October | Sky-High Carrot Cake

Hello! Short post today, because I have a couple emails to write and some schoolwork to catch up on. It is really crazy how quickly my courses are progressing, now that I’m in a number of upper-level kinesiology courses. I’ve learned so much in the three-ish weeks of school that we’ve had so far.

  • AWESOME pic that one of my friends shared on FB. Credit to the artist; unfortunately I couldn’t find his or her name. I like this piece because it shows which animals the poses are named for. I particularly like the peacock and the locust.
  • Bubble tea at CoCo is on sale until the end of November, so I will have to make sure my sister and I get some!
  • Mom made Caprese salad at home in BC, because she bought some new balsamic vinegar. It looks so good! I love that combo of flavours.
  • Campus on a sunny afternoon
  • Images from Nutrition in Disguise, one of the research groups that I’m involved with
  • And more…

Seline and I had a meal at Symposium last Sunday. It was my first time at Symposium Cafe, but I’ve heard too many good things about their cake to miss out. I devoured the whole thick slice of SKY-HIGH CARROT CAKE, and Seline had the triple chocolate cake. After this lovely meal, I went to my friend’s house for a potluck.

Symposium Cafe Mediterranean salad with salmon // sky-high carrot cake

Another day, Sal and I went to Red House. Red House is one of my favourite Waterloo spots. They have phenomenal salads, soups, pastas, and entrees. Their desserts are always seasonal, and really unique. This time, I had the butternut squash and coconut soup, followed by fried polenta cubes with a beet and goat cheese salad. For dessert, Seline and I shared two: apple crisp with sharp cheddar ice cream and a unique white chocolate cheesecake with Oreo crust and stewed strawberries and figs.

Ennio’s noodles with gorgonzola sauce, seasonal vegetables, roasted garlic (unpictured, but quite tasty) // bread pudding with Nutella, vanilla ice cream

Hands-down the BEST bread pudding I have ever eaten in my life.

I had a midterm last week, and a few more coming up. A lot of studying needs to be done!

The Halloween showcase at Brass Butterflies aerial studio is coming up, and I have been procrastinating on practicing. I need to get back into working on improving my endurance.

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A quick video from aerials:

And some pics that Seline helped me take for my Instagram. I made an Instagram for my job, because I’m working as a Waterloo Warriors Recreation Ambassador this term. So if you’re reading this, you can follow me too. 😉 _cindywei

Things that scare me but I’m doing them anyways this term:

  • research
  • starting a club
  • presenting in front of lecture halls of first-year students
  • aerial performance
  • skating competition
  • teaching a yoga class

Random meal from recently:

  1. Seline’s steak with potatoes, sautéed green beans, and onions
  2. Veggie bean chili with cheddar and fig goat cheese
  3. Vegetable cheddar enchiladas with roasted delicata squash
  4. Quiche with sautéed green beans

More randomness:

  1. Saw this stunning image of rice paddies on Twitter (or Reddit?), and it made me think of the time that I took a bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara, riding past miles of rice paddies. Absolutely incredible, and even more so in person.
  2. A bitmoji that Seline made for me. It’s now my Twitter pic. I’m really a loser, as you can see.
  3. Seline and I went to Menchies the other day because we had a 2-for-1 discount coupon from the mail. My Menchies bowl included chocolate brownie, cheesecake pieces, peanut butter crisp, a malted chocolate ball, cereal, and more. I’m all about the toppings ^_^
  4. Sometimes, between classes, I find Seline and we spend a few hours relaxing, “studying”, and chatting at an on-campus cafe. The other day, I was SO. TIRED. that I slept with my head right on the table.

We made quite a special meal the other day!

Thai green curry with broccoli, onions, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, yellow bell pepper // rotisserie chicken breast // rice cooked with butter, chicken broth, truffle salt // garlic sautéed green beans

Now, I just have a bunch of recipes for things I baked recently:

Chai-spiced Applesauce Prune Baked Oats

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups quick oats
  • drizzle honey
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 heaping tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 3 chai tea bags
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 15 prunes, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Grease pan – 8 x 10 up to 10 x 10 are perfect sizes.
  3. Bring milk to a simmer. Cut open tea bags, and allow tea to simmer in the milk for 5 minutes. Strain out the tea leaves.
  4. Mix all ingredients and pour into pan.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes.

