Sunday, March 22, 2015

Chocolate Buckwheat Granola

There is a story from my childhood my parents love to retell over and over again. I don't mind hearing it, I always end up laughing at my childish behaviours anyway. So I used to take gymnastic classes when I was around 4-5 years old. Back then, we didn't have a car yet and it was our first winter in Canada as new immigrants from Hong Kong. You can imagine how much of an adjustment it is to go from a humid city to a place that gets walloped with snow and polar vortex and whatever the cruel Canadian winters can throw on you.

Based on my parents' account, they carried me from home to the community centre in the cold, hiking through thick snow as more of the white stuff continued to fall. They remember it was like -15 degrees, despite being bundled up in layers of clothing, it was cold enough to feel your bones hurt. When we finally made it to the gym, I refused to take my class. I didn't have a legitmate excuse, I was just being a stubborn brat and threw a tandrum, bawling when they tried to take off my puffy coat and coaxing me to go play. I relented and continued to cry. They were pissed. They didn't walk all this way in the brutal cold for nothing.

I find this story hilarious, I really was that stubborn (and still am sometimes). This year has been a harsh winter and I've been thinking about this story a lot. I was in Costa Rica for 9 days. It took me almost just as long to get over my stomach flu when I got back. But rejoice! I have my appetite again and have been eating my favourite foods again, including this granola. I eat it almost everyday with plain yogurt. It's crunchy, nutty and the addition of chocolate makes it even better.

It's full of rolled oats, buckwheat, sunflower and chia seeds, shredded coconut, and chocolate and peanut butter. I do prefer another granola I've made before, likening the sweetness. Still, this granola makes for a quick breakfast or snack and also gifts if you're the giving away type of person.

Recipe here!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Costa Rica


To say Costa Rica was the best trip of my life is a superlative, and it comes close. In many ways, it was a very enriching and fulfilling experience. What made it so fun and memorable were  the activities, the people I met, sharing these moments with my best friend, and finally, what I learned. I did a lot of things that I wasn’t planning to do, like whitewater rafting (I nearly drowned), bungee jumping (just testing my luck ykno), and though surfing was on my bucket list, I didn’t expect to ride the waves and manage to make a few turns. It was spectacular.

I’m lucky enough to have been able to travel at least once a year, but this trip was unlike my other trips because of the endless discoveries. Since I’ve been back home, I keep daydreaming of visiting Central America again, meeting fellow travelers who have an equal thirst of adventure. I yearn to share a few beers with the locals and broaden my Spanglish to more than just No hablo espanol! Pura vida! Gracias! I want to hike mountains, swim in waterfalls, eat the freshest tomatoes I’ve had in years. This trip made me realize how much I love adventure, it stretched my comfort level and I can’t wait to push more personal boundaries.

My best friend, Hayley and I make excellent travelling buddies. We’ve been to Cali last year and knew we would get along on this trip. Visiting Costa Rica with her definitely made the trip ten times better. We went to La Fortuna, Monteverde and then Santa Teresa for 9 days and wish we could have stayed longer.

We keep talking about returning to Santa Teresa. The beautiful sandy beach, the warm salty water, not to mention the ubiquitous tanned and hot men practically begs for another trip south. The beach has such a chill vibe, it was hard to leave. It doesn’t hurt that we also had some of the best meals ever there. I didn’t carry my camera with me when we went out to eat, but Burger Rancho, Habernero, Pizza Tomate, just to name a few, were a few of the most delicious restaurants we went to.

I'd go back in a heartbeat. What a beautiful country. For more pictures, click here.
Recipe here!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Apple Pound Cake

I must have a thing for pound cakes. I've made this this and this and they always come out divine. I could live off the scent of butter and sugar working it's magic in the oven, the comingling of different ingredients. I made this weeks ago but never got around to posting it, so here it is. Happy holidays and happy new year friends!

Recipe here!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Beer, Mustard, and Cheddar Bread

This is probably not the best way to begin a post, but I was recently hit hard with Norovirus, a nasty stomach bug that put me out for a few days. I spent a lot of time in the bathroom and my smartest move on the whole weekend leaving the garbage can at my bedside. I even took a day off work, something I haven't done in two years. In my sleepy, feverish state, I tried to recall what I could have possibly eaten that could have caused such a violent reaction, only when I shared horror stories with my coworker did I realize I must have picked up the virus from work.

As I recovered in bed, lamenting over my sore back, I even thought of summoning up the energy to bake something sweet. That was wishful thinking. Maybe later this week when I'm feeling 110% better. Instead, I have this beautiful bread to share. It's got a load of heat that will linger in your mouth, so be sure to have some water nearby (I love spicy food, so this bread is right up my alley). It's messy to make and the beer isn't pronounced, but it's totally worth the fluffy, cheesy goodness. Now that my appetite has returned, I could go for another slice of this toasted with a slather of butter.

Recipe here!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rosemary Shortbread Bars with Dark Chocolate

I made these for my birthday and they turned out to be I suppose, a happy accident. I wanted to make two batches of brownies of the same recipe, one batch that used natural cocoa powder while the other used Dutch-processed cocoa powder. I’ve always used the latter but after reading Alice Medrich rhapsodize about natural cocoa powder I wanted to try it. Unfortunately, my mind was so focused on turning 27 and my quarter-life crisis (does that exist?) that I forgot to add eggs into the first batch of brownies. By the time I realized my mistake, the pan was already in the oven. FML. 

