Ode to Early Fall

It started from a seed in the beginning of the summer. It’s a bit late to report now, however, the pots of basil have bloomed! This is probably the first time my basil plants have lived so long without withering and limping.  They were not looking so great indoors, but after putting them outside the leaves and stems grew much stronger. The aroma of basil is so fresh…also addicting.  Although the white flowers are so beautiful, they should be picked off to encourage growth. Did I mention that I am always looking for the next best banana bread recipe? Purely Twins’  Plantain Banana Bread is my most recent find, breakfast and snack worthy! I used a muffin pan instead because sometimes it’s nice to have individual pieces ready for on-the-go needs. They were so moist and just enough sweetness.  The only substitute made was using 4 bananas instead of 3 bananas + 1 plantain and whole wheat flour. I love the combination of bananas and cinnamon, so some extra cinnamon and crushed walnuts were added to the batter too. An ode goes out to the Harvest Party in September. It was an event that ended the summer and kicked off the fall for me. The majority of the produce from our campus gardens were harvested and cooked into amazing things.
Free, delicious, colourful, healthy, local food was served on one of the main streets at school. Having volunteered with the garden group in the past, I was so proud to see the community coming together. And it is amazing how many people free food can attract! This year I was able to help out with food preparations ahead of the event and some set-up for the event.  There’s something special about having  8 gardens around the campus in the core of Toronto. Continue reading

Bread Making Craze

Well hello there. Things have been so busy…and when it comes to keeping up with the blog it has been mostly lazy around here. I have so many photos, recipes and others waiting to be written but I have been putting them off for a while. Anyways I am in a good mood today, so I will try to cram in as many things as possible. The clock just passed midnight and technically it is June 29, but I am writing for June 28 🙂

Breakfast was a load of berries, beet juice, vegan brownie and a slice of homemade bread.

I have been trying to use up the rice flour wraps by filling them with salads of some sort. For lunch I used mixed salad, avocado, cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries and balsamic vinegar. And to drink was the other half of beet juice from breakfast.

The book from the second-hand store in Waterloo is the coolest dictionary ever. I am a nerd for this content, but it’s not the same as reading a novel. I am using it to decipher the ingredients on packaged things in the kitchen. The thought of bringing it to a grocery store is nice…but I probably will leave it home most of the time because it is quite chunky. C’mon….this is pretty neat. I have been on the roll with making bread for the past few weeks. Ever since trying Whole Food’s cranberry walnut bread I have been testing out imitation recipes. The recipes will be up in the coming posts.

imitation of Whole Food’s cranberry walnut bread
imitation recipe of Whole Food’s Seeduction bread

Today I baked my first whole wheat ciabatta bread. It seems like most recipes online are very similar and it is surprisingly simple. Combine the dry ingredients:  3 and 1/4 cup of flour, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of sugar and 1+1/2 tsp of yeast with the wet ingredients: 1+ 1/2 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.   It had to rest for 18 hours then again for another 2 hours. Baked for 30 minutes and voila it is airy on the inside and crusty on the exterior.

Dinner was leftovers of sauteed kale and a concoction of quinoa with marinara sauce, chickpeas, zucchini and eggplant. I had some chocolate banana oat cookies right before dinner too. The 2 ingredient recipe is from Blogilates, a must try!
On a small note, about a week ago I acquired this painful misfortune from a fork while using it to juice a lemon. It wasn’t the first time juicing a lemon but I was probably in a rush.
Well, the good news is that it is scabbing up and healing quickly. Lesson learned, forks can be dangerous.

Avocado Cereal Bowl and 5 Ingredient Walnut Brownie

The weather is warming up and the days are beginning to grow longer. The spring is right around the corner 🙂 I could use a change. It is a good day, all midterm exams are over and there is a little time for a breather before things get too busy again.

I have a strange fondness to a totally random breakfast meal. From the idea of a cereal bowl but it uses avocado as the main item. I took these pictures in a hurry since I mainly have this in the morning before class.

I start out with 1/2 an avocado.

Some homemade apple sauce.Crumbled walnut “brownies” (recipe below).And almond milk and sometimes extra cinnamon.