Chocolate Oat Bars

  • tasted good, but need to add more condensed milk and a splash of oil to the chocolate filling
  • more butter in the crumble
  • double the crumble next time!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (will increase to 2 cups next time)
  • 1/2 cup quick oats (will increase to 1 cup next time)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder (will increase to 1 tsp next time)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (will increase to 1 tsp next time)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (will increase to 1/2 tsp next time)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (will increase to 1.5 cups next time)
  • 1/4 cup oil (will increase to 1/2 cup next time)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (will increase to 2 tsp next time)
  • 1 egg (will increase to 2 eggs next time)
  • 2 tbsp quick oats (will increase to 1/4 cup next time)
  • 2 tbsp softened butter (will increase to 1/4 cup next time)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat chocolate chips and milk in 1-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth; set aside. Heat oven to 350°. Line a square pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix flour, oats, the baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl; set aside. Stir brown sugar, oil, vanilla and egg in medium bowl with fork until smooth; stir into flour mixture until blended. Reserve 1/2 cup dough in small bowl for topping.
  3. Pat remaining dough in pan (lightly flour fingers if dough is sticky). Spread chocolate mixture over dough. Add 2 tablespoons oats and the butter to reserved dough; mix with pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Drop small spoonfuls of oat mixture evenly over chocolate mixture.
  4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until top is golden and firm. Cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours. For bars, cut into 4 rows by 4 rows.

Brownies, inspired by Allrecipes

Makes 36 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 cups butter
  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • sprinkle cinnamon
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 heaping tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour large square pans.
  3. Melt butter in a large saucepan.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla.
  5. Whisk in cocoa, cinnamon, flour, salt, and baking powder.
  6. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 mins. Do not overcook. Cut.

Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Snack Bread

Serves 12 squares

Blender Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 3 medium bananas, ripe
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 tbsp PB2
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • large sprinkle of sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a 8×8 square pan with parchment paper.
  2. Blend all ingredients from the “Blender Ingredients” section.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl until well combined.
  4. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.
  5. Let cool overnight before cutting, or it will be too tender to hold form. Store cooled leftovers in a covered container for up to several days, though best when fresh. Slice and freeze for longer term storage.

The Biggest Buffet(s). Ever.

Breakfast at Xin, a buffet on the first floor of our hotel:

  • almond croissant, bolo bao (Hong Kong style pineapple bun), coconut cocktail bun
  • you tiao (oil crullers) with shrimp and scallion rice rolls and sesame sauce
  • sago custard dumpling, vegetables, fried turnip cakes, baked beans, pumpkin glutinous rice ball with lotus cream filling, char siu bao (barbecue pork bun)
  • vegetable and cheese omelet
  • random ticket (3-day pass) from our time in Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap,

I ate all of it and it was awesome in a now-I-can’t-walk and that-was-so-worth-it way.

Macau is lovely because there is always a lot to see (shows and performances!) and do. We love wandering around the hotels, all of which have a unique theme. The Parisian and the Venetian are both beautifully adorned with European-inspired decor.

Another day, we had dinner at Yum Cha, a dim sum restaurant. We ordered some delicious food – I wasn’t expecting it to be so tasty. Along with a mug of sweet Hong Kong style milk tea, I ate:

  • shrimp siu mai
  • wok-fried beef slices with wide noodles (one of my favourite HK foods)
  • tofu rolls with mushrooms and broth
  • prawn dumplings
  • oil crullers wrapped in rice sheets, soy sauce and sesame dip
  • steamed charcoal buns filled with salted egg yolk and cheese (super unique, and loved the sweet and salty nature of the filling)

This was the centrepiece at Studio City, another nearby hotel.

