The Tiniest Asparagus

Hello! Lately, my agenda has been full of exciting activities. This week is O-Fest, which means there are plenty of introductory sessions that welcome students to the University of Queensland. Next week, it is CONNECT Week, so there are free fitness sessions and other activities designed to help students find friends with common interests. You can see my trusty planner (a kind gift from my sister, Seline) along with my morning cheddar scrambled eggs with mushrooms. Also, my laptop stand is truly a gift!

I got to see some cool animals. Check out this dwarf crocodile, which is ten years old, and this male owl. I had the opportunity to pet both of them, and they are really cute. This was organized by the QUEST Society at UQ. QUEST stands for the Queensland University Exchange Student Society.

The UQ campus is really beautiful, complete with museums (art, geology, and more), a Great Court, and so much more. I love it. Even though I get lost on an hourly basis.

There’s a grocery store called Fruity Capers in the local mall, and they sell the most amazing little vegetables I’ve ever seen. Check out these teeny tiny asparagus, which were about the length of my wrist to fingertips. They are so cute, and cooked in a minute. I put them in my scrambled eggs, which you can see below. I like these tiny asparagus more than large (regular?) asparagus, because they don’t have stalky ends and cook much quicker.

Another afternoon, I happened to pass a place called Noosa Chocolate Factory. They are famous for a massive selection single origin, single plantation & blended slabs delivered fresh daily from the Noosa Chocolate Factory, fine specialty coffee, and rustic hot chocolates. Of course, I had to try one of their renowned drinks! The 35-degree temperature, however, gave me the opportunity to try their iced chocolate drink. This one, which was 56% cocoa, was sweet-but-not-overly-sweet, icy, and had such a rich chocolate taste. No phony stuff here!

In other words, I’m in love. Can I live here? And eat chocolate for the rest of my semester?

Afterwards, I went for a little stroll around this lovely area of Brisbane. There were plenty of souvenir shops, and I loved looking at the lit-up bridges as I walked down the river.

At this grocery store, there are always fresh fruit samples. Next time, I want to try their homemade banana bread! Banana bread is, and always will be, one of my weaknesses. I just want to toast it up and smother it all in peanut butter.

On Friday, I had a day off! No orientation events, no classes, no commitments, nothing. The day before, I created a detailed plan of activities and events that I wanted to attend, but when Friday rolled around, I was so tired (and hot!) that I didn’t want to do anything. I ended up relaxing at home, cooking, and spending time in the downtown area.

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More eats:

  • 2 plates of buffet food: coleslaw, pasta salad, goat cheese spinach salad, melon, cheese, carrots, gratin potatoes, omelet with squash, onion, vegetables, roasted squash and sweet potatoes, crispy fried pita bread (a wonderful Chinese New Year feast with my landlord’s family)

  • breakfast on the bottom right:
    • 2 scrambled eggs with broccoli, cheddar and gruyere
    • vanilla Greek yogurt with 1/2 container blueberries, 1/3 packet pecan butter

I spent the next day strolling around one of my favourite parts of the city, and had the opportunity to visit Morning After Cafe. My dish was absolutely spectacular, and I added halloumi on the side. I’m in love with halloumi!

  • red pepper, eggplant, and onion sauté, cucumber with labneh and dill, fried egg, halloumi, paprika oil

Dessert at Gelato Messina was quite eventful. Their menu was enormous, and you can get three scoops of three flavours in one cup. How could I resist that? After sampling a few, I decided on:

  • 1 scoop pistachio praline, 1 scoop white chocolate hazelnut, 1 scoop milk chocolate peanut butter fudge gelato

All together in a large-sized cup, this dessert was an absolute dream. To be honest, the flavours were on the sweeter side (thanks to the white chocolate, praline, and fudge), and I would’ve preferred the sweetness to be dialled down a little. Nonetheless, delicious!

Few things from recently:

  • This beautiful post by Bucket List Tummy discusses reasons why one should never diet, and is worded in such a clear, inspiring, beautiful way.
  • One of my favourite pairs figure skating teams (Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany) won the event. I was super happy because their performance was flawless, and this was Aliona’s fifth and final Olympics. Are you following the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea? Which events are you interested in?
  • 56 different names for sugar – interesting!

That is pretty much all I have for today. I hope the rest of your week is wonderful!

Simple Guide to Nutritional Yeast

What is Nutritional Yeast?

