Winter Break in Pictures

It’s almost the new year! Which means it’s time to clean out all my old photos. And what better way to do so than to upload them all here?

Lunch at Boston Pizza with the family. Featuring cheesy garlic bread over seven-cheese ravioli, shrimp tacos and fries, and sun-dried tomato and chicken quesadillas with sweet potato fries.

The cheesiest pasta, made at home with jarred marinara, topped with fresh mozzarella cheese and served with buttery parmesan naan bread and spicy sautéed broccoli.

Roasted potatoes and broccoli with baked maple-soy salmon over rice, and some time at a local coffee shop (Coffee and Vanilla) with high school friend Joanne.

I’m kind of in love with Costco’s stuffed peppers. These were served with plenty of Parmesan cheese (more added after, of course), sautéed carrots and asparagus, and fresh corn on the cob stir-fried with green onions.

More time at a coffee shop, this time with high school friend Medha at Juillet Café.

Another day, I enjoyed leftover roasted broccoli, chopped up into an egg scramble with freshly-grated Gouda. The toast was extra special, being Mom’s favourite brioche bread with butter.

One more coffee shop: yesterday, I spent time with the lovely Rachel at The Birds and The Beets, where we chatted over some great dishes. I loved the cheddar-filled egg scramble with spicy mayo and greens in my breakfast sandwich, and Rachel had homemade yogurt with granola and jam.

Guys. I read a new, obsession-worthy book! Initially, I forced my sister to buy and read Scythe by Neal Shusterman over the summer, and she obliged reluctantly. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a big fan. I finally read it myself this winter and fell in love with the beautiful, futuristic world and captivating concept. If Neal Shusterman and Suzanne Collins (author of the Hunger Games trilogy) were given the same prompts – futuristic North America, teenage boy and girl in a deadly competition, justification for murder, modernized Roman weapons, archaic Greek and Roman names, malicious and all-seeing government à la Big Brother of 1984 – you’d end up with two incredibly different, yet similar, tales: Scythe by Shusterman and The Hunger Games by Collins.

Here’s the synopsis on the inside cover of Scythe:

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

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Onto an entirely different thing: party food! Mom and I made Christmas Eve dinner for friends and family, including a special chocolate cheesecake, crackers with Laughing Cow cheese, hummus, and maple smoked salmon nuggets, stir-fried veggies, a seasoned turkey with gravy, baked potatoes, and almond banana muffins.

Finally, Mom made these pearl meatballs, a Chinese dish that involves ground pork, ginger, green onions, and spices, with glutinous rice rolled overtop before steaming. These are one of my favourite Chinese meat dishes, particularly with purple yam underneath while steaming.

There was a bit of experimentation in the kitchen, where Seline and I tried to make Ricardo’s checkerboard cake. It was fun to make (and an absolutely painstaking process), but didn’t turn out as expected – hence the lack of photos of the finished product. It tasted good though, but how could it not, with homemade buttercream frosting, homemade pound cake, and homemade caramel?

Checkerboard Cake

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

Caramel

  • 3/4 cup sugar (150 g)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup 35% cream/heavy cream

Frosting

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (170 g)
  • 2 cups icing sugar (250 g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Cake

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (226 g)
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar (250 g)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour (256 g)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp more milk
  • cocoa for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Caramel: Cook sugar and half the water until mixture is golden brown. Add remaining water and cream. Simmer 2 minutes. Cool completely and set aside.
  2. Frosting: Beat all frosting ingredients together until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Butter two 9×5 inch loaf pans.
  5. Cream butter and sugar.
  6. Add eggs, vanilla, and beat until smooth.
  7. Combine flour and baking powder.
  8. Stir dry ingredients into previous mixture, alternating with milk.
  9. Divide batter in half.
  10. Add cocoa powder and extra milk into one portion of the batter. Mix gently.
  11. Spread chocolate batter into one loaf pan.
  12. Spread vanilla batter into the other loaf pan.
  13. Bake in the middle of the oven for approx. 40 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. Cool.
  14. Remove from pans. Slice off the rounded top of the cake.
  15. Slice cake in half horizontally.
  16. Layer slices alternately of chocolate and vanilla.
  17. Spread caramel between each layer, so they stick together. Level the sides of the cake.
  18. Slice the cake vertically into three long pieces.
  19. Lay a slice of the cake flat, and cover with caramel. Layer with remaining slices, alternating the colours to form a checkerboard with caramel between each layer.
  20. Frost the cake with a very thin layer with a spatula. Chill for 20 minutes in the fridge. This is a crumb coat which will prevent chocolate crumbs from appearing on the frosting.
  21. Spread the remaining frosting.

