.

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I really want to try to make this salad for lunch next week. It looks SO good! There’s a reason why Iowa Girl Eats is my all-time favourite blogger. This salad looks incredible. I’ll update you if I try it out, but there are a lot of things we’ll need to buy (goat cheese, wild rice, etc.)

Anyways… did I tell you guys yet? Next week, we’re going to TRADER JOE’S! OMG. I am beyond excited! Here’s my shopping list! I based it on the TJ’s lists of Kath Eats and Iowa Girl Eats. If I lived in the US, I would be at TJ’s every few days for the yummy food! ❤ Can’t wait until Monday!
• Peanut butter pretzels
• Pumpkin butter
• Cookie butter
• Coconut milk
• Pancake/waffle mix
• Salad dressing
• Inner Peas snack
• TJ’s Salted Peanut Butter
• TJ’s Salted Almond Butter
• Salad packs
• Hummus, salsa and CRACKERS
• Paneer curry tikka masala something
• Hot cereal
• Harvest Grains blend (Israeli couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, red quinoa)
• Orzo and rice mix
• Goat cheese medallions

I’ll definitely update you all after the TJ’s trip. Lots of homework and emails to reply to. Bye for now!

Apple Pie Oatmeal

Hi everyone! Hope your week has been treating you well. I know it’s Thursday, but it totally feels like Friday. Pro-D Day tomorrow – woohoo! I just checked Iowa Girl Eats, hoping to see weekly Friday Favourites! The weather is definitely starting to look better here, and I can’t wait for the May farmer’s market to come to Vancouver. Local strawberries – eeee! :mrgreen:

Check out what I found yesterday: This page is filled with healthy 3-ingredient smoothies. After reading it, I felt so INSPIRED! I had no idea such delicious-looking concoctions could be created with three simple ingredients. Every single smoothie looks yummy – but I’m super excited to try the banana + cocoa + peanut butter smoothie. Check it out!

 

This morning, I made tried to make apple pie oatmeal. I mean, I’ve done it many times before, and it’s just as simple as regular oatmeal or banana oatmeal.

So I chose a beautiful unwaxed local Gala apple. I scrubbed the wax off (yes, I know it’s unwaxed – I still have to scrape it off with a knife!). I rinsed it. I dried it. I chopped it into the most perfect little cubes. By the way, this all took me half an hour… yes, I’m slow.

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Then, I placed my perfect little apple cubes in a saucepan and filled it with milk + water. I knew it’d take a while to soften, so I asked Mom to keep an eye on the stove, without letting it boil. Overheating milk will cause it to separate. The milk solids will look like pulp, suspended in a pale, watery solution. At that point, it’ll pretty much be inedible (unless you like curdled milk IN water).

Off I went to answer some emails. About fifteen minutes later, “Cindy! It’s boiling!”. %$&#! I ran into the kitchen, looked at the saucepan of bubbling milk, and almost died. The milk + water had almost bubbled over, and a thin layer of papery milk was on top of the apple. Immediately, I took it off the heat (it was on LOW before!). Then, I stirred it furiously, hoping that I could stir the weird film back inside.

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Nope. It’d separated! NOOOOO! This was the second time that it separated. 😥 All of my apples were ruined, covered in pulpy white stuff. Of course, I couldn’t salvage the milk + water or the oats. It all went down the sink disposal. I had scrambled eggs instead. What a sad morning! I’ll update y’all if I ever try this again – hopefully I’ll keep a better eye on it than my mom.

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For your information, if this didn’t happen, I would’ve added raisins, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt, then top it with granola. A splash of milk is always welcome, and I love apple oatmeal with peanut butter and a drizzle of honey. Or you could try it with Craisins, almond butter, and maple syrup. So good!

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Oh yeah, and these pictures are from a while ago – from a time that, obviously, the milk didn’t curdle. Try it sometime – if I manage to figure out how to make this not separate, I’ll post a recipe. Yay for apple oats! They really do taste like apple pie. I haven’t had apple pie before, but I imagine it would taste like this! Have a great weekend everyone. ♥

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Last thing: if you use a tart apple, like Granny Smith, add a bit of sugar. I think a teaspoon of brown sugar would be perfect – you don’t want it to be too sour! Otherwise, Galas are perfect. A drizzle of honey/maple syrup is great if your apple is already sweet!