  • a type of inactive yeast
  • flaky, powdery texture
  • has a savoury, cheesy flavour
  • vegan and gluten-free
  • can be found in most health-food stores

Why You Should Try “Nooch”

  • tastes like parmesan cheese, so it’s absolutely delicious
  • loaded with B vitamins
  • contains 6 grams of protein in each quarter cup
  • plenty of zinc and fibre

Creative Ways to Use Nutritional Yeast

  • add it to pasta
  • add to popcorn
  • use in Tex-Mex or Mexican dishes as a sub for cheddar
  • sprinkle some on buttered bread
  • use in lasagna
  • make an Alfredo sauce
  • topping for vegetarian chili
  • use in tofu stir-fries
  • sprinkle on salad
  • use to top salads or breadsticks
  • use in French toast batter to add richness
  • in place of cheddar in vegan broccoli-cheddar soup
  • use to make vegan omelettes or quiche
  • add to mashed cauliflower
  • use it to make cauliflower dishes
  • add to stuffed peppers
  • the easiest mac and cheese ever: 1/2 cup nutritional yeast with 1/4 cup warm water, oil, salt and pepper
  • mix into scrambled eggs for eggy flavour and great yellow hue
  • add to casseroles, whether they have rice or quinoa
  • toss it into the blender with cooked/canned beans, olive oil, and lemon for a great cheesy dip
  • add to burritos
  • sprinkle on shakshuka
  • add to scalloped potatoes
  • blitz to make a mock parmesan
  • mash into baked potato with garlic
  • blend to make creamy cheesy sauce
  • stir into pesto
  • top sautéed vegetables
  • use to top pizza or flatbread
  • use to make vegan hollandaise sauce
  • make a cheese spread with it, then use it for grilled cheese
  • stir it into vegan gravy
  • use to thicken stews, sauces, and soups
  • use in vegan mac and cheese recipes
  • whisked into salad dressing for thickness and unami flavour
  • use in vegan baking, like for savoury biscuits
  • add to scrambled eggs (adds a great sharp flavour, and enhances the yellow hue of your eggs)
  • stir into soups
  • add to curry mix
  • stir into risotto
  • sprinkle on chips, like kale chips
  • stir into sweet treats, like peanut butter cups, to add rich flavour (melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips OR cocoa powder with oil, then layer with a mixture of peanut butter and nutritional yeast, chill to set)
  • sprinkle on top of avocado toast
  • use in tofu cheesecakes, to add cream cheese flavour

The Best Food Court Meal I’ve Ever Had

Hey, hey, hey! Quick update on everything, now that September is coming to a close.

Yes, I know that many of my previous posts were flashbacks to my short time at home in BC. And as much as I wish I was back in BC, chowing on croissants every morning, I’m actually living in Scarborough, a quiet, academic suburb of Toronto. You might remember the little tour post that I did of my room/bathroom/kitchen and my office at work.

Remember my day at SLXCA in downtown Toronto? On the same day, I went to the Kensington Market, where I stopped at Hibiscus Cafe and devoured this buckwheat crepe with brie, roasted apples, pecans, arugula, and avocado. Super beautiful, yes, but the flavours needed a little something (maybe pepper?).

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Most of my eats at home have been simple, but oh-so-delicious. This quiche was from the farmer’s market, and I’ve been purchasing one little one every week. Truly the best crust I’ve ever had.

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Soups have also been making regular appearances, along with scones.

I found out recently that the uwaterloolife Instagram account featured me! I’ve seen my paragliding photo from Nepal 2016 used in several University of Waterloo Study Abroad advertisements. I was thrilled to see this post, shared with me by a friend, since I don’t have my own Instagram.

Pumpkin seeds, guys! Why did it take me so long to fall in love with them?

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On a tragic note, I finished all my sunflower butter. I suppose that merits another trip to Trader Joe’s once I return to BC? 😏

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Life at the college has been good, too. My students, for the most part, have been incredibly dedicated, well-prepared, and ready to learn and work hard. Thank you ❤

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Check out this stunning stretch that I walk down, each time I go to the Dollarama, Bulk Barn, and Food Basics plaza. Gorgeous, right? I had no idea that Scarborough would be so dramatically different from downtown Toronto.

Dollarama is a lifesaver. I love my soft slippers and the Halloween decorations that I purchased for my office. It’s never too early for Halloween, if you ask me.

Now this! O-M-G (part 1). On Saturday, I visited Scarborough Town Centre, the local mall, where I enjoyed this amazing lunch from Naan&Kebab. You see, I was expecting a greasy, sticky mess with dry, hard pieces of chicken, and perhaps a couple limp leaves.

Nope, nope, nope. What did I get instead?

  • two generously-sized pieces of piping hot, toasted naan bread
  • a large helping of basmati rice cooked in savoury beef broth, mixed with shredded carrots and plenty of plump, juicy raisins
  • six large, tender, flavourful and spiced chunks of chicken
  • a creamy, rich, and spiced just-right chickpea stew
  • romaine lettuce, red cabbage, mixed vegetables, and two types of salsa, with a creamy spiced yogurt on top

For less than $12. I tried to save half for a future meal, but I knew after my first few bites that it wasn’t happening – it was too fresh and tasty, so I happily finished it all. Next time, I’m going to try the paneer version!

