12/26/2012

Catch-up from Christmas 2012

I honestly never know what to get for my parents for Christmas anymore, so I tend to do more makeshift things for them. This Christmas, I got up to make breakfast for them. The menu was breakfast scones, crepes, and tea lattes. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the scones, the other crepes I made, and the lattes on Christmas Day. Scones are really easy to make, but I will still stick to eating them with butter and/or jam and tea. :) For the crepes, I made one specially for each person, and left the rest as a kind of "serve yourself" sort of thing on the table. We had blueberry jam, maple syrup, icing sugar, margarine, honey, peanut butter, chocolate chips, and bananas.

We had some leftover batter from that day, so I made cinnamon apple crepes for my brother and I this morning. (If I remember, I'll do another post some time in the future about the latte. We don't own a french press or anything, and it's a really easy thing to put together!) But, back to crepes...

Things I have learned over the past few days about crepes:
- Letting the batter rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours is key, but it is actually better when you leave it in the fridge overnight.
- They get much easier to make once you get the hang of it.
- Don't be tempted to flip the crepe early. It might look like the middle part is getting quite cooked, but leave it be. Wait until it lifts up a bit on the edges, and you can move it around in the pan by just swivelling it.
- Crepes are amazing because they make such a simple base. You can make them sweet or savoury, and fill them with whatever is you fancy. Personally, I am going to stick to sweet ones for now because I have a little more experience with desserts.

There is actually a nice French restaurant in downtown Edmonton called "The Creperie". In Edmonton, I've only been there for crepes, and they are consistently delicious. I will have to blog about it some time when I get the chance to go there again!
I wish I took a picture of the one I made for my brother instead...it was more representative of the rest. This one was for myself, and I got distracted while assembling his, so it got a bit burnt around the edges :(
Basic Crepes (adapted from Martha Stewart)
*Makes 10-12 crepes*
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp white granulated sugar
1/4 tsp table salt
1 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk
4 eggs
3 Tbsp olive oil + extra for greasing the pan between creeps

1. Beat eggs into a bowl with oil.
2. Slowly add the milk into the mixture.
3. Sift the flour, sugar, and salt into the wet ingredients, and fold carefully until smooth.
4. Cover batter with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Overnight is so much better.
5. When ready to cook, fasten a folded paper towel to the end of a pair of chopsticks, and put a few drops of oil on the paper towel. Grease a medium-sized frying pan, and set heat on medium-low.
6. Add 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan, and work quickly to swirl the batter evenly across the whole hot surface of the pan.
7. Do not lift or flip the crepe until it begins to peel away from the edges by itself. Another way to check is to lightly shake the pan. If the crepe doesn't budge, don't flip it yet. When you can move it without having to use a spatula, flip it over. I use my fingers, but be careful not to burn yourself. Each side should only be lightly browned. When cooking the crepes, be patient and keep an eye on it.
8. Remove the crepe and place it on a paper towel on top of a large plate. Grease the pan again and repeat steps 6-8 until the batter is done.
9. Serve with whatever toppings you like and enjoy.

For Cinnamon Apple Crepe (adapted from GoodVeg on Squidoo)
1 apple (I used Gala)
Unprocessed Honey
Water
Ground Cinnamon
Walnuts

1. Peel and core the apple. Slice it into thin wedges.
2. Place the apple wedges into a pot, and add enough water to cover the top of the slices. Cook on medium heat for about 3 minutes or until tender.
3. Remove the wedges with a slotted spoon and place on a small plate. Try not to have excess water.
4. Arrange apple wedges across the centre of a crepe. Drizzle about a half teaspoon of honey over the apples, and shake a bit of ground cinnamon on top. Fold up the crepe, place a few more apple wedges, drizzle another half teaspoon of honey over the top, shake a bit of ground cinnamon, and sprinkle some chopped walnuts over top. Even add some icing sugar if you'd like.
5. Serve warm.

The best thing to do is to set the table with a plate of empty crepes, a bunch of jams and syrups and sauces, different kinds of chopped fruit, peanut butter/Nutella, and the sort, so that people can put whatever they want on a their crepes. One of my favourites is just some maple syrup lightly drizzled on the inside. Simple ones with maple syrup remind me of when I was in Montreal. On the only trip that my family took to Montreal, I came down with a terrible bug, and couldn't eat anything too rich (which was very very sad). When we went to a restaurant, my mom explained the predicament to the waiter, and he came back with a simple crepe with just maple syrup, and it was delicious. I would love to go back there some day...

-M

12/19/2012

B-b-b-baking: Cinnamon Rolls (The real kind this time.)

So, I gave the cinnamon rolls a shot today. They look like real cinnamon buns...I'm not sure if they taste like real cinnamon buns yet because I just finished baking them, it's midnight, and I'm going to bed after this post. I hope they are good, because good mornings lead to good days :)

Things I have learned today about cinnamon rolls:
*The following 3 random facts are brought to you by Wikipedia*
- Cinnamon rolls were invented to incorporate cinnamon into a bread without having the cinnamon and yeast come into contact, because it would kill the yeast.
- Sweden actually has a day called "cinnamon roll day".
- Cinnzeo didn't make it into the "See also" section of Wikipedia's article on cinnamon rolls. What a shame :(
- Soy milk works just fine in place of milk. I'm guessing almond milk and coconut milk should work as well.
- Cinnamon rolls make the house smell really nice and warm.
- Real cinnamon rolls require at least 2 and a half hours to make and bake. Actually, don't make anything with yeast unless you know you can afford the time. If you do have time, it's so worth the wait :)

I took some pictures of the process...this was my first time making cinnamon rolls at home (the right way). The last time I made real cinnamon rolls was in junior high foods class.
Before baking, after the second rising. I was impressed with how evenly I was able to slice the rolls. :D

In the oven...I liked watching the rolls expand, and the tops get rounded out and cuter. Smelled awesome.

The finished product! Complete with random icing job.

Close-up of the finished product from an angle. According to Imgur, this is how arts students take photos, so there.
Real Cinnamon Rolls (adapted from White on Rice Couple)
*Makes 12 decent-sized rolls*

Dough
1 cup soy milk
1 packet Fleischmann's instant yeast
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp table salt
1/2 cup corn oil
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + extra for rolling and handling (I had to reduce the flour quite a bit because it's drier in Alberta.)
2 tbsp corn oil
1 cup hot water

Filling
1/2 cup corn oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Icing
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tsp soy milk

1. Put milk in a mug and pop in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Just enough to heat the center without making all the milk hot.
2. Give the milk a stir and add into a bowl along with sugar, salt, and instant yeast.
3. Add oil and stir.
4. Add flour and mix until combined. With a floured hand, knead about 6 times until the dough forms together.
5. Add 1 tbsp oil into a large bowl and spread around the inside of the bowl. Put your dough in the centre of the bowl, and coat the top with the remaining tbsp of oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 1 hour.
*When it's winter, and the air is too cold in the kitchen, put your yeast-infested dough covered with a damp cloth in the microwave. Don't turn on the microwave, but fill a cup with hot water, and close it, to let the dough rise. If your dough is firm or temperatures are cold, or both, this is a useful tip so that you don't have to wait 300 bizillion hours for rising time.
6. While the dough is rising, grease a 9x11 (or so, because mine was larger) pan. Also, make your cinnamon sugar mixture by combining the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and mixing until evenly distributed.
7. Once the dough has risen, flour the back of a baking sheet, and roll the dough out so that it's about the same length and width.
8. Spread the filling oil evenly across the surface of the dough.
9. Use a tablespoon to help you sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly on the surface of the dough. Make sure you sprinkle some to the edges as well.
10. With floured hands, carefully roll the dough into a  relatively tight, lengthwise log.
11. Cut into 12 even rolls, and place each roll face up in the pan, with a bit of space between them.
12. Cover the pan with your damp towel again and let rise for 30 min.
13. Bake at 350F for 15-20 min.
14. While baking, add milk to the confectioner's sugar, 1 tsp at a time, and stir until you get a frosting consistency.
15. After the rolls are finished baking, remove from oven and ice/frost as you wish.
16. Enjoy right away, or leave to cool before storing.