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Last thing: did you read my post from last weekend? I hope this weekend is as awesome. 🙂

Make-Your-Own Healthy Pancakes!

Pancakes are one of my all-time favourite foods. The sad news is that all-purpose white flour, sugar, and butter aren’t exactly health foods. Here, I put a nutritious twist on this breakfast classic. It’s simple! All you have to do is tweak a couple ingredients for a truly healthy breakfast that you won’t feel guilty about. Substitute as many (or as few, for that matter) ingredients as you’d like.

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Healthy Substitutions
All-purpose white flour WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR: the texture will change a little, but for me it’s for the better. I love how it becomes a little nuttier and a LOT heartier. Try sifting it first! Oat flour (grind your own from plain rolled oats) will also work. I haven’t tried other flours, like coconut flour or almond flour, but I’m sure you could play around with the proportions to make it work!

Bisquick/Krusteaz Just-Add-Water Pancake Mix BOB’S RED MILL/COYOTE WHOLE WHEAT PANCAKE MIX: I found both of these at my local Superstore. Look in the organic/health foods aisle. I’ve also seen them at Whole Foods, though it’s more expensive there. Coyote’s whole wheat pancake mix has only four ingredients – whole wheat flour, buttermilk powder, baking powder, and sea salt. As with everything, the fewer the ingredients, the better. Awesome!

Butter COCONUT OIL: one morning, my mom suggested I try cooking my pancakes in coconut oil, and I’ve never looked back. Who needs butter when it burns quickly and is absorbed into the pancakes rather than crisping the edges? Plus, coconut oil is a known superfood. My aunt and uncle swear by it, and for a good reason – coconut oil staves hunger, fights bacteria, reduces cholesterol (thus lowering the risk of heart disease), and more. Although its health benefits are still being studied, coconut oil is CLEARLY healthier than trans fat-filled butter. Coconut oil vs. olive oil? Now that’s debatable!

Buttermilk PLAIN YOGURT: plain yogurt adds a delicious tang, just like buttermilk does. If you don’t have plain yogurt, Greek yogurt diluted with a little milk will also work. I seriously LOVE this substitution because plain yogurt is healthy + delicious. The new texture of the pancakes will be so spongy and soft. You must try this!

By the way, I always add an egg to my pancake mix, even if it is the just-add-water kind. It adds fluffiness, and I LOVE thick pancakes.

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Omit these if you can!
– salt: with the Bob’s Red Mill mix, you can sift it out, then throw it in the garbage. 😛 I honestly don’t taste a difference.
– sugar: I don’t know about you, but I’ll drizzle smother drown my pancakes with maple syrup or honey anyways. What’s the point?
– oil: most pancake mixes tell you to add a tablespoon of canola oil or melted butter. Ditch it – you won’t be able to tell a difference. Plus, you’ll cook your pancakes in more oil, so again, there’s no point!

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Add these if you can!
– a big scoop of plain/Greek yogurt (see above buttermilk substitution)
– a tablespoon of ground flax seeds: ground flax is easier to absorb
– a big dash of cinnamon: I can’t do breakfast without cinnamon. You don’t have to add a lot, but I think I’m immune to the taste or something. I need to add about a teaspoon to TASTE it. 😮
– a tablespoon or two of quick/rolled oats: they lend great texture
– fresh berries
– a mashed banana: mashed banana is sweet, healthy, and bulks up the mix. If you have half a cup of prepared mix, a large mashed banana will bring it to at LEAST 3/4 of a cup. Plus, it makes the pancakes super tender and a lot sweeter. If you’re a banana hater, don’t worry – you won’t be able to taste it. If you’re a banana lover like me, try mashing it just until chunky (not totally smooth), and you’ll feel those soft banana marshmallows melt on your tongue.
– shredded coconut
– grated apple or carrot: I’ve been dying to try carrot cake pancakes!
– dried fruit, like raisins or cranberries
– low-fat ricotta cheese: I’ve done this once before. It’s really good. The texture is springy and fluffy, and the taste is practically unaltered.

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As you can see, I always top my pancakes with the following:

– fresh berries
– sliced banana
– chia seeds
– nut butter: almond, peanut, sunflower, etc. The more flavours, the better!
– sometimes, a drizzle of honey. Tastes AMAZING with peanut butter and banana (I know, I know, it’s a classic)
– maple syrup on the side for dipping. I usually use one squirt from the honey container.