Sweet Jesus is pretty much a legend in Toronto. Everyone knows about it, and most people have tried it. Well, on Saturday, I got to see what the hype was all about. I chose the vanilla and chocolate swirl ice cream. A generous drizzle of Nutella was artfully drizzled on top of the soft serve, and the entire thing was coated in crunchy chopped pistachios and cornflakes. The soft serve itself reminded me of Costco ice cream. My only complaint is that it was physically hard to eat, simply because of the size of the ice cream compared to the size of the cup. It got pretty messy, but I should have asked for a larger cup, or at least some napkins.

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The same day, I cooked up a vegetarian chili for dinner.

Vegetarian Chili

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 tsp oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped carrots
  • 1.5 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery (I omitted since I didn’t find any)
  • 1 scant tbsp chili powder
  • 3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes with liquid, chopped or crushed
  • 10+ oz kidney beans
  • 10+ oz black beans
  • 5+ oz whole kernel corn
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • black pepper
  • cayenne
  • cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp dried basil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat oil and saute all vegetables with chili powder. Add salt.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, and corn. Season with remaining spices. Stir in pumpkin.
  3. Boil, then reduce heat to medium.
  4. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

The chili itself was a winner! These are some of the topping ideas that I’ll be using next time. This time, I kept it simple with some shredded cheddar.

TOPPINGS

  • cheddar cheese (personal favourite)
  • sour cream, creme fraiche, or thick plain yogurt
  • lime
  • avocado
  • cornbread
  • rice

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I saw some kind of list about Top 10 Fall Soups (or something!), and had the urge to create a big pot of chicken and wild rice soup. Since I didn’t want to buy and cook chicken, I subbed in an entire carton of white mushrooms. I really enjoyed this soup, especially on the second day with extra salt.

Creamy Mushroom Wild Rice Soup

Serves 5

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp butter, or oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • shallot
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until tender, about 7 mins. Add mushrooms and shallot.
  3. Stir in garlic clove. Cook for another minute, until fragrant. Add flour until dissolved.
  4. Slowly stir in milk, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently until thickened. Add broth, wild rice, parsley, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bring to a low boil. Reduce to simmer, cook for 30-40 minutes.
  6. Remove bay leaf.
  7. Serve!

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And that’s pretty much it for today! I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Goodbye, Waterloo

On Wednesday (3 days ago), I flew out of Toronto and came back home to BC.

My last few meals in Ontario were absolutely delicious.

Good times were spent with my friends (this is Kianna, my friend from aerial silks) – and we had a great lunch at Solé Seafood Bar.

Complimentary bread, tomato and blue cheese noodles, spinach and feta flatbread – both of which I shared with my friend Lara. Kianna had the shrimp scampi.

For dessert, we had a dark chocolate tart with creme fraiche and berry coulis.

One day, I cooked Gordon Ramsay scrambled eggs, which turned out irresistibly creamy. They did take a little extra effort to make, and I prefer my spinach + cheddar eggs.

Meal plans were created:

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I liked my sweet potato fries, salmon, with broccoli couscous. The garlic aioli was my favourite part.

Pancakes are always a dreamy breakfast. Chopped prunes on top!

Almond Flour Pancakes

Serves 6 pancakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Whisk dry ingredients together.
  2. Beat together liquid ingredients. Whisk wet into dry.
  3. Allow batter to rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Heat up pan to medium-high. Cook pancakes until tops are bubbly, edges are dry, and bottoms golden brown. Flip over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with butter.

Have a lovely rest of the day, friends!

Summer Things (Quinoa Overload)

Good Saturday morning, everyone! This semester is a challenging one. It’s called my “2B” semester, and it’s known by all as the semester “2B or not 2B” because it’s kind of that make-it-or-break-it time.

A delicious creamy pumpkin quinoa casserole was made, topped with loads of fontina (new favourite cheese!) and broiled. I loved every bite of this 8×8 pan that I made!

Long lab reports were written… (this isn’t even all of it!). Glad it’s done.

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Memes were made for my sister, Seline 🙂

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I had plenty of great toast. This was a multigrain thick-sliced loaf baked in-store at Vincenzo’s, and it had great crunch and wonderful flavour from all the seeds. I topped half with smashed avocado, and the other half with almond butter and chopped prunes.

I’m really excited for next week, because I made a full food schedule. I’m looking forward to trying a dark chocolate breakfast quinoa recipe, and revisit some old favourites like broccoli casserole and sweet potato spinach stew. A shopping list was also made!