I hope they taste good, because I think they look far more decent compared to my rip-off versions.

Good night...

-M

12/16/2012

Budget-Friendly Bites: On Campus, Episode 2

Breakfast, as you know is the most important meal of the day.
 
This may be a bit late, but for all you students imploding and exploding your brains repeatedly to no end, L'Express in SUB (i.e. the student's union building) has a deal for you. For the exam season of 2012, you can get a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon/sausage, and hashbrowns, all for only $2!
L'Express in SUB. Between Java Jive and Taco Time. I had to run away after, because the people who saw me took the picture looked at me funny...
The Student's Union has an environmentally-friendly initiative called the "Reuse-a-Dish" program, so if you grab a reusable plate conveniently provided near the pizza slices in L'Express, you get a $0.15 to $0.25 discount. This applies to any hot food item you purchase from there. There are other places in SUB that support this program too. :)

As well, they are also selling Monster energy drinks at 2 for $4.

However, I want to make it clear that I do not endorse energy drinks. They do bad things to your dreams. E was an unfortunate victim of the enticing sale and the dream-eating, mind-numbing effects of energy drinks. A couple nights ago, we were watching "The Butterfly Effect" (to entertain the fact that I was reviewing for a Psychology exam) during a study break, which prrrobably didn't help.

On another note, I generally find things at L'Express to be rather expensive, but for a quick lunch, their soups are pretty decent. I'd suggest getting a "large" soup ($3.50) which is quite a bit bigger than the "small" ($3), but it's more worth it, I think. All soups come with a couple packages of "Premium Plus" saltine crackers, and the soup goes pretty nicely with a slice of garlic toast which they price at $0.50 apiece. I personally like their chowders and creamy soups, but there was one soup with butternut squash they once had that was quite good. You can check their weekly menu on the Student's Union website. 
This was some sort of chowder with potato and leek. It was really good though... And in case you were wondering, that is the floor of the Butterdome. I was watching people play badminton, because I didn't have my laptop so I couldn't watch stuff on YouTube. But actually, E was playing badminton, so it was okay, I suppose.
This one was the cream of mushroom soup. They give you so many mushrooms! It also has celery. I got the garlic toast too. it's a pretty decent sized piece of toast. And yes, I went to watch badminton again.
Mmmkay...so the cinnamon stuff...I actually never got around to it this past week, but I am thinking Tuesday or Thursday this week, I'll do some baking. Until then!

-M

12/11/2012

Cravings: Cinnamonnn...

I basically crave cinnamon every day of the year, because it's pretty much one of the world's best inventions. However, exams sometimes do this thing to me and randomly accentuate one of my cravings (like so).

This week, I'm going to redeem myself with the cinnamon buns, but I'm also going to incorporate cinnamon into other things. The great thing is that cinnamon, like mushrooms, tastes awesome with practically anything. I wonder if they taste good together...

I always find it handy to keep a little tupperware container of 2 Tbsp sugar and 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon in the lazy Susan. That way, it's easily accessible if you just need a pinch of it for something like...say, cinnamon toast! I don't like super sweet things, so I literally just use a pinch of it to sprinkle on "margarined" toast for breakfast, along with my half-and-half juice (i.e. 1 part storebought juice to 1 part water because I find storebought beverages to be rather concentrated). Mmm...what a nice way to start a day of crazy. :)

Notice how talented I am at using a toaster. Each piece is gradually more burnt than the other. >>;
Today, Ellen DeGeneres made me aware that there exist such things as "Cinnamon & Sugar" flavoured Pringles...
Pringles
Apparently, they're limited edition for the holidays, and they also come in "Pumpkin Pie Spice" and "White Chocolate Peppermint"?? (Picture taken from Laughing Squid)
Anyways, I have paper revisions to finish up. Look forward to more cinnamon-inspired musings!

-M

12/09/2012

Cardio and Cooking: Macaroni and Mushrooms

Hello, hello!

No, I'm not quite done with my exams, but I do have to eat, and I have to try and get some exercise in if I can...

Why haven't I made a Cardio and Cooking post for a while? I regretfully stopped doing cardio for a while...I'm going to go ahead and blame exams and papers again :D

I'll be going back to my normal cardio routines in a couple days when it's all over. (Then I can feel alive again! Yay!)

Things I have learned today about macaroni:
- No matter how hard I try, macaroni and Kraft processed cheese just taste really gross. My mom likes to make macaroni and cheese, but you can't fool me with that fake plastic cheese stuff.
- Macaroni tastes pretty good with chicken and mushrooms, but then again, any pasta would :)
- Macaroni is easy to make, and is a good base for quick put-together meals! I could say that I make more ahead of time to use later, but really, it's just like with spaghetti. I always make too much, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone (?)
- I feel like macaroni cooks faster than other pastas too, but it might just be me.
- Someday, I must learn to make macaroni with beschamel sauce, and not die from it. Sometimes, cheese and cream taste so good, but it doesn't matter, because my stomach is still the boss.
- Corkscrew pasta makes macaroni so much more exciting...I swear that the shape of the pasta, and the number of ridges make it taste better.

This time, the cooking came before the cardio, but I won't eat it until after (not that there's anything that sinful in it anyways!)

Mmmacaroni! Ready for tomorrow's lunch after badminton!
There isn't really a need for a recipe, but what the hay for consistency?

Quick Fix Macaroni feat. Mushrooms and Leftover Chicken
*Makes 1 serving...plus extra macaroni*
1 cup dry macaroni (any sort of pasta will do)
2 cups water
1/3 cup leftover cooked chicken thigh meat (any sort of leftover cooked meat will suffice)
5 white mushrooms (that's how much I used, but you could definitely add more)
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 tsp oil
Salt and pepper

1. Fill a small to medium sized pot with water, and boil.
2. Once boiled, add 1/2 tsp oil, and a pinch of salt.
3. Turn to medium-heat, add the dry pasta, and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until tender. Stir once in a while.
4. While the pasta is cooking, take the time to wash your mushrooms. Chop your mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. If you haven't done so already, cut the meat into bite sized pieces too, and set aside.
5. Thwack the clove of garlic with the back of a wooden spoon or knife, and remove the "shell". Chop finely, and set aside.
6. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked pasta into a small bowl.
7. Still on medium-heat, use the pasta water to quickly cook your mushrooms.
8. Drain the water, add 1 tsp oil and chopped garlic. Stir quickly and be careful not to burn it or yourself. Add the mushrooms, meat, and as much of the macaroni you want to eat (I used about half), and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir to distribute evenly, and remove from heat.
10. Empty into a container for tomorrow, or enjoy right away.
11. Add some chopped parsley if you feel it is lacking green like I do. You can also top with cheese or sauce or what have you. I'm just tired and lazy.