AvocadoCereal Bowl
-1/2 avocado
-3 tbsp applesauce
-2 pieces walnut brownie
-enough almond milk
-dash of cinnamon
Other things to add: dried fruit, fresh berries

Add everything in a bowl and eat.

Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fats-beneficial for the memory, mood, heart health, sleep and more. Other facts about walnuts from the 100 Foods To Stay Young book are in the Banana Walnut Bread post. I tried the same recipe with almonds, but it doesn’t have the same “brownie” texture I was looking for.

A simple, quick and healthy brownie. It has a satisfying rich cocoa flavour and makes a great snack.

5 Ingredient Walnut Brownies
-1 cup walnuts
-1 tbsp cocoa powder
-a pinch of salt
-1 tsp coconut oil, melted
-4 medjool dates

Other suggested add-ins:
-dried fruit
-chocolate chips

1. In a processor or blender, blend walnuts, cocoa powder and salt until it is a fine grainy texture. Over blending can bring out rancid taste of the oil in the walnuts.
2. Continue to blend.  Add in the coconut oil and the dates one at a time until the dough forms.
3. Firmly press into a container. It will firm up in the fridge but tastes great right away too. Cut into square pieces and eat.

Spring, here we come

Brown Rice Flour Banana Pancakes with Lentils

Although it is already more than half way through the first month of the year, I have yet to say a very belated ” Happy New Years!”. For the last week of December I was in St. Louis, Missouri for a conference called Urbana. It is a conference held every few years in the US with focus on world issues, missionary work and the empowering of college students. We heard the testimonies from speakers, the incredible stories they shared and met many new friends. On the last day of the conference, we counted down and celebrated the new year. Immediately after we boarded the coach bus and left for the ride back home to Toronto.
Banana-lentil pancakes1On another note, I love having pancakes for breakfast. The latest one includes banana, brown rice flour, lentils to Colourful Palate’s vegan banana oatmeal recipe. Don’t be appalled it’s a winner. Lentils add some extra fibre and protein value. It cooks quicker and no more worrying about a gooey inside. I wanted something more filling than the banana walnut pancake.

If you are like me, pancakes can be tricky to make because I worry about browning. I’m troubled when bubbles do not emerge, I flip them too early which causes the inside to be incompletely cooked and sometimes it rips, and then I have to flip them over and over again. It’s a mess. And for that, this recipe is fool-proof!

Brown Rice Flour Banana Pancakes with Lentils
Yield: 14-16 pancakes

1 1/4 cup oats
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup bran
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup almond milk/ or non dairy milk
2 ripe bananas, medium size
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon (halve if you do not love cinnamon)
2 tbsp agave (or honey)
1/4 cup cooked lentils

1. In a processor or blender, all ingredients until smooth. Be careful not to over-blend.
2. In an oiled skillet  over medium-low heat, pour the batter in 1/3 cup portions. Cook for a few minutes or until the sides of the pancakes are golden-brown. Flip when they are ready.
* You can also drop a handful of chocolate chips or frozen berries while they are cooking.

Any left overs can be frozen and eaten another time. No defrosting needed, just pop them into the toaster and they will be ready for you.
Peanut butter and coconut fudgePeanut butter “fudge” is a healthier alternative for topping pancakes. This picture is what is left of my adaption from Tara Stile’s almond butter fudge recipe. I warn you, they are dangerously addictive.  The recipe is easy to play around with, you can add more coconut oil for a harder texture or use more peanut butter to make it more fudgy.

Peanut Butter Fudge

4 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp honey, melted
2 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon and cocoa powder
2 handful raisins

1. Mix everything together, pour into a container. You can line the container with plastic wrap for an easier clean up.
2. Refrigerate for about an hour. Cut into squares and enjoy.

A few weeks ago at church, we brought up an interesting topic about new years resolution trends. I am passing them on here because I find it very interesting and helpful to put some of our goals into perspective. Here are some interesting facts from the Journal of Clinical Psychology (University of Scranton) :
-the top 10 resolutions of 2012 were

  • lose weight
  • get organized
  • save money
  • enjoy life
  • stay fit & healthy
  • learn something exciting
  • quick smoking
  • help others
  • fall in love
  • more time with family

I am still in the process of forming my list, and these facts make me question how I can make my resolutions more special. What are some of your resolutions you made that are not on this list?