These peanut butter chocolate banana snacking squares are some of my favourite desserts of all time. All-time, I tell you!

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These chocolate muffins were chock-full of ricotta and surprisingly egg-free! The ricotta lent a great, springy texture.

Mom eats so much fruit back home in BC. I miss having fruit bowls all the time, because it’s pretty unfeasible for a university student to eat say, 1/4 an apple with 1/2 a kiwi, 1/2 a banana, and 1/2 a pear. 😦

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Canada Day happened! No, I didn’t go to see the fireworks… but I stayed at home and listened to got annoyed by them all night. Is that close enough?

Another serving of that amazing pumpkin quinoa casserole, with some brownie! I made a massive pan of spectacular brownies, using pureed prunes (soaked in boiling water). They turned out very rich and decadent… and I have two squares left before I’ve eaten an entire 8×8 pan. By myself.

Oats – I mean quinoa! – in a jar with banana slices.

As you can see, I have a lot of quinoa to use up before I move out in mid-August. This was  another quinoa dish, this time mixed with sautéed mushrooms and yellow squash, mixed with a ricotta-plum tomato sauce, and topped with fontina. It tasted great! On the side, some garlicky green beans sautéed with tons of butter. Butter makes everything better 😉

Another day, I whipped up these glorious pancakes! Two eggs and half a sweet potato were whisked with a bit of flour, some baking powder, vanilla, and cinnamon. They always turn out super tender, and a perfect base for nut butter, yogurt, and granola. This was my favourite breakfast of the week.

Here is that quinoa-ricotta-plum tomato casserole again! I have one serving left, which I’ll be having for dinner tonight. The fontina is my favourite part 🙂

Some other things: I have to sell everything on my desk (actually, everything in my room for that matter). Also, my favourite calculator broke, and it was the saddest moment of my life. Friends and I are loving the summer semester, and we live in the same direction so we often walk home from classes together. Also, FaceTime-ing with Seline! She is the best.

Baked oatmeal (my favourite recipe) was made and enjoyed with blueberries, granola, and coconut chips. Almond butter on top of the baked oats. I have another serving of baked oats that I’ll be savouring tomorrow morning with some peanut butter!

Mom and Dad look so cute.

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Another afternoon, I walked to Sobeys to grocery-shop and saw the nicest sunset over Columbia Lake.

Revisiting old photographs – I took this when I visited the Ripley’s Aquarium last year with my dad. It’s o-fish-ially the best non-food photo I’ve ever taken. <– I’m also good at stealing puns and reusing them multiple times.

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One more thing that I found on the internet and completely agree with:

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Hope you all have a wonderful, wonderful rest of the weekend!

Cozy Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Stew

Absolutely delicious recipe for you guys today!

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This brilliant recipe was created by Angela at Oh She Glows, with some modifications made to suit what I had in the fridge. Doesn’t this look amazing?

It tasted equally yummy.

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Angela served hers with rice, but I loved mine with quinoa, then some brown rice after I ran out of quinoa. I subbed baby spinach for the kale and omitted the turmeric. You guys are going to love this recipe!

Cozy Butternut, Sweet Potato, and Red Lentil Stew

Adopted from Oh She Glows

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

For the stew:

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 2 cups/280 g)
  • 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups (400 g) peeled, seeded, and diced butternut squash
  • 1 large sweet potato (450 g), peeled and diced (2 1/2 cups/340 g)
  • 3 cups (750 mL) low-sodium chicken broth: veggie broth works too
  • 1 (14-ounce/398 mL) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14-ounce/398 mL) can light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Fine sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Baby spinach

Optional accompaniments:

  • Cooked rice
  • Garlic powder and chili powder

Directions:

  1. To a large pot, add the oil, onion, and garlic. Stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until the onion is softened.
  2. Add the squash and sweet potato and stir to combine. Add a pinch of salt and continue sautéing for a few minutes longer.
  3. Add the broth, diced tomatoes (with juices), coconut milk, lentils, tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Stir well to combine.
  4. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, stir again, and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash and potato are fork-tender. Reduce the heat if necessary. Adjust the other seasonings if desired.
  5. Stir in the spinach, and cook for another couple minutes until the greens are wilted.
  6. Scoop some cooked rice onto the bottom of a bowl and then ladle the stew overtop. Garnish with minced cilantro or parsley and a good dusting of garlic and chili powder, if desired.
  7. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, and they freeze beautifully too.

Who says you need grains with stew? This creamy, smoky stew made a lovely accompaniment to avocado toast for a light lunch (which was most certainly followed by a big dessert). 🙂

I can’t think of a better holiday meal to make before we spring into a weekend of festive holiday feasts. Try this!

I hope you enjoy 🙂