I hope to do some holiday-ish baking soon, so look forward to that (maybe)!

-M

11/29/2012

B-b-b-baking: Super Fail Cinnamon Bun/Biscuit Things

Long time no see! I know I haven't been updating very much lately, and it's predictable, but I have to blame school. When I didn't have a midterm, I had a paper, and when I didn't have a paper, I had a midterm. That happened for the whole month, believe it or not.

Anyways, my day was pretty decent today until a bit into the evening. I can't find any evidence of a term paper that I wrote last semester, and I need to give a copy to one of the professors who will be an academic reference for my grad school application. I turned my room upside-down, and decided to make peace by baking something. It works sometimes...

Things I have learned today about cinnamon buns:
- Cinnamon buns were not made to be yeast-free. Whoever said you can make "perfectly fine" cinnamon buns with baking powder and baking soda in place of yeast...I'm not very happy with you, but it could have been that I just did something horribly wrong, which is very possible.
- You're supposed to spread the topping ingredients one at a time so that you don't just end up with a difficult-to-distribute cinnamon sugar paste.
- They smell really nice, and this relaxes me.
- In theory, they are very easy to make. It just takes patience - one virtue I lacked tonight.
- You could very likely replace the cinnamon topping with any other sweet or savoury filling :)

They look sort of okay from the top...
And then you see the bulging splits in the sides... :(
Super Fail Cinnamon Bun/Biscuit Things (adapted from Krissy's Creations)
Dough
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
2 tbsp white granulated sugar
6 tbsp corn oil
1 1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk

Cinnamon-Sugar Filling
2 tbsp white granulated sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp corn oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 F and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. I would suggest going by the original recipe's 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour instead of my weird mixture. You'll probably get better results. I only used a bunch of random flours because I realized too late that I only had 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour left, and ended up going into my collection of gluten-free ones. They have now been taken out of my gluten-free baking items area to avoid contamination.
3. In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, and half of the milk. Then add the dry mixture. I would continue adding the other half of milk until the consistency you need has been reached. Something strange happened for me with the gluten-free flours and the amount of milk.
4. Dust the parchment paper with some extra flour, and flour your hands. Flatten the dough into a rectangle, about 1/4" thick, until it is smaller than the baking pan by a bit over an inch on both sides lengthwise.
5. If you want to be dumb like me, combine the sugar, cinnamon, and oil to make a paste and try to spread it evenly on the top of the rectangle. Otherwise, spread the oil first, then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon.
6. Using the parchment paper to help you, roll the rectangle into a lengthwise log. Slice the log into 8 even pieces.
7. Spread the 8 cinnamon buns evenly on the baking pan and bake for 15 min.
8. Remove from oven and place onto cooling rack. You can top it with icing or a glaze if you'd like.
I ate the ugliest one, so that they don't look that terrible to my family tomorrow morning :( It did taste like cinnamon, but I think that as a result of the addition of so much random flour and playing around with it, it turned out more like a biscuit. I made enough glaze for one with 1/2 tsp soymilk, 2 tsp confectioner's sugar. I must make a batch of real cinnamon rolls to redeem myself.

Hopefully, you'll have better luck than I did...

See you again in a couple of weeks!

-M

11/05/2012

Budget-Friendly Bites: Cowgary Commute (Part 3: Quick Cow Cuisine - a.k.a. Peters' Drive-In)

...And last but not least, enjoy the third and final part of the Cowgary Commute series~

One of the best-known local eateries in Calgary is "Peters' Drive-In" at 219 - 16 Avenue NE which is open daily from 9am until midnight (with the exception of holidays). Neither E nor I had ever been there, so we had to give a try before leaving.
banner image #3
This picture was taken from the the Peters' Drive-In official website. We went before noon on a Sunday, so there were wayyyyy less people in line. Thank goodness.
I was told that the typical thing for people to order was a milkshake and a burger. The milkshakes were one size and came in a fantastic retro-y cup for $4.50 - between the size of a medium and large pop from McDonald's - and there were a lot of different flavours to choose from. You had the option of mixing up to 3 flavours if you wanted to, but I'm kind of glad we didn't. E and I got a watermelon milkshake, and unfortunately, we were less than impressed with it. There was way too much flavour syrup in it that it was very very obvious that it was flavour syrup or at least fruit juice with a LOT of sugar. I can't imagine what it would have tasted like with 3 flavoured syrups in it :/ Also, the "drink" was so thick that you couldn't really suck it through the straw to drink. E said that it might have been okay as a dessert if a spoon was served, or at least a larger straw, but I beg to differ. Then again, I don't have even half as much of a sweet tooth as him. You know something is way too sweet if E says it's too sweet.

As for food, we got 2 cheese burgers, 1 small fries, and 1 onion rings. We also later replaced our milkshake with a small iced tea, which was about the size of a medium pop at McDonald's for $1.50 including tax. G got a small Coke, small fries, and a double burger. N got a blackberry milkshake and a double cheese burger.

The cheese burger came with two decently-sized, but thin beef patties, cheese, special sauce (consisting of BBQ sauce and ketchup among other things), mustard, and a bit of chopped onions and relish. Normally, neither of us like relish or anything else with pickles, but it wasn't very detectable in the burger, which made it taste pretty good! The burger was at least as big as what you would get from McDonald's, and the cheese burger was only $3.60.

The fries were just crispy enough, and not heavily salted, which was great! E said the size was about an extra large order of fries from McDonald's, and it was only $3. The fries were 3 times as thick as the ones from McDonald's, and much tastier! The onion rings were pretty good, but nothing that special. Again, it was about the size of an extra large fries from McDonald's for $4, which is actually quite decent as well.

Sorry for not taking more pictures... I wanted a picture of the burger and the seagulls, but I was too hungry. This meal was "brunch".
All in all, while I don't think the milkshake is worth it, I would actually go back for the food! The only thing is that it's a 3 hour drive from E-town, but I'd definitely go if I was in the area! :D

-M

Peters' Drive-in on Urbanspoon

B-b-b-baking: Cowgary Commute (Part 2: Cowgarian Cocoa Cake)

I meant to do the whole series yesterday, but honestly, I was way too tired. I ended up going to sleep after posting Part 1. Here's Part 2~

By the time E and I had gotten back to where we were staying, it was still quite early...about 8:30pm at the latest. As well, my friends like chocolate cake, so I said I would make some, and that was that. They don't do any baking, so they didn't have any baking supplies and I had to bring my own. Yes, I packed my own loaf pan, whisk, spatula, measuring cup, and freezer bags of my own cake mix, pancake mix, and sugar in my luggage. :P

There was a cake that Ochikeron made for Halloween that I liked. She used matcha powder, but I didn't have any, and figured that I might be able to substitute for it with cocoa powder to make a chocolate version. 

