Friday, 27 December 2013

Walnut and Oat Energy Balls

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Happy Holidays internet! I hope your holiday season has been as filled with warmth, joy and good food as mine has! Other Half and I are in back in Canada for the holidays and it has been a whirlwind! Add to that the ice storm that gripped Southern Ontario, a quick three days in chilly, wet London to visit my sister, and a brutal cold/flu bug that set me back a couple days and I think we have successfully fit in all the winter we can handle! 

One of the hardest parts about long distance traveling is eating. Making sure you eat enough good stuff to counteract the airplane food can be tricky, sometimes impossible. This time, because I was flying on a never-before-heard-of airline halfway round the world, I wanted to ensure I would be able to eat, let alone worry about the health side of things. And while my concerns ended up being mostly unfounded, I was thankful for these when I was faced with the decision of chocolate bar or chips as sustenance.

Like many things that I churn out of my kitchen, these little morsels of goodness are highly adaptable. The first version I made for the plane was a basic mix of walnuts, oats and honey. More recently I included dates, maple syrup and coconut. I'd also like to try it with pepitas, hemp hearts and almond butter.  The options are endless, and all delectable.

I know it will be hard to travel without these from now on.  Hopefully I wont have to.

Walnut and Oat Energy Balls

1/2 cup oats
1 1/2 cups walnut pieces
3 Tbsp of honey or maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Optional add ins: chopped dates, hemp hearts, pepitas or other seeds, almond butter or peanut butter, chocolate chunks
Optional coatings: coconut, cocoa powder, sugar

  1. In a blender, blend the oats until you have created a course flour, remove from blender and put in a bowl
  2. Next grind the walnuts until finely chopped and add to the oats
  3. Stir in the honey or maple syrup and cinnomon and combine to create a think doughy paste
  4. Form into balls by rolling in the palms of your hands and roll in your coating of choice.  I used a mixture of coconut and cocoa powder - yum!
  5. Enjoy!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Icing

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The beginning of December marks two thing in my calendar. 1. It's the time when I feel it is officially okay to snow, and 2. Other Half is ringing in another year of life. Snow is not a thing in southern China, but birthdays are and what's a birthday without cake? Not much, if you ask me. Which is why every December I roll up my sleeves, head into the kitchen and do my best to outdo myself from the year before.  And judging by the reviews from Other Half and the party goers that helped us celebrate, this one was a win.

I've spoken about this before, but Other Half is a peanut butter and chocolate fiend. The only combination that makes him happier is chocolate chip cookies and milk (there's definitely a theme to his food choices). And so each year I attempt a new twist on what I've done in the past.  One year it was a ice cream brownie cake concoction.  Last year it was this chocolate peanut butter "pie".  This year, it's a chocolate cake (with chocolate chips) and peanut butter icing. Neither element was too sweet and both were mouth watering-ly good on their own, the combo of the two put it over the edge. Yum!

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Icing
cake recipe from: 5 second rule 

For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted about halfway
6 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup milk
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the icing:
1 cup icing sugar (or more to taste)
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup greek yogurt

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Line with parchment.
  2. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. 
  3. Add the butter, sour cream, milk, egg, and mini chips. Stir until well combined and scrape into the prepared cake pan. 
  4. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake is firm to the touch, a skewer withdraws clean, and the cake is just beginning to pull away from the sides. (NOTE: these are the bake time instructions from the original recipe - if you're like me and you're baking in a tiny oven that seems to be overly hot... check it after 10, it's probably done.)
  5. Once out of the oven, allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes and then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. While the cake is baking, whip up the icing by combing all ingredients into a bowl and mixing until well combined.  Taste tests are recommended but caution is necessary - this stuff is addictive!
  7. Once the cake is completely cool, place one layer on a plate and ice with approximately 1/3 of the icing. Carefully place the second layer on top and cover with the remaining icing.
  8. Over with sprinkles, stick in some candles and enjoy!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Link Love-In: Just because

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Photo by: Stephen Wilkes
Hello there, you poor abandoned blog you. It's time again for some link love, not because I don't want to share my travels to Palawan, or my recipe for Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Icing that I just made Other Half for his birthday.  No, this is because I'm slow at writing, and I've been having too many weekend adventures that my writing time has disappeared quickly (and... I admit, I've been spending lots of my free time thinking about a certain wedding next summer)!

However, I can assure you that I am instead leaving you with a great list of required (in my opinion) reading that will fill any blog void I may be causing. Enjoy!

