Babies, Baking Powder, and Beets

Before we look at FOOD, look at baby Cindy! Mom was doing a big house clean back home in BC, and she stumbled upon this photo of little me. I think I was one or two here.

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The good thing about the summer semester is that there’s barely anyone here, so campus always a quiet place to study.

The bad thing about the summer semester is that there’s barely anyone here, so the cafe is closed for the term, and Starbucks is only open from 9:00 to 3:00.

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Check out this neat infographic on the humble sweet potato.

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I made the strangest mishmash dinner bake the other day, which featured green beans, black beans, red peppers, quinoa, corn tortillas, and red enchilada sauce and smoked cheddar. I can’t believe I forgot the green onions, which were sitting, perfectly chopped up, in the fridge.

Delicious pumpkin noodles were devoured. I loved the addition of peas.

I made a black bean burger and topped it with smoked cheddar to serve with arugula and quinoa, tossed in a honey-mustard dressing. Delicious and simple.

Another day, my almond flour banana bread was a sad failure because I forgot to add baking powder. WHO forgets to add baking powder? Me. They tasted just as good, though  dense like a brownie. Not complaining though, because brownies are always a happy surprise.

Last week was the week of salads! Black bean burger, beets, fig goat cheese and avocado made great toppings for a bed of couscous and arugula.

With my extra beets, I made…

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Makes 9

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large beets
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1.5 cups almond meal
  • 3-4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp oil or melted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Grease a muffin tin VERY well.
  2. Puree beets in a blender.
  3. Mix all ingredients together. Add chocolate chips. Save some to top, if desired.
  4. Spoon into 9 muffin tins. Top with additional chocolate chips, if you’d like.
  5. Bake 45 minutes, or until cooked through.
  6. Cool completely in the muffin tins.
  7. Serve alone or with toppings.

Hope everyone enjoys the rest of this… month? And welcome to JUNE!

Toronto’s Best Ice Cream?

How is it MAY already?

Let’s talk food!

I tried Venezuelan food, from El Arepazo in the Kensington Market, for the first time and loved these arepas stuffed with fried plantains, queso, black beans, avocado, and fresh tomato. Next time, I will add hot sauce!

The London Fog tea latte from Moonbean Cafe in Kensington Market is the #1 tea latte I’ve ever had, hands down. I’m drooling for this mug right now.

Sunset on Sterling road, the magical little street that takes me to Cirque-ability where I practice aerials.

Mmmmm, desserts! I bought these from Thobors. This was:

  • almond paste tart with peach slices
  • chocolate hazelnut mousse cake that tasted like ferrero rocher in a cake form

I went to Pomegranate Restaurant to try Iranian food for my first time on Friday night. This was their famous fish, which involved boneless chicken breast in a stew made of crushed walnuts and pomegranate syrup. I’ve never had anything like this before, and loved it. Though, I wish I had more of the yellow saffron rice.

Dessert was this saffron ice cream, which, sadly, tasted like frozen rose shampoo.

I had the BEST Indian dinner at Banjara! Cassie – look! I had Indian food! This was delicious and featured:

  • vegetable pakora (fried)
  • yellow lentil dahl
  • palak paneer (spinach and cottage cheese curry) –> my #1 favourite Indian dish of all time
  • aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower curry)
  • rice pudding with cardamom, carrots, and cinnamon
  • curry basmati rice

All this… for around $13?!

For dessert, I went crazy for this caramelized peanut butter cookie with two scoops of ice cream: totarn (ube, or purple yam) and one scoop of cinnamon toast. Cinnamon toast ice cream? Purple yam ice cream? If you’ve never had them, you need to try. And also, this peanut butter cookie was mind-blowingly delicious. One of my dessert highlights of my Toronto life.

Life back home in BC… oh, and I finally got new shoes! My toes were starting to peep out of my old ones. These black shoes were on discount from Nordstrom, and are ridiculously comfortable.

A breakfast to remember: banana oats in a cashew butter jar, yogurt, blackberries, and a slice of oat banana bread. YUM!

For the last two/three weeks in Toronto, the only things in my fridge were cheddar cheese and vegetables – and the one thing in my pantry was quinoa. With that, I made vegetable quinoa casseroles about 3-4 times during my last month in Toronto, but I never grow sick of it. This square featured wilted spinach, little carrots and corn, peas, quinoa, and creamy, sharp cheddar.

One bucket list item checked off – I finally went to Maha’s, an Egpytian restaurant, for brunch! It was a Sunday afternoon, so I should have expected a long wait. Ended up waiting from 1:00 to 2:30 before getting into the restaurant, which only seats 24 people. This plate features some Egyptian balady bread, Turkish cheese, a spinach falafel, sliced hard-boiled egg, and creamy beans. The little cup on the right was full of spices and raw cucumber, peppers, and tomato. It was a superb meal that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I wouldn’t wait 1.5 hours for it again.