Things I have learned this weekend about baking in Godwin & Nick's condo:
- Baking never happens in their condo unless I do it. Correction, baking from scratch. Apparently, they have experimented with Pillsbury :P
- The air seemed to be a bit drier, which may have been a factor in the slightly subpar resulting cake.
- Their gas stove/oven is kind of freaky. When you bake something in it, it keeps making this "fwoomph bang!" at certain intervals as the metal expands.
- They didn't have any toothpicks, so I used a wooden chopstick to check the cake. I don't suggest doing that because the chopstick is too smooth. Also, if you end up putting the cake back into the oven after checking it, the big hole lets the heat in and can make the cake drier on the inside.
- Cake is eaten right after it is baked, and goes well with ice cream, but everyone is too lazy to go out and get it.
Such a weirdly-shaped cake....I think it looks weirder because there aren't really any cracks.  It also has large chopstick holes. :/
It looked a little bit better after being sliced. I managed to slice it into 12 pretty even pieces without really thinking about it :)
Simple, Light Chocolate Cake (adapted from Ochikeron)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup corn oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup + 3 tsp golden yellow sugar
2 tbsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line loaf pan with parchment paper.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together oil and 1/3 cup sugar.
3. Separate two eggs, placing the two egg whites into another clean medium-sized bowl.
4. Add the egg yolks and milk into the oil and sugar mixture one at a time until combined.
5. Sift the dry ingredients into the same mixture, fold until just combined, and set aside.
6. Whisk the egg whites in separate bowl until white and foamy, then add 1 tsp sugar. Whisk again until soft peaks form, then add another 1 tsp sugar. Whisk again until peaks become a bit stiffer, and add the final 1 tsp sugar. Whisk until glossy, and immobile.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the meringue into the batter until combined.
8. Gently fold in the rest of the meringue very gently so that the batter is lightened in colour and texture.
9. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Drop the loaf pan on the counter a few times to release air bubbles, and use a spatula to draw a lengthwise incision down the centre of the cake.
10. Bake for 15 min at 350 F. Turn down the heat to 320 F and bake for another 30-35 min.
11. Remove cake from pan onto plate, slice, and serve.

It turned out okay, but it wasn't quite the result I wanted. It didn't rise as high as I would have liked, and the batter came out a little thicker than I would have wanted. The cake's texture was light and fluffy, but a little bit dry...the taste was quite faint, but I didn't mind. More cocoa powder, and possibly some chocolate chips could be added to make it more chocolatey. Just remember that because you're adding more of a dry ingredient, that you'll also need to add more liquid - probably milk. Lots of things to keep in mind for next time! :)

Whisking the egg whites by hand makes your arm a bit sore, but it saves you the cost of purchasing an electric mixer! (Or in my case, packing an electric mixer in my luggage...)

Look forward to Part 3!

-M

11/04/2012

Cardio and Cooking: Cowgary Commute (Part 1: Crepes for Carnivores?)

I took a little trip with E down to Cowgary for the weekend after finishing all my term papers and presentations. He finished his midterm exams too, so it was all good! Since my pictures encompass 3 different post segments, this is the first of a 3-part series of posts dedicated to my trip!

We stayed with my friends at their condo for the weekend, so I decided to put in some work to thank them :) I made a full breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and hashbrowns. Godwin complained that it wasn't a full breakfast because there was no meat. He said there was a need for sausages, yet he didn't want to give up his chicken sausages.

Things I have learned this weekend about pancakes:
- Adding too much milk makes them runny, which makes them become all weirdly-shaped and thin.
- They are a quick and easy-to-make breakfast food, but get cold quickly, so keep them warm in an oven like I didn't do.
- Wal-Mart eggs are apparently non-stick...I didn't have to add oil, and they were super easy to flip. Sketchy.
- Gas stoves cook things including pancakes a lot faster!
- Thin pancakes are different, but in my opinion not bad. It leaves room for you to eat other breakfast foods too :D

E has such an interesting way of eating pancakes. I have yet to meet anyone else that eats pancakes like he does. First, he spreads butter on top. Then, he salts it (think of lightly seasoning a steak like they do in the movies). Then, he drizzles syrup on top. Then, he segments it with a knife, lengthwise, then vertically. Then, he skewers a few squares with his fork and eats them. Every time he eats pancakes! It's fascinating.
Brought to you by "I can't believe it's not butter!" and "Aunt Jemima" :P
Almost Crepe Pancakes
*Makes 10-12 thin pancakes*
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp golden yellow sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
2 tbsp corn oil + extra for cooking
1 egg

1. Place an oven-safe dish or pan in the oven and preheat to 200F, and heat a pan over medium heat.
2. Combine milk, oil, and egg.
3. In a separate bowl, add flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
4. Sift dry ingredients into wet, and mix until just combined. Try to make smooth without overmixing.
5. Add some cooking oil into hot pan, and cook two pancakes at a time by adding slightly less than 1/3 cup batter on each opposite side of the pan.
6. When cooked, remove pancake from heat and place in preheated dish in the oven until ready to serve.
7. Flip pancake when dry around the edges and bubbles stay open. Brown on each side, and repeat for the rest of the batter.
8. Serve with your favourite fixings and other breakfast items!
9. If you don't actually want them that thin, just add more flour, or add less milk.

Now you're ready to walk for 2-3 hours, wandering around Cowgary!

-M

10/16/2012

Cardio and Cooking: "Potato-Dono"?

From the aftermath of the Thanksgiving Weekend relative visit extravaganza, I managed to salvage one kiwi (score!).

Things I have learned today about kiwis:
- Kiwis are great additions to smoothies. The fruit is very soft and therefore very easy to throw into a blender like bananas!
- They are rich in Vitamin C, potassium, and enzymes!
- Kiwis are actually called "Kiwifruits". Kiwis are actually birds native to New Zealand.
- Kiwifruits apparently have a bizillion different historical names in Chinese.
(It is amazing what you can learn from Wikipedia...)

Things I have learned today about frozen bananas:
- Frozen bananas are awesome.
- They are easy to add into smoothies and perform two functions - chilling the smoothie and making it nice and creamy!
- They are a great way to save bananas that have turned brown and black. If you freeze a banana with the peel still intact, the fruit inside will be good as new when you use it.
- They make a good alternative for ice cream, or even just a healthy snack!
- I should freeze bananas more often.

Super creamy smoothie action!
Creamy-Enzymatic-Ready-To-Conquer-The-Last-Midterm-Smoothie
*Makes 2 cups*
1 kiwifruit
2 x 100g Activia Red Fruit and Cereals yogurt cups
1 medium frozen banana

To freeze banana:
1. Put whole banana in sandwich bag. (You can do it without the bag, but I didn't want my whole freezer smelling like bananas. To be honest, I don't like bananas. At least not on their own. Combined with other things, I can do.)
2. Seal and freeze overnight.