These are some of my favourite photos of Grandpa. ❤

(All taken after I rode a 4D Batman Flight ride… twice. Truly felt like I developed vertigo after that experience!)

The same day, Dad and I had lunch at BRASSERIE, a lovely French restaurant. Dad had the set menu, which included a raclette cheese appetizer, a chicken Cordon Bleu with Comte cheese and French ham, and creme brûlée. My orders were à la carte – a French onion soup, Croque Madame, and creamy chocolate fondant with white cheese sorbet and vanilla cream, with fresh berries.

I love how it’s easy to go from one hotel to another, without having to walk too much outside.

One night, the three of us watched a show called the House of Dancing Water. It was a stunning show with powerful music, an easy-to-follow storyline, and spectacular special effects and stage changes. The athleticism, while not on the level of Cirque du Soleil, were very diverse and featured divers, contortionists, gymnasts, and ballerinas. The stage was incredible, as it morphed from a pool deep enough for 24-metre dives into flat land for floor acrobatics.

Another evening, dinner at Bene. I loved my creamy conglichie pasta in ricotta cheese, with cured pork loin and plenty of black truffle. I topped my plate with so much parmesan cheese after this photo. 🙂

Tiramisu for dessert. Dad and I shared one, and I asked the waiter to serve it on two plates. Dad was kind enough to give me the larger slice of tiramisu and some of his hazelnut gelato.

The following day, we had the biggest buffet breakfast. Ever. It was quite a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as we dined in Cafe 360, a rotating restaurant on the 60th floor of the Macau Tower.

Here we go! Along with a large glass of sweetened milk tea (very tasty)…

Plate 1:

  • Portuguese spinach soup
  • cheese and saffron bun

I liked tearing off chunks of the flavourful, cheesy bread and dunking it into the brothy vegetable soup.

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Plate 2:

  • naan bread, basmati rice, mango chicken vindaloo, homemade pickled lemon, spicy mint sauce
  • cheesy mushroom bread pudding
  • 2 char siu (barbecued pork) pastries
  • salmon fried rice with eel sauce
  • sago sweet dumpling with custard
  • glutinous rice in lotus leaf with chicken
  • Japanese style sautéed vegetables (cabbage, peppers, carrot, black sesame)
  • lentil dahl in small bowl on the side

Plate 3 (revisiting all of my favourites from Plate 2):

  • 2 sago sweet dumplings with custard
  • 2 char siu (barbecued pork) pastries
  • cheesy mushroom bread pudding

IMG_5028

Plate 4 (dessert):

  • serradura/sawdust pudding/Macau pudding (condensed milk pudding with whipped cream and crumbled Marie cookie), topped with coffee biscotti – this was my favourite part, and I’ve never had serradura before. It’s a Portuguese/HK dessert, and I loved the flavour/texture which reminded me a bit of a nutty, less-sweet, pudding-like caramel mousse.
  • Portuguese almond cake
  • hazelnut torte with raspberry jam
  • praline creme brûlée with fresh berries
  • slivered almond, cinnamon bread pudding with vanilla sauce
  • creamy apricot jam with crushed spice cookies
  • pecan pie with walnuts and whipped cream

At the end, I was so full that I could hardly walk. You know when you realize, upon standing up, that you have serious regrets about eating so much? That was me – because I wanted to do the bungee jump!

Okay, maybe I was a little really freaked out by the bungee jump. So I ended up doing the SkyWalk, in which I walked around the outside of the tower with a harness and an instructor who helped take pictures.

It was certainly not as exciting as the bungee jump, but I didn’t throw up all four plates of buffet food, like I would’ve if I did the bungee jump. So, I’d call this a success!

The view, while not comparable to the stunning beaches of Cambodia or rice fields of Nepal, was pretty cool. Everything seemed so still from up high, and the lake practically unmoving. The cars, people, and buildings were minuscule, and it almost looked like one of those decorative model cities.

What a spectacular couple of days. What’s next? Tomorrow, we will be leaving Macau to go back to Taipei, which is a one-hour flight. After a day and a half in Taiwan, we will finally be flying back to Vancouver.