I followed up that meal with some desserts. Two, to be exact…

  • one chestnut mousse cake with walnut sponge, wrapped in milk chocolate
  • one earl grey tea latte
  • one pistachio and chocolate croissant

After the Egyptian brunch, and the desserts, AND the mug of tea, it was hard to walk because I was so full!

 

Now that summer is on the horizon, I can’t wait to make tasty salads like this one. I have pesto – I just need to buy some arugula, peppers, penne, and cheese/tofu!

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I will miss Toronto’s massive selection of restaurants.

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But I am glad to be back in school!

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Have a delicious week, friends 🙂

The Healthiest Pumpkin Muffins {Vegan}

Hey everyone! I can’t wait to share this recipe with you all right now! 🙂 Look at how tender and delicious these pumpkin muffins look! They are INCREDIBLE warm, fresh out of the oven but just as tasty reheated in the microwave, and stay fresh and deeelish for a couple days.

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Can you believe these have NO butter, NO eggs, NO white sugar and NO white flour? Plus, they have loads of added nutrients from flax, mashed avocado, banana, and pumpkin. These are practically superfoods! This recipe is vegan, meaning there are no animal products in it at all. That includes no milk, no butter, eggs, honey, etc.

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This recipe makes 12, and I demolished two right away. I think next time we’ll add chocolate chips, because… why do I even need a reason to add chocolate chips? We topped a third with flax (whole seeds) and another third with unsweetened shredded coconut. Four were left plain! Let me show you how we made these pretty little muffins.

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Start by whisking the dry ingredients together. You can use any flour you’d like. As for the wet ingredients, start by mashing an overripe banana with a whole avocado. Don’t worry, you won’t taste EITHER of these – I promise!

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Just keeping it real here! Oh, and add some pumpkin puree (who cares if it’s spring? Canned pumpkin is year round IMO) to the fruity mash.

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Stir together some ground flaxseed and water to make a flax egg, which replaces egg in this vegan recipe. When it reaches an eggy texture after about five minutes, you’re ready!

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Unfortunately this requires quite a few bowls. 😛 Add some flavourful vanilla extract to the wet ingredients. The wet ingredient mixture is VERY thick, dense, and not batter-like at all. That’s totally normal!

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A drizzle of maple syrup, which is totally optional because I couldn’t taste it at the end. Now, dump your thick wet ingredients mixture into the flour mixture.

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Stir quickly and minimally so as not to overmix. You’ll want to see little streaks of flour when you’re done – that means you haven’t mixed it too much. Remember, overmixing muffin batter leads to dense, dry, tough, and chewy muffins. Who wants that? Oh, and you can also add some chocolate chips, dried fruits, or nuts here.

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Scoop it into a greased muffin tin – we use coconut oil to grease – and top with desired toppings, or leave them plain!

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Healthy Vegan Pumpkin Muffins

Adapted from Rachel at Moments with Rae

Ingredients

Dry:
– 1 cup whole wheat flour + 1/2 cup spelt flour + 1/2 cup kamut flour (or any flours you’d like = 2 cups total)
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 2 tsp cinnamon (you can amp it up to 1 tbsp if you are a cinnamon fiend like me!)
– 1/4 tsp nutmeg
– 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
– 1/3 cup light brown sugar
Wet:
– 1 cup pumpkin puree
– 1 avocado, mashed
– 1 mashed overripe banana
– 2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax with generous 1/4 cup water, or regular eggs if not vegan)
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
Toppings:
– whole flax seeds
– shredded unsweetened coconut

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 12 holes on the muffin tray with coconut oil.
2) Prepare flax eggs by mixing water with ground flax and letting it sit while you move on to the next step. 🙂
3) In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients except sugar.
4) In a separate medium bowl, mix wet ingredients, then add sugar.
5) Combine wet and dry ingredients, and mix gently. Do not overmix.
6) Bake for about 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
7) Let rest in muffin tray for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack, and cool for 10 more mins before serving.

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This was an excellent recipe and the muffins were best fresh out of the oven. They are creamy, subtly sweet, with lots of pumpkin flavour. The toppings were awesome, too. The texture when they emerge from the oven, steaming hot, is out of this world. They are crumbly at soft, and don’t taste vegan at all – have you seen the Buzzfeed videos where people eat and judge vegan desserts? I had two for a tasty breakfast.

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You’d never guess that this recipe has no butter or eggs. It’s awesome what an avocado, a banana, and a pumpkin can do. I had these delicious muffins on top of oatmeal for a couple of days. I think next time I’ll use a food processor or blender to really break down the avocado and banana, as there were some little chunks that I noticed the next day. Either way, this recipe was great and Mom noticed a subtle avocado taste that she adored.

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Let me know if you try out this recipe!