To make smoothie:
1. Take banana out from freezer and set on counter.
2. Slice kiwifruit in half, and use a spoon to scoop out all the flesh into the blender.
3. Scoop out the yogurt from the 2 small containers of Activia into the blender.
4. The banana should have thawed a bit by now. Use a knife to cut off the ends of the banana. Use the knife to peel the banana vertically as you would do to a carrot. Then, break into 3 pieces and add into the blender.
5. Blend everything until smooth.
6. Be civilized and pour the smoothie into a cup to enjoy :)

I would love to make this more, but kiwifruits are like $1 each. I could get an avocado, a loaf of bread, a sweet potato, or among other things for $1 each that are all much more filling than a single kiwifruit.

On another note, while my food adventures have been kind of boring as of late, I've continued to browse food blogs in my downtime. Today, I came across the most random thing ever while reading through A Good Appetite ...

 
Yep...o_O...
 
I think I'm going to go on YouTube and watch the rest of the associated videos now.
 
-M

10/09/2012

Cardio and Cooking: C-c-c-combo Breakerrr!! (Because I've been eating white people food every day for the past week.)

Chicken can be so good when it's moist and tender. This is why I only like to eat meat by the bone. Dry meat is gross. This is why I can't do jerky.
 
Things I have learned today about chicken:
- There are a bizillion recipes for chicken on the Internet.
- Bone-in chicken is ready when you can stab through it easily with a fork and the juices run clear.
- Chicken thighs might actually be better than chicken wings...but you can eat a lot of wings...nevermind! :)
- They have really good sales for meat at Save-On Foods on weekends, especially for chicken. I got a fresh package of 5 chicken thighs for 6 bucks!
 
The colour in the picture turned out kind of funky. There are my Thai chicken thighs. Yum. The sauce was like one of those annoying Food Network recipes where they add a half teaspoon of a bizillion things. The good thing is that it tastes pretty delicious.
Close-up of my plate: coconut rice, Thai chicken thigh, and stir-fried spinach.
 Coconut Rice [Using a rice cooker]
2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
1/2 packet of coconut milk powder
3 cups + 10 tbsp lukewarm water
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tbsp granulated sugar (if you use sweetened coconut, you can reduce this amount)

1. Mix together coconut milk powder and 10 tbsp lukewarm water in a bowl until combined with no lumps.
2. Add rice into rice cooker pot. Wash rice twice to get rid of some of the starch.
3. Add coconut milk, 3 cups water, and shredded coconut to rice and stir until well coated and combined.
4. Place lid on rice cooker and turn on. Leave rice to continue cooking for about 10 minutes after the cooker turns off.
5. Take off the lid, and use a rice paddle to fluff up the rice. Mix in sugar until dissolved and evenly distributed in the rice.

Thai Chicken Thighs (adapted from CBC)
5 fresh chicken thighs
1/4 cup chopped green onions
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tbsp unsweetened peanut butter
2 tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp corn oil
1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
2 tbsp chopped parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 385 F.
2. Chop green onions, garlic, and ginger, and add into a medium sized bowl.
3. Add peanut butter, Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, 1 tbsp oil, and chili sauce into the bowl. Mix until combined and smooth.
4. Brush the inside of the bottom and sides of a shallow baking dish with 1 tbsp oil.
5. Place the chicken thighs in the baking dish and use the remaining tbsp oil to brush on the tops and sides of the chicken thighs to prevent them from burning.
6. Spoon the sauce evenly over each of the chicken thighs.
7. Bake for 40 min until you can easily stick a fork through the meat and juices run clear.
8. Remove from oven and garnish with parsley.

For my veggie side dish, I just quickly stir-fried some spinach with some corn oil and a pinch of salt until just wilted.

This further confirms my previous statement about peanut butter being magical. :D

-M

10/08/2012

B-b-b-baking: Pie which is...?

Turkey dinner numero trois was today, so I decided to fulfill my desire to make an apple pie this morning. Apple pies are nice and autumn-y and fitting for Thanksgiving, so why not? :)
 
I based my pie recipe largely off from RunnyRunny999's for the dough and filling. His name is Taro, and he's another Japanese cooking YouTube person, but I like his comical personality and accent. For most of his videos, he will take an "order", do a cooking tutorial for that request, and then eat whatever he just made. While eating whatever he just made, he might wear something like a weird wig or glasses. He gives off the feeling of a regular person trying to cook, so you tend not to feel intimidated. It'd be like if I decided to post YouTube videos of myself cooking/baking stuff. That is unlikely to happen however, because I am camera shy and technologically-inept. This blog is challenging enough as it is ;P
 
Things I have learned today about apple pie:
- It is possible to make an apple pie in less than an hour (so long as you make the pie dough ahead of time).
- Anna Olson is a master of the lattice top pie. Unfortunately, even if I follow her method, my lack of hand-eye coordination leads to depressing results. Next time!
- I suck at peeling apples probably even more than I suck at peeling sweet potatoes. :(
- My pie dishes are wider and shallower than I originally thought.
- People are smart and use something grainy to put at the bottom of the pie before putting in the filling so it doesn't get all watery. This is smart only because it reminds me of my first apple pie-making experience in junior high. I was in a fail group of me plus 3 guys who were only in foods class to eat the product at the end. When we sliced open the pie, apple juice came rushing out, and the apples were undercooked. I shouldn't have trusted them with the filling. Derp.

"Apple fillings". Tender, smooth, and housewarming~

My futile attempt at a lattice top apple pie. One strand is only "on-tops"...I only noticed AFTER baking it. I also failed at spreading the filling evenly, so there is more filling "sauce" on one side, and more apples on the other. = =;;
Homemade Apple Pie (adapted from RunnyRunny999)
Double-Crust Pie Dough
2/3 cup all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup for rolling
1/2 cup cold margarine
1/2 cup water
4 ice cubes

1. Place ice cubes in your cup of water and set aside for later use.
2. Add flour into a medium-sized bowl.
3. Cut-in margarine with a pastry cutter until dough is somewhat flaky.
4. Remove ice cubes from water, and add it to the dough in small additions while cutting in with pastry cutter, until dough just holds together.
5. Place a piece of plastic wrap bigger than the bowl, over top of the bowl, and flip it upside down. Wrap the dough and chill for at least an hour.
6. Lightly flour a cutting board and rolling pin.
7. Press the dough out in front of you so that it is a long wide strip.
8. Fold the strip in half, and then in half again.
9. Turn the dough so that one of the open ends faces you, and repeat steps 7 and 8 until the dough is smooth.
10. Return to the fridge for another 30 minutes, or keep stored in the fridge afterwards until ready for use.

Filling
2 gala apples (I was going to use another recipe originally and it told me I needed 6-8 apples. Now I have a lot of apples.)
1 tsp ground cinnamon (You don't have to use this much. I just really like cinnamon.)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
Half of a fresh lemon
Granulated sugar to taste

1. Heat up a large sauce pan on medium heat.
2. Peel, core, and cut the apples into bite-sized pieces, and add them into the pan.
3. Add the brown sugar, and squeeze the juice of the lemon directly into the pan. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, and reduce the heat to medium low.
4. Simmer and stir until apples are tender, then add cornstarch and cinnamon, and continue stirring until dissolved and slightly thickened.
5. Pour apple mixture into a medium-sized bowl. Use a teaspoon to taste some of the filling. If it's too tart, add some granulated sugar and stir until dissolved. I added about half of a 1/4 cup.
6. Set aside until ready for use.