Our trip has been exciting and invigorating, and full of new and unique experiences, but at the same time, I am 99% ready to go home and get back into my regular routine which includes banana oatmeal, walks with my doggie, and hanging out with my sister.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Night Market + Meals in Macau

Dad and I went to the Raohe Night Market on one of our last days in Taiwan. I tried some of his sugarcane juice (not my favourite – have any of you tried this?!), one incredible deep-fried taro balls filled with roasted shredded dried pork and egg yolk, and one deep-fried taro ball filled with salted egg yolk and red bean (my favourite), and a grilled corn on the cob.

 

I also had some bubble waffles! Dad and I bought one peanut bubble waffle and one cheese bubble waffle. I really liked both, since they were so hot, crispy and chewy, and fresh off the waffle iron. Then, I ate a tasty cheese wheel cake and two steamed rice balls (one sesame, one peanut). I love night markets, and next time I want to try the cheesy potatoes and pineapple buns.

 

The next day, we headed to the airport in the early morning for our flight to Macau. I had some Godiva hot chocolate and pork steamed soup dumplings, which came with shiitake mushroom and chicken soup.

 

It was one of the shortest flights I’ve ever been on – less than two hours.

 

We had the opportunity to wander around Sheraton, our hotel, for a little while. I love how Macau, from what I’ve seen in half a day, is a fusion of China with Portugal. This was surprising to me, but nice to see those great flaky Portuguese custard tarts amidst all the Chinese desserts.

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For dinner today, I was really hungry and got a stomachache after eating so much. First, I had some unpictured bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Our entrees came shortly:

 

  • Dad ate the carbonara, which was placed into a cheese wheel and tasted incredible (I ate a lot)
  • Dad and Grandpa both had the tomato seafood chowder with garlic bread
  • I loved my braised pork and beef ravioli with porcini mushroom sauce and black truffle topping
  • Grandpa enjoyed the seafood spaghetti, and I ate lots of his scallops, salmon, and shrimp
  • For dessert, I ordered two because I still wanted to eat. I had:
    • Hazelnut delight with whipped cream, hazelnut cream, hazelnut gelato, and hazelnut cookies in a parfait (this was so much larger than expected, and I inhaled the entire thing)
    • Apple crumble with almond polenta crispy pieces with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon on top (the cinnamon truly did it for me – I adored this dish and easily ate all of it)

It’s such a shame Dad and Grandpa don’t like sweets – it’s 100% my fault, for having such a sweet tooth, but I always end up with a major stomachache from eating too much!

 

In the morning (Thursday), I woke up at around 7:00, but lounged around in my bed for some time. Afterwards, Dad, Grandpa, and I watched The Amazing Race and American Ninja Warrior on TV for a little while. The athletes in American Ninja Warrior blow me away every time. They make it look so easy!

We had breakfast at Palms, the café/bar downstairs. Grandpa liked his combination congee breakfast, which came with Chinese donuts (crullers) and an Italian sausage sandwich.

I ate a parmesan, thyme, and chili quiche, and Dad had a chocolate donut. I also drank some lovely TWG black tea with milk and sugar, and a mango, milk chocolate, and hazelnut cake. Is there anything better than chocolate cake for breakfast? After an amazing quiche?

In the afternoon, I had a spa treatment. I was very lucky because we had some hotel credit that I got to use up, and I loved the milk bath, massage, hot towel, and body scrub that were included in my treatment. The Shine Spa at the Sheraton Hotel is beautifully-decorated and so ornate.

Afterwards, we went to Din Tai Feng, a restaurant famous for their soup dumplings!

They were all really, really tasty. I had a Hong Kong style milk tea, along with:

  • black truffle and pork soup dumplings
  • plain pork soup dumplings
  • a vegetable and mushroom steamed bun
  • black cloud fungus salad with sweet vinegar

Next up: sweet treats!