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Aren’t berries delicious this time of year? I can’t wait to try this recipe with our fresh blackberries. Mmmm!

I hope you enjoyed this post. For more build-your-own food ideas, check our this post. I’ll show you how to make customizable desserts that are healthy, delicious, and take literally two minutes.

One more day until the weekend. 🙂 Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post. Have a great Friday!

My Favourite Healthy Dinner {in 15 minutes!}

There are no words to describe how much I love this meal – it’s a go-to for busy weeknights. Inspired by one of my favourite bloggers, Iowa Girl Eats (see http://iowagirleats.com/2011/05/31/under-15-minute-meal-for-one for her version!), this is fresh and summery dinner literally takes fifteen minutes to prepare! ♥

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My rendition stars pan-fried trout from Costco, a weekly staple in my family. It’s hard to believe how fresh Costco seafood is. A friend of my father’s works at a chicken slaughterhouse (is there a nicer way to put that?) and his chickens are always delivered straight to Costco. High demand = super fresh!

We always chop the trout into single-serving sections, scrape off the scales under cold running water, freeze some, and marinate/season some for dinner that night. You don’t need fancy spices or flavoured oils to make trout taste amazing – sea salt and pepper is perfect. To pan-fry trout, I just splash a few drops of oil onto a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. I LOVE the skin, and I need it to be super crispy, so the skin goes down first. It’ll cook for a few minutes, releasing tons of scrumptiously seafood-y oil into the skillet. Once the skin is crusty and the filet is cooked halfway through, flip the trout with a spatula (or chopsticks if you’re my mom). If you’re weird and don’t like skin, peel it off here. It’s so much easier peeling it off now than it is when the trout is uncooked! Cover it up, turn the heat down, and cook it to your desired doneness! I don’t like my fish tough – I’d rather have it melt-in-your-mouth and… medium rare? Drizzle with lemon. Fish – done!

The quinoa pilaf can be made in three minutes if you have cooled, leftover quinoa. I like cooking my quinoa in chicken broth and a pinch of sea salt, because it adds a new layer of delicious, savory flavour. It keeps really well in the fridge, too. Fresh quinoa works well also – just make sure that you’re using a scant amount of liquid (2:1 ratio liquid to water) so that it’s not mushy. We ALWAYS cook our quinoa in the steamer; you don’t have to worry about it in there, whereas in a pot, you have to time it, remove it from the heat, etc. If you have a steamer, I highly recommend cooking grains in there! Works perfectly every time with zero effort.

By the way, in the picture I’m using an ancient grains mix. There’s red and beige quinoa in there, as well as steel cut oats (oats!), couscous, and barley. Yum! The texture is amazing. Casbah brand, in case you were wondering!

Anyways! Toss a few drops of oil (I usually use olive oil) into a skillet over medium heat. Add frozen corn – ours is from Costco. It’s organic and tastes unbelievably fresh and sweet. Love it! I like my corn almost charred. Pale, mushy corn has no place on my plate! When the corn is brown and uber-fragrant, add frozen peas and stir until slightly softened. I also added sugar peas because they were hanging out in the fridge. If I had some, I would’ve thrown in some baby spinach or kale to wilt. When the veggies are 95% cooked, toss in the quinoa and stir, letting it heat up.

Turn off the heat, season heartily with freshly-ground black pepper (a kitchen ingredient that makes you look a lot better at cooking than you actually are!) and a big drizzle of lemon juice. Toss it all around, throw it on a plate, and top it with the pan-fried trout.

That’s roasted broccoli on the side. Simple recipe, but its 10:00 now and I want to go to bed. Next time!

Sweet corn, savory quinoa, a veggie punch from the greens. Let’s not forget the juicy trout. I always drizzle the fish oil on top of the fish, and then eat the skin in one bite (really is better than greasy potato chips!).

Oh, and I always drizzle everything in lemon and churn some black peppah over everything. Seasoning in layers is what makes restaurant food so flavourful.

Hope you guys enjoy this healthy and quick weeknight dinner!

QUESTION OF THE DAY!
What is your go-to healthy weeknight meal? You know, for the days that you’ve got tons on your To-Do list but can’t bear to down a bowl of Cheerios? Let me know in the comments! ☺

Mine is definitely this here. Or… maybe an egg, cheese, and spinach omelette. Hard to choose!