Apple Pie
1 batch of double-crust pie dough
1 batch of apple pie filling
4 graham crackers

1. Pre-heat oven to 450 F.
2. Split the pie dough in half, and roll out one half evenly on a floured surface until it is wide enough to completely cover your pie plate plus some. Lay one of the circles in the centre of your pie plate, and roll out the second half of your dough.
3. Slice the second circle into 12-14 strips of an equal length and set aside. I used my pastry cutter, because I didn't think of using my pizza cutter. That's why it looks kind of clumsy...
3. Place graham crackers into a ziploc bag and crush into little bits. Try not to crush it too much into a powder.
4. Spread the graham crackers on top of the pie dough in your pie plate.
5. Spread the pie filling on top of the graham crackers.
6. Create a lattice top. Lay 6 or 7 of the strips horizontally across the top of the pie. Fold back every second strip so that you can lay one strip vertically across the pie about 1 inch from the inside edge of the crust. Unfold the horizontal strips, and fold back every first strip this time so that you can lay another strip vertically across the pie about 1 inch from the edge of the last vertical strip. Repeat this alternating process until you have a criss-crossing weave pattern on the top of the pie. If you have no idea what I was talking about because I wasn't smart enough to do step-by-step photos, Google "Anna Olson lattice pie". Anna Olson is my pastry chef god.
7. Cut off the ends of the lattice strips that hang off the edge of the pie pan and stick them around the crust's edge. Roll the edge of the first pie circle to cover the edges and pinch to close. Mine is ugly because I didn't make the first circle big enough so I had to "Band-Aid" it with leftover pieces of pie dough from cutting the strips. This was my first attempt at a lattice top. I promise to get better.
8. If you want to, you can take the time to beat an egg yolk and brush it on the top of the pie and sprinkle some coarse sugar to make it look nicer. I forgot to do this. > >''
9. Loosely cover the pie with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent it from burning. Bake for about 15 min, then remove the sheet of foil and return to the oven for another 10 min until the crust is golden brown and the filling is nice and bubbly.
10. Serve a la mode or on its own!

E was nice enough to join me for lunch today before going to study. Unfortunately for him, I didn't have any ready-to-go meat. Luckily, he is a super egg fanatic. No, he couldn't have my salmon because that was for me.

Pan-fried salmon sandwich with iceberg lettuce on a toasted ciabatta bun, and a side of homemade sweet potato fries.
Note: This time, I tried replacing the olive oil with an egg white, and I baked them at 450 F for about 10 minutes on each side. It actually turned out slightly better. However, I have come to realize that baked fries will probably never be as crispy as deepfried ones, but that is okay with me. They were still yummy :)
E was so kind to join me for lunch today. Double-fried egg sandwich with iceberg lettuce and Kraft Singles cheese on homemade garlic ciabatta bun, and a side of homemade sweet potato fries.
Pan-fried salmon
3 oz. salmon filet
1 egg white (Leftover from the other day's custard. The other one went into the sweet potato fries.)
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. De-scale the fish filet by scraping the skin with a knife against the scales. Rinse the filet with cold water to make sure you won't be eating miniature toe nails.
2. Add oil to a pan on medium heat. Beat an egg white and drench filet. Because you notice that there is way more egg white than you need, add the rest to the two eggs you are frying for your boyfriend's sandwich. He won't notice ;P
3. Place filet on pan skin side down, and add salt and pepper on flesh to taste. Let cook for a couple minutes depending on the thickness. Mine was maybe an inch thick in the centre. Flip to cook on flesh side for a couple minutes. Fish cooks really fast, and it's easy to overdo salmon, so just eye it and you should be good.
4. Remove from heat and dress up as you like. I put mine on a toasted ciabatta bun with some lettuce and mustard. Most fish tastes awesome with anything vinegar-y. You will notice that my anything to bread/rice ratio must be at least 1:1, but it's usually more like 2 or 3:1.

It has been a pretty food-tastic weekend :)

-M

10/07/2012

Cardio and Cooking: "No Thanks" to Turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving, all~

I decided not to have turkey tonight for dinner. I knowwww... But honestly. My mom made a turkey on Thursday, I had turkey last night at a friend's house, and I have another Thanksgiving dinner to go to tomorrow. Talk about tryptophan overload.

Tonight was a lovely, quiet steak dinner. Mmm...

Things I have learned today about sweet potatoes:
- The "yams" at Sobey's are actually sweet potatoes. The flesh of yams are white to yellow to purple. Sweet potatoes have orange flesh but can have various coloured peels.
- Either they are difficult to peel and cut, or I just suck at it.
- They are low in calories and good sources of antioxidants (i.e. beta carotene), fibre, and potassium.
- They make you fart more. For those of you who immaturely "teehee" about farts like I do, I have a fun link for you :D

Medium-rare filet mignon with garlic toast, broccoli, sweet potato fries, and a cup of chrysanthemum tea. :)
FYI: I am not going to die from E. coli poisoning. My beef was purchased from a local butcher, therefore not impacted by XL Foods.
Garlic Toast
4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp margarine
2 tbsp olive oil
3 ciabatta buns (You can use other kinds of bread or buns for this. It was just enough to cover 3 ciabatta buns from Sobey's.)

1. Use a cleaver or wide bladed knife to whack each clove of garlic so that the skin is easy to remove. Then, chop finely.
2. Add margarine and olive oil and mix with a spoon until combined.
3. Slice open the buns, and evenly distribute and spread the garlic butter on them.
4. Place under broiler for about 6-7 minutes, but keep an eye on them to make sure they don't burn.
5. Remove from oven and enjoy immediately!

Sweet Potato Fries
*Makes 1 baking sheet*
1/2 of a sweet potato (Full potato was about 20 cm x 7 cm.)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp of Mrs. Dash
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel and rinse sweet potato.
2. Cut into strips about 1.5 cm wide and 0.5 cm to 0.75 cm thick. I had to use a cleaver.
3. Soak strips in a bowl of water for 20 minutes to remove some of the starch.
4. Turn on the broiler and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Drain the water and add oil and seasonings into bowl. Toss until evenly distributed on the fries.
6. Spread out the fries on the baking sheet. Place under broiler for 10 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and quickly flip the fries with a metal spatula before returning the pan to the oven for another 10 minutes. Watch to make sure they don't burn.
8. Remove from oven joy immediately!

It was my first time both for making homemade garlic butter and sweet potato fries! The garlic toast turned out quite well - the butter was nice and garlicky and the toast was nice and toasty. The fries were softer than I had hoped for though :( I've read that you can use an egg white in place of olive oil to make them crispier. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow. I still have half of a sweet potato!

-M

P-p-p-partayyy: Let them eat cake!