  • black sesame steamed bun
  • taro steamed bun
  • red bean paste dumpling with chestnut
  • cold taro sago

That’s it for today. Have a beautiful rest of the week ❤

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! 🙂

December Things | Coupons, Lobster, Turkey Marinade

Happy holidays, friends! ❄️

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

Mom and I did some baking shortly after:

Chocolate Cheesecake

Serves one 9” pan (16 servings)

INGREDIENTS

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

INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

Operation Coupon

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

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

Mom’s Special Turkey Seasonings

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

Lately ✿

The last smidge of summer was filled with bittersweet (mostly sweet – literally) moments.

Exhibit A: this dessert plate that featured chocolate banana “ice cream” à la Tom Daley, peanut butter tofu pie, and chocolate almond banana bread (on my Recipe page) with coconut yogurt and nut butter. Mmmmm.

Tofu haters – I promise you won’t taste the tofu. This is a super satisfying dessert that’ll be sure to cure any sweet-salty cravings. One of my all-time favourite recipes, and it’s a hit with guests, too!

Vegan Peanut Butter Cup Pie

Makes 8 slices

NOTE: requires chilling coconut milk overnight, requires 30 minutes out of freezer before serving

INGREDIENTS

Crust

  • 1.5 to 1.75 cups of crushed graham crackers (about 10-12 crackers)
  • 4.5 tbsp melted coconut oil, or more if needed

Pie

  • 12 oz silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter (125 g)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1 14 oz can of full-fat coconut milk, chilled overnight so the liquid and cream separate (do not shake)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • salt, if needed

Topping

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (175 g)
  • 1/3 cup milk (almond, dairy, or coconut are fine)
  • roasted salted peanuts, chopped, if desired for decoration

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Lightly oil glass pie pan.
  3. Process graham crackers until you achieve a fine meal. A little texture is okay. Add melted coconut oil and pulse to combine.
  4. Press the crust into the pan and push down to flatten.
  5. Bake 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside.
  6. Add tofu, peanut butter, maple/honey to a blender. Blend until smooth. Scrape down sides as needed. Add more maple/honey for added sweetness, or more salt if the peanut butter is not salted enough.
  7. Scoop out the cream from the coconut milk can. Whip into whipped cream in a large, chilled mixing bowl. Add vanilla.
  8. Fold peanut butter-tofu mixture into whipped coconut cream.
  9. Pour filling over cooled crust. Freeze to chill. After one hour, prepare ganache.
  10. Add chocolate chips to a bowl. Heat milk to a simmer. Pour over chocolate chips. Do not touch for 5 minutes, to allow it to melt.
  11. Stir gently with spoon until a smooth ganache forms. If it doesn’t melt, heat it in microwave for 10 seconds until smooth.
  12. Spoon over top of pie. Spread evenly with knife. Work quickly. I drizzled mine on, then swirled with a knife.
  13. Top with peanuts, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap. Freeze to set.
  14. 20-30 minutes before serving, remove from freezer and serve.

The last bit of summer was filled with Mom’s incredible cooking. This is my favourite type of fried rice, which is made with dried and rehydrated scallops, green onions, egg white, and more. Shiitake mushroom chicken broth, too. Isn’t that a colourful salad on the side?

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This was my last meal in Coquitlam, BC, so Mom made all my favourites! Tomato scrambled eggs with shrimp, red bean pancakes with sesame seeds, broccoli-carrot stir-fry with mushrooms and cloud ears, and leftover scallop fried rice.

Something similar, but this was on a totally different day: peri peri chicken, the same tomato scrambled eggs, stir-fried veggies (this time with chestnut) and plain rice.

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I love Mom’s cooking so much. More of those red bean sesame pancakes, along with cauliflower and not-too-spicy mapo tofu for my pathetic spice-wimp taste buds.

This meal, actually, was followed by an MRI to screen my pituitary gland. Lying completely motionless inside the little pod (for ~50 minutes) was eerie and unsettling, yet strangely meditative. Except for the needle, it was a neat experience.

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Another day, Mom and I made spaghetti bolognese with fresh ground beef, mixed it with al dente shells, and layered/topped it with an entire log of mozzarella cheese.