Wonderful Academia Time Again

It is that time of year again when students return back to school and begin another year of academia. Perhaps it is the step of a new beginning or a returning experience, either way it’s going to be something to look forward to! For me, I am returning to university as a second year student. It is interesting to think back to where we were a year ago. Where were you a year ago today?

But first, breakfast!I had a OneBun with the black sesame spread, a nectarine and a baby cucumber. The sweetness of nectarines go with anything. One change to my photos is that I will be trying to take more photos using the DSLR instead of the digital camera. My pink Sony snapshot camera has served me well but it becoming very fragile.

Me? A year ago today I was a freshman struggling to adapt to early classes (8am is very early for me) and the horrors that came with commuting to school. My stress levels were up there, but I was so excited to meet new people who had similar interests. I enjoyed learning from passionate professors, very much appreciated the wonderful learning resources and always looked forward to those eye-opening moments. Socially, I had high expectations to meet many new friends who I could it hit off with–like being best buds.  I met all kinds of people and learned a vast amount from our conversations but I was still looking for something deeper.  Celiac disease/gluten intolerance, kale, how to eat quinoa, spelt flour, and chia seeds were just a few of the things I had heard about for the first time. Stereotypical beliefs were shattered as I learned from classes and my peers. One example is the case of vegetarians. In high school I thought that vegetarians and vegans were loving tree-huggers and people overly passionate about the environment and animals (hence “MEAT IS MURDER!!!”). Sorry if I offended anyone with that, I would be too if I knew what I know now.

I now know that there are deeper motives and values, many of which I have become passionate about myself. I learned to adapt to the city life and had my fair share of the public transportation do’s and don’ts. Approaching the end, I mucked up enough bravery to reach out to as many homeless people on the streets as I could by giving them food.  I always chickened out especially since I am usually walking alone when I see them whether there are other people around me or not. Through the span of that year I learned so much on topics of nutrition, and holistic aspects around health. The greatest thing I appreciated was being able to put that knowledge into my daily life. That was my freshman year in a nutshell.

As time goes by we all change and we all grow. I’m happy with some of the self-improvements that I worked on. I like that I am more comfortable with being open to new opportunities and activities. I worry less about being too busy because I want the most out of each experience. Why miss out when I am able to do it? I ask myself more often, what are you waiting for, Helen?  After Taiwan, I feel more confident with speaking up for myself, meeting new people and initiating leadership. I still get the shy’s when nobody breaks the ice first but I’m workin’ on it! I’m sure there is more to come of the self improvements.

It’s been a little more than 2 weeks since I came back from Taiwan. I am still eating the darn good black sesame paste that we brought back. Mr. Mark is a European style bakery in Taiwan, their products were whole wheat and multi-grain based and it is one of the healthier places to buy baked goods.  They also carried health foods such as raw nuts and trail mixes, fruit spreads, and light snacks. There was one located near my stay which made breakfast something to looked forward to every morning.

Did you know today is National Butterscotch Pudding Day? As enticing as it sounds I will pass.
Soon to come, more chocolate. And a simple, delicious nectarine salad recipe I have enjoyed too often.

Paw-Paw Fact

This morning I needed a fix for my early waking by Meatball. I was trampled in my sleep by a furry four-legged friend until I finally gave in and followed a very happy dog downstairs. Breakfast was a OneBun sandwich filled with peanut butter, jam and half an avocado. Cucumbers on the side as well. After breakfast we went out for a walk and enjoyed some fresh air.  Before lunch I had a green fruit smoothie. Since breakfast I have been flipping through the glorious pages of enticing combinations from a smoothie book I borrowed at the library this week. I didn’t exactly follow a recipe but it was enough to get me started. An interesting fact I learned is that “paw paw” is the word for papaya in Australia, how adorable! Continue reading