My baby blog just turned one month old 2 days ago! I was going to post something on Thursday, but nothing exciting happened. I think I had regular peanut butter toast. I already sort of did a post on peanut butter toast when I had huge cravings for thick toast, and I didn't want to post about my unexciting leftovers in the fridge.

Today, I got to go to a friend's house for a Thanksgiving dinner, which gave me an excuse to bake something interesting. I was going to make a pie originally, but I got tipped that cake was a better option.

I based my recipe off of another YouTube cooking channel for my cake, Ochikeron. It's another Japanese one, but her stuff generally turns out quite well, and her directions are fairy straight forward. The only thing is that she tends to use a lot of "instant" stuff here and there, which I am a little iffy about, but otherwise, worth the watch~

Things I have learned today about short cake:
- It is decently easy to put together.
- It's more like a biscuit than a cake, and you don't necessarily need to use leavening agents...?
- It tastes good with creamy things and a cup of tea.
- Strawberries are probably still the best fruit to use in a short cake :)

Things I have learned today about custard:
- Custard can be used for a tart filling, but also works as a good layering base in a sponge cake.
- Custard can be made with non-dairy milk, and no one will notice unless you tell them.
- Vanilla really makes the custard
- It can be made in a jiffy which rocks.

I wish I had taken some pictures of the process, but it was kind of a hurried thing. I basically baked the sponge cakes this morning, went to work, came back to make the whipped cream topping and custard filling and assemble it before going over to my friend's house. I literally finished making the thing 10 minutes before we (me and E) got there.

People likely didn't notice, but I didn't cut all of the strawberries the same way...While I was hulling and halving them, I ended up quartering some of them, so half of the ones on the outside ring are quartered, and the other half are halved... > <
 Strawberry Custard Cream Layered Cake? (adapted from Ochikeron - She also has a blog called "Create Eat Happy".)
*Makes 1 layered cake* (dairy-free, complete with filling and topping - you can definitely use regular cream and milk)
Shortcake: (I made two shortcakes for my sponge bases.)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp corn oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
 
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 7 1/2 inch round pan with parchment paper.
2. Beat 2 eggs in a lightweight medium size bowl.
3. Add sugar and mix until combined.
4. Fill 1/3 of a slightly larger bowl with hot water, and whisk the eggs and sugar over the hot water until the sugar melts. Remove from the hot water immediately afterwards so it doesn't cook the mixture.
5. Pour the mixture into the large bowl of a stand-in electric mixer, and beat until white and fluffy.
6. Sift and add the flour in 4 portions, using a spatula to gently fold the flour into the mixture. Be careful not to overmix.
7. Add the oil, and fold gently until just combined.
8. Carefully pour the mixture into your parchment-lined pan, and bake for 25 minutes.
9. Place a paper towel over a cooling rack. Remove the parchment around the sides of the cake, and carefully place the cake (with the pan on) upside down on the paper towel to cool.  
10. Once cooled, carefully wrap the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble.
  • As far as assembly, I started with one shortcake, spread half the custard on the cake, placed some strawberries, spread the rest of the custard, second shortcake, spread whipped cream, arrange the rest of the strawberries on top.
Topping:
1 can of coconut milk
2 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp granulated sugar
16 oz. fresh strawberries (1 box from Save-On Foods)
 
1. Chill the bowl for your stand-in electric mixer in the fridge for at least 30 min.
2. Carefully flip the can of coconut milk upside down and open the can.
3. Remove the layer of liquid and save for use in smoothies/other baking or cooking. Empty the creamy coconut milk into the chilled bowl.
4. Using an electric mixer, whip the cream, gradually adding sugar to sweeten, and starch to thicken the mixture.
5. Spread the cream on the top of your assembled cake.
  •  The whole amount of coconut whipped cream that you end up with is a bit much for the top, so you can spread it over the sides of the cake if you want to. I was in a hurry, and it sort of looked okay? :S 
6. Wash, hull, and halve strawberries, and arrange as desired. You could spread some jam or honey over the strawberries, but I don't like super crazy toothachy sweet stuff.
 
Custard:
1 cup soy milk
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
 
1. Gently boil milk in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
2. Meanwhile, separate 2 eggs, and reserve the egg whites for use in other baking/cooking recipes.
3. Beat egg yolks, sugar, and flour in a bowl until combined.
4. Once the milk has boiled, remove from heat and gradually add to egg mixture while stirring.
5. Return the whole custard mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat for a few minutes until the custard thickens enough to be spread on the cake.
6. Ready to use on the cake as you wish! If you want it to be thicker, chill in the fridge for a bit before use.
 
Yay for dairy-free cake with cream! :) You may have noticed that instead of using less sweet substitutes, I actually went ahead with the granulated sugar. I wasn't sure how brown sugar would work with the eggs in a custard or fluffy cake mix, and I didn't want to test too many new things when I was bringing this over for other people. I also found that the sponge of the cake was a bit drier than I would have liked. It wasn't bad, but perhaps I'll invest in some actual cake flour...
 
Happy Thanksgiving!
 
-M

10/02/2012

Budget-Friendly Bites: White Spot, Four Points Sheraton (Southside)

My family and I went to the new White Spot location on the south side. The old location was where the new IHOP on Calgary Trail is. White Spot seems to have changed its image and standards quite a bit. I hadn't been to White Spot for a long time even before it closed due to a slightly tarnished experience. Nothing to do with the food or service there though.

They currently have this limited time offer where you can get a 3-course meal for either $15 or $18. The difference in price is just referent to the choices of your entree.

I've been giving myself a few extra cheat days to make up for the ones I missed during the past few months ;P

I went with their "Spot Salad" which is their house salad - mixed greens, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, diced red onion, and cherry tomatoes with a honey vinaigrette dressing. Not too bad. I don't like cherry tomatoes so I gave them to my brother. I just don't think tomatoes should be miniature. They gross me out. Other than the Spot Salad, you could get a Caesar salad or a cup of soup.


For the entree, I picked the Bacon Cheddar Chicken Burger. No, I didn't pick the chicken burger because of the beef scare going on. I just don't really like beef. Like I've mentioned before, I really have to be in the mood for it. I just like chicken burgers. Fish burgers moreso, but unfortunately, there was no such option :( It's only slightly out of character for me to order something with bacon in it, but I decided to go with it. It was a decent-sized plate. Half filled with their "signature fries" which are apparently "endless". I guess the idea parallels that of Red Robin's but despite the attempt, Red Robin's bottomless steak fries win. Normally, I don't like coleslaw, but theirs was actually not bad. I found it weird that they sprinkled sunflower seeds in it, but I guess it just took some getting used to. The cabbage was fresh, and the dressing was very light, so it was all tolerable. I only ate half of the burger. It was quite large (for me). It had a grilled chicken breast, tomato, onion, lettuce, ketchup, some sort of mayo-ish sauce, cheddar cheese, and a couple strips of bacon. The fries weren't that special. Not particularly crisp, not too salty, but I'm not complaining. I basically have an unconditional love for potatoes, and I'm not the biggest salt fanatic, so it gets an OK from me.