Anyway, here is the two layer shortbread and chocolate bar. The bottom is a crumbly rosemary shortbread, it hits all the right buttery notes and the herb isn’t overwhelming and resonates throughout the cookie. The chocolate layer on top turned out like a thick chocolate wafer. It’s barely sweet and compliments the shortbread nicely; the chocolate flavour was strong too, just enough to satisfy my chocolate craving. The chocolate layer tends to separate from the shortbread after I've cut and divided the pan, but its still delicious and everyone I gave these away to as gifts raved about them.

I still have about a cup of natural cocoa powder left over, I’m saving it to use in another chocolate worthy dessert. Any suggestions? Also, this reminds me of this Rosemary and Chocolate Olive Oil Cake and the delicious combination of chocolate and herbs.

Recipe here!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Baked Eggs in Stewed Tomatoes with Caramelized Leeks

I feel like a kid in a Disney store when I visit a gourmet food store. I browse up and down each aisle, touching everything that intrigues me, smelling the fresh fruits and vegetables, ogling over coconut ice cream donned in pretty packaging, imaging how it would feel running my dessert spoon over the smooth, white cream. I don't necessary buy much, but in the odd time that I do, I go home with a box of fancy tea or a chocolate bar that I haven't tried yet. 

A few weeks ago, I got a chance to check out Chef Mark McEwan's grocery store, McEwan at Shops on Don Mills. It was fantastic and I spent more than an hour there, I even texted my friend and food-lover, Lisa, in all-caps, "OMGTHIS PLACEISAMAZING!" I kept thinking of scenes from Top Chef Canada, when contestants would scramble around the store looking for ingredients, and I must admit, it was pretty cool to stand in the same spot as those talented chefs. There was a dizzying array of glistening meats, fish and fresh produce along the perimeter of the store, a selection of fine cheeses and charcuterie and ready-made sandwiches and hot meals to purchase for a quick meal. The towering display of chocolate and fruity tarts keep beckoning my name too. 

Along the back wall of the store was a variety of McEwan's Own food products made in-store including pizza sauce, pizzas, pies, and soups. I went home with jars of stewed tomatoes seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and bay leaves. My assignment was to feature McEwan's Own food products in a seasonal dish. I decided on these baked eggs, having made something similar years ago and really enjoying them (save for the part when I burnt my tongue). 

This dish is easy peasy and can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. You start by slowly cooking the leeks in butter, allowing it to soften until it smells like onion heaven. Butter your ramekins, pour in dollops of the stewed tomatoes, leaving some room to add more ingredients, throw in the leeks, crack an egg into the tomatoes. It takes about 15 minutes to bake the eggs and meanwhile, you can make the garlic Parmesan toasts, which is basically rubbing some raw garlic on thick, crusty bread, sprinkling fresh Parmesan cheese over it and then broiling it until the cheese melts and begins to bubble.

I love having bread that serves as both food and a vehicle to pick up thick chunky sauces or soups. The bread is buttery and salty, contrasting nicely with the sweet tomatoes. It's warm and comforting too, which is exactly what I need now that winter is just around the corner.

McEwan is located at 38 Karl Fraser Road Toronto, M3C 0H7. T: 416-444-6262.
Thanks to The McEwan Group for the fun grocery experience! 

Recipe here!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Coconut Cake with Chocolate Cloud Frosting

What happens if you're not ready to turn 27? When you feel like your life isn't where you imagined it to be in your youth? I didn't have concrete 5 or 10 year goals, but in my head, I had hoped to make decent progress in life. But then again, what defines someone as successful? It's subjective. One person's success might not mean the same thing to someone else. But I can't help but compare myself to my peers. Some friends I've grown up with are now married, popping out babies, or devoted mothers, and/or own a home. I don't have any of those things. I don't even have a dog (something I hope to change next year--hey look, an attainable goal!). I know that those things don't define you and everyone's timeline is different, but how does that reflect about you?

I feel like I haven't traveled enough, I want to eat and drink my way through Italy, stuff my face with platters of fresh pasta made by nonnas with wrinkled hands and sip homemade limonello followed by pistachio gelato. I want to visit New Orleans and blues dance with a hot stranger on the street with a saxophonist crooning in the background. I haven't read enough books! I want to lie on the beach in Santorini and read food memoirs. 

I want to own my own house and paint the bathroom a brilliant shade of pale turquoise to remind me of the Caribbean ocean, hang up a ton of photos I've taken of my friends and family to show off to my friends and family. I want a bright and open kitchen with grayish white marble countertops and host dinner parties like I used to during my Montreal days. I want to have a golden retriever and call him Brinkley (named after Tom Hank's dog in You've Got Mail) and throw frisbees for him to catch and bring back to me. That's only a tiny glimpse of the many things I want to do. I feel like I'm running out of time. Is it just me? Is this what a quarter-life crisis feels like?

Anyway, I made this layer cake for one of my best friend's birthday. I made the cake layers and froze it for a week since I knew there wouldn't be time to make it before her party. I whipped up the frosting which was definitely THE most decadent, buttery, and creamy frosting I've ever made. Other frostings I've made lean towards the sugary side or have sandier texture and who don't the words "Cloud Frosting" just beckon your name? The frosting has a high butter to sugar ratio which makes it uber smooth. I'd prefer a stronger chocolate flavour, but that didn't stop the compliments from flowing at the party. 

The cake is absolutely amaZING. It's moist and the flavour marries well with the frosting, there's just enough shredded coconut to give it some nibbly texture too. I put plenty of kosher salt in the frosting too because I can't resist that sweet and salty combination. There were no leftovers which made us sad, but I suppose it goes to show just how delicious it was. 

Recipe here!