Mexican Madness {Chipotle + Greek Turkey Burger Recipe}

Have you been to Chipotle?

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My sister and I visited the Chipotle by Metropolis (Burnaby) last Saturday, and had a pretty awesome lunch. Seline ordered the tacos with chicken, cheese, guacamole, mild salsa, and sour cream.

She didn’t like the guacamole because it has lots of cilantro in it, and she’s one of the (weird) people who think cilantro tastes like dish soap. She enjoyed the chicken and crunchy taco shells, but thanks to her cilantro-taste-buds gene, she definitely prefers the tacos she had in Ottawa.

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I ordered the burrito bowl with brown rice, cheese, barbacoa (Mexican-style pulled beef), tomato salsa, black beans, guacamole, and romaine lettuce. I thought the beef was a little bit fatty (some pieces), but the flavour was zippy and fresh. I loved the huge scoop of guacamole and the cheese, of course! Wasn’t too crazy about their rice or salsa, and I think I’ll skip the lettuce and tomato next time. I was really hungry before this lunch (thanks, hot yoga) and devoured most of it. It really is enough for two meals though!

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Dessert was Qoola frozen yogurt – my favourite! Seline’s bowl on the right had lots of fruity yogurts, sliced almonds, and gummy bears. I had a little of every sweet flavour, including cheesecake (THE BEST), cookies and cream (I just wrote cookiesnchem LOL), cake batter by Seline’s recommendation, and coconut! My favourite toppings are the cheesecake cubes, which are to DIE for. Almond roca, a brownie chunk, crushed Butterfingers, and a blackberry also made it into my bowl. 🙂 The perfect dessert!

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Leftover Chipotle made a great dinner the next day before we went to see the Cinderella movie. I thought the movie was predictable, and overall, not that interesting. 😥 But I can’t wait for the live-action Mulan movie coming out next year or so – SO EXCITED.

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Leftover rice with meat, black beans, and all that was mixed up with freshly sautéed corn and grated white cheddar cheese. Topped with some expired guacamole – I didn’t know! – and tomato salsa from Costco. This salsa is so much better than Chipotle’s, IMO. Thumbs up for this super-filling dinner!

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The next day we had Greek-style turkey burgers! They were so easy to make.

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We simply mixed up the following ingredients:

  • 1 box lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • TONS of spinach, cooked on a skillet and squeezed until dry
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 minced red onion

Then we made little patties and cooked ’em over medium-high heat. They were yummy, and you can remove/add ingredients as you wish.

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This was actually my first time having ground turkey, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s very different from a beef burger in that it tastes like poultry (obviously) and has a bit of a firmer, less “wet” texture. The melty chunks of feta in here really sealed the deal! We might cut the red onions a bit smaller next time. Served with some roasted sweet potatoes, feta cheese and roasted chickpeas on quinoa. I dipped my turkey burgers in tzatziki from Costco!

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Isn’t that beautiful? This seriously inspires me to make my own healthy burrito bowl…

That’s it for now – I have to go walk my doggie. 🙂

Matchstick Coffee with Rae

Hi everyone! How are you all doing?

To all Vancouverites out there – check out the sunshine we’ve had the past week! It’s incredible. I’m loving Vancity more and more every single day (when the sun is out, of course). I was so sick of the rain, and the recent weather has just been PERFECT for spring walks, gardening, and biking.

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Monday morning was Victoria Day, so there was no school. Unfortunately, hot yoga was also cancelled. 😥 This time, I called to make sure – last time I showed up and there was no one there! It’s okay, though… more time to cook a delish bowl of banana oats. This one featured banana, berries, fresh pumpkin muffin, and hemp hearts. I also stirred in an egg white during the last minute of cooking. It bulked up the oats a bit, added valuable protein, and didn’t change the flavour one bit (thanks, banana!).

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Dad drove Mom and I to Matchstick Coffee on Kingsway so we could meet up with the lovely Rachel of Moments with Rae and her mother. We were there a couple minutes earlier and spent some time admiring the super hip decor. I love Vancouver and it’s hipster places – Bandidas Taqueria is another favourite.

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Their menu isn’t bad (my photo IS bad, though – sorry!) and features food for every appetite. From granola to hummus toast to salad, everything is fresh and healthy. Plus, their menu uses mostly organic and local produce. It makes me very happy to know that such influential restaurants care about nutrition and their environmental footprint 🙂

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First, I ordered a pretty little cappuccino for Mom. The barista put it into a to-go cup with a pretty design on it, but I asked her to pour it into a mug, so the nice foamy swirl disappeared. But it still tasted very fresh. I added some cane sugar to sweeten it up a bit. This was very high-quality coffee, but since I’m not a huge coffee person, it wasn’t my favourite food of the day. More on that almond croissant in just a bit!