You had the choice of a personal-sized apple pie with a scoop of icecream on top, or a personal-sized "seasonal" pie. Upon ordering, our server said that aside from the apple pie, they had strawberry, blueberry, and pumpkin. I was sold at blueberry. Unfortunately, by the time dessert came around, they didn't have strawberry or blueberry, so I switched it to pumpkin. My mom likes pumpkin, so it was okay  I left my family to eat the pie, as I was stuffed. The crust looked kind of like a molded graham cracker crust, so it was more of a tart. The pumpkin puree looked pretty good on the inside, and there was a layer of crushed pecans on top. The apple pie looked like an apple crumble with a scoop of vanilla icecream on top, all inside a personal-sized tart crust. I was full, so I couldn't judge on the sweets.

For $15, I have to say that the dinner was pretty decent. At Boston Pizza, for example, your main course alone would cost about $15 or more. Take advantage of this deal while it lasts!

-M

White Spot Edmonton on Urbanspoon

B-b-b-baking: C is for B-Carotene

So, my aunt and uncle are coming here from out of town. Possibly just in time to see our first snowfall...Fun stuff. I wanted to bake something for them because I don't spend a whole lot of time at home since I have to juggle school and work.

We had a lot of carrots in the fridge. Maybe my dad is concerned about the amount of time I am spending in front of the computer at work and home? These papers and presentations have been turning me into a bit of a hermit already... That's okay though! I love excuses to use my new toy that I bought this summer from the Daiso in Richmond. My Japanese box grater! It is excellent for grating hard things like turnips, carrots, potatoes, and the like! I decided to go with some sort of carrot cake/muffin, and apparently, ginger goes quite well with carrots. And cinnamon~ I absolutely love cinnamon. Too much sometimes. I hadn't baked with ginger before, so it was something new to try out! I was tempted to go gluten-free for these as well, but I figured it wouldn't be too nice to turn my relatives into guinea pigs during their visit.

They'll be traveling around during their stay, so I turned the cake into muffins for easier consumption and transport.

Things I have learned today about ginger:
- Ginger peels super easily! Sometimes with other fruit and vegetables, peels don't come off that clean and you have to overlap a bit. For ginger, it comes right off!
- Ginger is strong and can burn your eyes like onions :(
- Ginger turns kind of stringy/hairy when you grate it...

Regardless of how it can add to a dish or how it is convenient to use, I still can't understand why some people can eat entire chunks of ginger and enjoy it.

Carrot Ginger Muffins are nice and bright! These will be good for mornings!
Vegan Carrot Ginger Muffins (adapted from Michael Runs On Veg)
*Makes 12 muffins*
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I had to reduce the flour. Sometimes, I forget that it is quite dry here.)
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp freshly ground ginger
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 flaxseed egg replacer (i.e. 1 Tbsp ground flaxseeds + 3 Tbsp room temperature water)
1/3 cup corn oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly grated carrots

1. Preheat your oven to 350 F and prepare a muffin pan with 12 paper liners.
2. Add ground flaxseeds, room temperature water, and vanilla into a small bowl. Stir lightly and set aside.
3. Peel and grate carrots and ginger into a small bowl (or your box grater~) and set aside.
Add oil and sugar into a large bowl and mix until combined.
4. Add flax egg and mix until combined.
5. In a medium bowl, add flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon and mix until combined.
6. Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture until just combined.
7. Add soy milk and fold until just combined.
8. Fold in carrot and ginger mixture. You can also take this time to fold in some walnuts or pecans if you want to.
9. Distribute the batter evenly into the muffin pan.
10. Bake for 20 min.
11. When finished baking, remove from muffin pan and place on cooling rack to cool completely or serve right away.
*Remember to make sure the centres are cooked through by inserting a toothpick and seeing if it comes out clean.*

They make your house smell nice and homey~ It will be comforting for the long winter ahead :)

-M

9/25/2012

B-b-b-baking: Mini Guacamuffins

I'm going to be honest. I've been feeling pretty down lately, so I haven't ventured far from my books and bed. Today, I decided to ease my mind a bit with one of my favourite things to do - baking. I find it so soothing to bake things and watch them change over time in the oven. Let's face it; science is pretty cool.

I had a couple of avocados I picked up. I've been a little bit obsessed with the idea that they are a "natural butter". Good fats? Yes, please.

So it got me thinking...if avocados are basically butter, they can probably substitute for butter in a recipe for cakes or cookies or something of the like, right? Well. According to Google, yes they can. Luckily for me, I can justify my urge to bake tonight because there's some sort of baked goods potlucky thing at Job #1 tomorrow. Another great opportunity to create something weird that doesn't have gluten, eggs, nuts, or dairy. Challenge accepted.

Things I have learned today about avocados:
- Their creamy texture makes them easier to bake with than bananas (despite the fact that I used bananas as well).
- The taste of an avocado is so minute that you can hardly detect it in a baked good if only using the senses of taste or smell. Unless of course you are a professional food person. I am not, just like many people in the world who enjoy eating things.
- The only setback to baking with avocado is that the green colour sticks out unless you were to cover it with chocolate/cocoa. A lot of people seem to have done this, but I'm not as bothered about the green. The green is kind of faint... It can look really pretty when incorporated into a chiffon cake like Kirbie's Cravings did.

Today was all about trying new things...
I made mini cupcake/muffins.
I baked the mini muffins in candy cups. (Because I felt like I could buy a very nice dinner for the price of a Wilton 24 Mini Muffin Baking Pan.)
I used chia seed egg replacers. (Because flax is still gross.)
I made gluten-free, vegan muffins.

Serenity...

They came out looking kind of like little green brioches. I ate one to make sure it didn't taste bad. It didn't :)
Avocado Banana Mini Muffins (adapted from Gluten-Free Goddess)
*Celiac and Vegan-Friendly*
1 avocado
1 banana
1 cup golden yellow sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 chia egg replacers
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

*Of course, you can always use regular eggs or other egg replacers instead of chia seeds. As well, you can substitute other types of flour in place of the rice flour and starch. If you use any gluten-containing flours, you won't need xanthan gum.

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 24 mini muffin tin or spread 24 paper candy cups on a cookie sheet.
  • I was a little bit cautious because of all the new things I was trying all in one go, so I only baked 12 at a time in a deep dish (in case it exploded or something crazy like that).
2. To make chia egg replacers, put 2 tbsp of chia seeds in a cup with about 6 tbsp of warm water. Let stand until ready to add eggs.
3. Mash or puree avocado until smooth and creamy, and mix in sugar until combined.
4. Mash banana and add it to the mixture. (You don't have to add the banana. I was just unsure of how the pure avocado taste would come across, so I added the banana. I was thinking about leaving it out at first, but maybe green muffins are scary enough as it is.)
5. Add vanilla to chia egg replacer, stir, and add to wet mixture.
6. Sift all dry ingredients together into another bowl, and add half of it to wet mixture, folding until just combined. Add and incorporate 1/4 cup soy milk. Repeat with remaining half of flour mixture and soy milk.
7. Fill mini muffin tins/candy cups until level and bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • The first 5 minutes are kind of suspenseful because you don't see a whole lot going on. 7-8 minutes in, they start blooming from their cups.
8. Enjoy your gluten-free, egg-free, nut-free, dairy-free mini muffins!

-M