That’s it, guys – happy rest of 2017! 🙂

Life of Pumpkin Pie

This is going to be a pretty lame post. It’s 8:15 AM and I have class soon! Speaking of classes, I can’t believe that the semester is nearly over. Just another four days to get through before classes are all done… wha?!

Anyways, Volunteering Solutions shared my Nepal paragliding photo as an ad! I thought that was pretty cool.

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And last night, I received my aerial silks photographs that were taken by Alexa Baker at Brass Butterflies. She took some great shots and you can see more on my aerial silks page. Normally the lighting in the studio is pretty horrendous, but Alexa had some cool lights that made the photos look shadowy and professional. 🙂

This is my tentative schedule for January – April, once I move to Toronto for my first co-op. I will be working at the Toronto Health Centre!

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Finals will be over in 18 days. The countdown begins!

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So many ideas for my first work term!

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I’ve still been keeping track of my finances. Last weekend, when I was in Toronto for the case competition, I definitely spent more than I should have. I will need to start saving this month.

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I’ve also been recording everything I’ve been eating. This was for the entire month of November. I did this to get an idea of how many fruits and veggies I eat every day. I knew I wasn’t eating as much veggies as I should, and this definitely helped to confirm. Any ideas on how to incorporate veggies into lunch?

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Here are some great pumpkin (maybe fall would be a better word) recipes that were a HIT to me recently!


The Best Vegan Pumpkin Pie Hot Chocolate

Serves 1

You’ll need…
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1.5 tbsp vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 sprinkle cinnamon
  • 1 sprinkle pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tiny sprinkle salt
Cook all ingredients over medium heat on the stovetop, or in the microwave, until the chocolate chips have melted. Serve hot!

Vegan, Gluten-Free Creamy Pumpkin Pie Bars
Serves: 9
Ingredients
CRUST
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (168 g) almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp (24 g) coconut sugar
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) maple syrup
  • 4-5 Tbsp (60-75 ml) melted coconut oil
FILLING
  • 2 3/4 cups (475 g) pumpkin purée
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup (48 g) coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp (18 g) coconut flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • sprinkle cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and line an 8×8-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. Mix all crust ingredients together.
  3. Add crust to the parchment-lined baking dish and shake to evenly disperse, then lay down parchment paper on top and use a flat-bottomed object (such as a liquid measuring cup or drinking glass) and pressing down to pack the crust into place, making an even, firmly packed layer.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Whisk all filling ingredients together.
  6. Once the crust is baked, pour the filling into the crust and tap on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake for 50 minutes – 1 hour. The filling will still be just a bit jiggly, dark orange in color, and have some cracks on the top – this is normal.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool completely before loosely covering with plastic wrap or foil and transferring to the refrigerator to fully set for 4-6 hours, preferably overnight.
  8. Once cooled, gently lift bars out of dish and slice into 9 bars. I also sliced the edges off mine for appearance, but this is optional.
  9. Serve with an additional sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or pumpkin pie spice (optional). Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to 3 days, though best when fresh.

One-Bowl Healthy Carrot Muffins

Serves 12
INGREDIENTS
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • ground ginger or grated ginger (about 1/4 tsp, to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup brown sugar
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Whisk all ingredients except flour.
  3. Carefully add flour, and mix just to combine.
  4. Divide into 12 muffin tins, lined or greased with coconut oil. Bake for 18 minutes.
  5. Let cool for 5 minutes, then enjoy warm or let cool for another couple of hours. Enjoy!

Before I sign out for today, remember my good blogger friend Rachel?

Today is the very last day for her campaign to raise money for children in Sudan. She is such a generous person, a great photographer, and a thoughtful friend. She is doing this instead of asking for birthday gifts 🙂

Check out her post here and definitely consider donating SOON! https://secure.hope-international.com/registrant/donate.aspx?eventid=209391&langpref=en-CA&Referrer=https%3A%2F%2Foutlook.live.com%2F

And that’s it! Happy December!

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!

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!