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I was debating between the Harvest Salad and the hummus toast, but the lady I spoke with at the counter recommended the hummus toast, hands down. It was definitely the right choice! Thick slices of bread were smothered with creamy white bean hummus and topped with thinly-sliced beets, purple carrots, cucumbers, mixed greens, dill sprigs (I think), freshly-ground black pepper, sunflower seeds, and a drizzle of honey. The sunflower seeds were excellent – they added such a nice flavour and contrasting texture. The drizzle of honey was perfect on the greens, and I felt like it complemented the whole wheat bread. Yummy!

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Matchstick Coffee, along with Thomas Haas and several other bakeries (Thierry and Chez Christophe’s, to name a few) are known for their incredible almond croissants. I ordered one of these famous croissants, and coincidentally, so did Rachel! It’s funny because Rachel and I ordered the EXACT same foods – white bean hummus toast + almond croissant. Only difference was that she ordered lattes and I chose the cappuccino for mom. 🙂

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I thought this croissant was super yummy, though not as light and tender as the one from Thomas Haas. It was still a top-notch baked good, though. Too bad their chocolate almond croissants were sold out. When I eat these little big guys, I go for the centres first! Their creamy, fragrant insides are my favourite thing. Ever. I absolutely loved this croissant. Wish I had some right now! Look how buttery and flaky it is!

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That photo on the left inspired by Rachel – her top-view photos are stunning. 🙂

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Demolished!

That’s it for now – I’ve got a yummy recipe post that I can’t wait to share with you all. Have a wonderful weekend!

A Streak of Sunshine

Happy Saturday, guys!

Let me start this post by telling you how AWESOME this week has been (for the most part – I was freakin’ out at one point!). I started the week with a math test, which, okay, wasn’t awesome – but I scored 100%. Looks like all of the studying paid off! I was thrilled… until I found out that a couple others also got perfect. Aww! I also earned a 6/6 on a tricky novel analysis essay, AND my teacher asked if she could keep it as a future example, err, a precedent. 😉

I also started a new set at work, which basically means we start a new group of lessons. So I have three classes (one was cancelled) of four kids aged 3-5. I’ve only taught them twice, but of course I LOVE them already. My favourite thing about my job is watching them scream in delight when I pull them around with hula hoops “belly rides”. :mrgreen:

Anyways, what’s a good week without some good food? Here are some of the fantastic meals I’ve had! In no particular order, please welcome the Top Meals of May!

Starting with… baked banana oatmeal topped with honey Greek yogurt and fresh berries. Oatgurt is great in the warmer spring mornings.

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Spaghetti bolognese, bulked up with vegetables. This was Simply Organic tomato sauce and lean ground beef. We also added chopped tomato, roasted peppers, fresh green bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions. Sprinkled with a little parmesan!

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This classic Mom Meal was not my favourite. I can hardly tell what it is, especially under all of this sesame! I see vermicelli, carrots, turnips, and a beef + broccoli stir-fry. We sure eat that often!

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Dinner after a fantastic PARTY! Our party was a lunch party because Grandma doesn’t eat dinner – she prefers a large meal in the middle of the day. I will post about the party on my next post. Roasted butternut squash, Chinese chicken and sesame dressing salad, quinoa salad with feta and mixed greens. A little “slice” of leftover cheesecake for dessert. Such a satisfying dinner. I love eating a variety of food – it makes me feel mentally full because of all the different tastes, textures, and temperatures.

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I guess you could call this a twist on a Mom Dinner. We had macaroni and cheese with vegetables another day. This meal was pretty good! We bulked up some Catelli Smart elbows with chopped broccoli, frozen corn, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, all the works. They were quickly sauteed in a pan and then mixed with the cooked pasta.

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The sauce was simple: butter + flour to make a roux, and then milk and chicken broth to make it liquidy. Then, we threw in some shredded sharp white cheddar and seasoned it with lots of pepper and some salt. After stirring it all together, we stuffed it into a casserole dish, topped it with cheese and toasty breadcrumbs, then baked it to perfection.

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I had three servings of this (it’s a salad plate, BTW!). It could have been more flavourful, probably because the veggies diluted it. I think we’ll use more cheese and another pinch of salt.

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Breakfast! Berries with granola on oatmeal.

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Salad for lunch!

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Topped with nuts, berries, shredded chicken drumstick from a Costco rotisserie chicken. Plus a sprinkle of feta cheese and a big drizzle of homemade maple-blueberry vinaigrette. I didn’t really like the vinaigrette. I put a bit too much balsamic in there! Very sour. 😦

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So… um… yeah. I guess that’s it for now. Stay tuned for the next post, which will be coming out tomorrow evening (hopefully). I’ll be sharing a SUPER awesome lunch with the family. My mom and I hosted a fantastic lunch and made lots of goodies that I can’t wait to post about. See you soon!

 

BTW… FARMER’S MARKET TOMORROW! Woot! 🙂