Blueberry Heaven

The last day of July has arrived and I’m ready for August! Even though summer is almost over, I am excited to see what will for the next season. This morning started off with a peanut butter jelly sandwich and an addition of some spinach. I also had some yogurt and blueberries. I am slowly working at the abundance of blueberries in the fridge by snacking on them with meals and throughout the day. My family and I went blueberry picking on Sunday and I had way too much fun. Oh the taste of them never gets boring. It’s blueberry heaven! Today is also the last of my summer course hooray! I finished my exam and grabbed lunch at a salad bar to eat on the way home.  It was pouring this afternoon! That was more rain than we’ve seen in months and months. After returning home from the grocery store,  I made myself a simple guacamole with half an avocado and some fresh lemon juice.  My new favourite chips are the Lentil Chips, this time I tried the Cracked Pepper flavour. Honestly speaking, I ate one too many chips before thinking of how nice  they would be when accompanied by a green dip. Now that I am unchained from school, I need to get moving and back the routine I had with Tabata and running. Tonight’s dinner is just a light salad and some left over quinoa salad. The salad had cucumber, blueberries, sliced almonds and feta cheese.  The quinoa salad is an easy throw-together of corn, edamame, tofu and some of the backyard green beans. The ingredients were mainly frozen.

Yellow and Green Quinoa Salad

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • frozen corn
  • frozen edamame
  • chopped green beans
  • 4 nuggets frozen spinach
  • 1/2 cup extra firm tofu, crumbled or cubed
  • fresh lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the quinoa. Before draining the quinoa, add in the frozen corn, edamame, green beans and spinach.
  2. After draining everything, drizzle olive oil, lemon juice and salt+pepper.
  3. The tofu can be crumbled or cubed. I chose not to pan-cook them but you may also do so.
  4. Mix well and serve.

    Some more photos of our blueberry picking adventure:Blueberry pancakes to begin! Look at that cutie digging in. My brother is hard at work searching for the big ones!It was his idea  to squeeze blueberries into his nose. I hope he doesn’t kill me for this!I am headed to the swimming pool in half an hour. Goodnight!

Green Bean Surprise

The morning started off with a sweet-toothed breakfast. I had a bit of cantaloupe, a slice of banana bread with yogurt and a drizzle of honey, and cherries on the side. Oh it was sweet! Can you believe that the month of July is almost over? The thought of summer ending makes me sad. First on the list was the hair salon. My hair was trimmed and my mom had new highlights. Everything turned out well 🙂 and the stylist did it just how I wanted it. Then we grabbed lunch finishing some grocery shopping. Marinated artichokes are my new favourite obsession. I wasn’t too hungry for dinner because I snacked on some homemade larabars after coming home. With left over breadcrumbs, fresh mozzarella, marinara sauce, a tomato and some tofu out came something similar to pesto tomato tofu bake. It was a great side the salmon and steamed corn. After dinner I took a moment to ponder on the thriving garden before heading out for a swim. I was surprised to find so many ripe green beans dangling under the big leaves and the lovely blossoms. They are beautiful and some of them were yellow. And tomorrow I will try to use them up for dinner. Goodnight!

Wrappin’ Up That Week

Happy Monday! The new “Checklist” page was added and it is a list of personal achievements or random interests I hope to tackle.  And the spinach ricotta lasagna will be upcoming in the next post!

I was very proud of myself for beating the alarm clock by a whole hour this morning.  The course midterm exam was set for 9AM, so I wanted to squeeze in extra time to study after breakfast. I was able to take more time in my morning routine and to eat slower too. Breakfast was rye bread with peanut butter, 1/3 of a large avocado and blueberries. And a drizzle of honey  on the avocado for an extra kick of sweetness.Enjoyed every bite of the breakfast sandwich  🙂 I like to put avocado slices on bread when they are abundant and in season. The tartness of the blueberries went well with the creamy texture of the avocado. Continue reading

Green Strawberry Banana Smoothie

This morning started off with a smoothie and a morning walk. I’m glad I got my butt out of the house before the humidity started to set in at noon. It’s gloomy and rainy today again. On days like this I feel like staying in and doing nothing.

 My breakfast smoothie included some kale, banana, strawberries, yogurt and soymilk. I probably ate a cup of strawberries while I was making the smoothie.  Continue reading