Served with garlicky green beans, this dish was a massive hit in the Wei home! I credit that incredible fresh mozzarella.

This summer, I challenged myself to bake a whole bunch of things. Most of the “whole bunch of things” never got baked because of busyness laziness, but these flaky feta-chive scones did! I think you’ll like them as much as my family did.

Flaky, Buttery Feta Chive Biscuits

Makes approx. 12 small scones

Recipe inspired by Joy the Baker

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (360 g)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes (170 g)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp very cold water
  • 3/4 cup cold sour cream, or cold plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup chopped chives
  • 3/4 cup large crumbles of feta cheese
  • 1 beaten egg for egg wash, with a splash of milk if needed
  • coarse sea salt, cracked black pepper, and paprika for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place rack in centre/upper third of oven.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  4. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and black pepper. Use two knives/forks, or a pastry cutter to cut in the cold butter, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Dough should have buttery pea-sized chunks throughout.
  5. In another bowl, lightly beat egg, sour cream, and water, with a fork.
  6. Add wet mixture into flour mixture all at once. Stir enough to make soft, shaggy dough. Use fork to scrape from bottom to top of dough.
  7. Add chives and feta.
  8. Dump mixture on a clean counter to knead dough together. Mixture should come together in 10-15 kneads.
  9. Roll or pat out into a 1-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds, using biscuit cutter. You can also roll the dough into a rectangular shape, and cut the biscuits into triangular shapes. Reshape and roll dough to create more biscuits with excess scraps. Place on prepared baking sheet. Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, black pepper, and smoky paprika.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm. Biscuits are best eaten on the day they are made, but will last up to two days.

We froze some of them!

These prune blondies were also whipped up. My mom enjoyed them, and I really liked the chewy texture that reminded me of glutinous rice.

Prune Blondies

Makes 12 blondies

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes, softened in 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar (150 g)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp mixed nuts, toasted/chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 8×8 pan with parchment paper.
  2. In blender, combine prunes and water. Process until smooth. Add brown sugar, oil, egg, honey, and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry. Fold with a spatula until just combined, then pour batter into prepared pan. Top with nuts.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, then cool in the pan on a wire rack before cutting/serving.

I also made a large list of books that I can’t wait to get my hands on (some of them, for the second time). Have you read any of them?

Books to Read

  • Boo
  • The Female of the Species
  • Unnatural Deeds
  • With Malice
  • And the Trees Crept In
  • A Mother’s Reckoning
  • What Happened to Ivy
  • Red Rain
  • Burning
  • The Cellar
  • Confessions About Colton
  • Run
  • The Letter
  • Her Fearful Symmetry
  • The Hour I First Believed
  • The Little Friend
  • My Name is Memory
  • Mystic River
  • She’s Come Undone *
  • We Were the Mulvaneys
  • White Oleander *
  • The Shipping News
  • Change of Heart
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
  • The Book of Ruth
  • Mystic River
  • Black and Blue
  • Everything I Never Told You
  • Visitation Street
  • The Vanishing Season
  • Elsewhere
  • The Afterlife (cool)
  • Shine
  • Before I Die
  • Where I Want to Be (cool)
  • Falling Into Place (cool)
  • The Age of Miracles
  • The Virgin Suicides
  • The Giver
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • Eat When You Feel Sad
  • To the Lighthouse
  • 300 Million
  • 1 Dead in Attic
  • An Invisible Sign of my Own

Seline, my sister, also wrote a special poem inspired by the stunning rocky hills on Salt Spring Island. She actually has her own poetry blog, which, by the way, looks a lot prettier than my unplanned collages of unfiltered (i.e. ugly) iPhone photos.

Rocks

The rocky path

Illuminated by a simple

Ray of sun

No one beside

In front

or

Behind

As I glide down the hill,

wood chips sticking in my shoes.

I trot

down

the trail.

I jump

Left

to

Right,

Hopping from one rock,

to another.

Finally reaching my destination

on top of

the rock

for all to see.

And that’s it, everyone! Have a glorious rest of the week.