  1. I love me some infographics and this one doesn't disappoint (via. livescience)
  2. What's that? you want to see another infographic? With fun facts about Canada? Okay. (via. wpmedia)
  3. I'm a punctual person.  If you tell me to meet you at 5:00, I will do anything humanly possible to meet you at 5:00.  I'll probably even be 5 minutes early just to make sure I'm not late. The concept of "fashionably late" baffles me, but I will practice it if you say a party starts at 7:00, not expecting anyone to show up until at least 9:00, so that you don't feel put out when I actually show up at 7:00. This article was written for me. (via. Huffington Post)
  4. It's hard not to love the movie Love, Actually. I know people who say they don't, but they're still the ones watching it every Christmas.  If you're curious about what happened to all of your favourite lovey-doves, this will help. (via. The Hairpin)
  5. If I ever choose to have kids, I want to be this kind of parent. (via. the greatest people on earth) 
  6. I'm a big fan of this technique and Stephen Wilkes does it really well. (via. twisted sifter)
  7. Do you have a doppleganger? I do, I've never met her, but I saw a picture of her once.  It was hanging behind the counter of the local Pita Pit. I thought it was a picture of me, except that I've never worked at Pita Pit and this girl was wearing a Pita Pit uniform. It was totally surreal. I can only imagine what it would be like for these people to actually meet. (via. twisted sifter)

Monday, 18 November 2013

Rosemary and Feta Stuffed Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

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Let's talk taters!

Recently, while out for dinner, the conversation turned to the classic crowd favourite "if you could always ensure you could eat just one thing...". While most of our party chose favourite dishes or treats (mine was both salad and ice cream sandwiches - I'm too indecisive to choose just one), one amongst stated simply "potatoes". "No, no," we urged and argued, "you have to pick a dish!" "No, no," he responded "I want potatoes. Potato wedges, fries, mashed, roasted, hash browns, you name it. I always want potatoes!" Though it went against our general rules of the game, I get the logic.  Potatoes are a wonderfully adaptable food, and when we're honest, they are pretty hard to screw up.

This recipe highlights my favourite of the potato varieties, the sweet potato. The subtle sweetness balances perfectly with the earthiness of the rosemary and the saltiness of the feta, and because the consistency of both the potato and the cheese are quite creamy, you don't need to overload these with lots of extra heavy ingredients.

I've made this a couple of times over the last couple of weeks, and while keep the base flavours are the same, I have played around with the little extras.  The recipe below represents my favourite iteration.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Wide Angle: Vol. 10 - Falling Behind

Pin It It's been weeks since my last post, something I vowed myself I would not do.  I won't pepper you with excuses, but I will apologise and say this isn't even the travelogue for our recent trip to Palawan (the nerve!), a post I am working on, but it's taking time.... lots and lots of time.

So, for now, here's another wide angle look at my every day!

1. and 2. There is a city in southern China that has an entire area dedicated to weddings.  Guangzhou Wedding Street was obviously a must see for me this year, and this is what I found.

3. If one city is dedicated to weddings, it makes sense that another will be dedicated to Halloween. Hong Kong's halloween street is always a mad house in the weeks leading up to the big day, but deals abound.

4, 5, and 6. I've been wanting to do a colour run for a while now but I'm always away when they take place in the Toronto region.  Miraculously this year, The Color Run came to both Beijing and Guangzhou and so I was off like a shot to sign up for that one! This was one of the best things I've done in awhile.  The atmosphere and lively and friendly and because it's not a timed race, their isn't an ounce of competitiveness to worry about - a great first run for those who need the confidence (like me).

Until next time!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

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Living in China, there are many things I miss about home.  I'm more than positive I've lamented about missing certain events and foods before.  But there is nothing quite like the arrival of Autumn, and living in the subtropics it's an occasion that I can only mark by a date on the calendar and pictures on Facebook of beautiful foliage, cozy sweaters and friends sipping their beloved pumpkin spice lattes. Correction: my beloved pumpkin spice latte.  You see, there are Starbucks galore in this country, even a nice smattering of my sometimes preferred Costa Coffee, but there are NO pumpkin spice lattes. It's just not a thing here and it's one of the most heartbreaking truths of my reality (ugh, such first world problems!).

Since the thought of another whole pumpkin spice season without the cozy flavoured goodness that it is was just too much to bare, I decided it was time to roll up my sleeves and do something about it. So I made my own!

This came together soooo easily, and so quickly, I wonder if I'll ever buy the famously overpriced version again.  I used some pumpkin I had leftover from a pie I made for our staff Thanksgiving feast (I'm not the only one that misses the seasons!), and it is the perfect recipe when you have an awkwardly small amount of puree leftover.

I also subbed in agave syrup for the sugar because I get jittery enough from the coffee, I don't also need the sugar high at 7:30 in the morning. Plus it's one of the few treasts I can find in this country so I'm determined to use it (ignore the fact that I have to take a 20 minute taxi ride to a Costco-like store to find it).

If you crave the pumpkin spice flavour this time of year, I strongly encourage you to try whipping up a batch of your own. You'll thank me later, so you're welcome now.

NOTE: pumpkin pie spice is not a thing here either, nor are ground cloves and nutmeg to make my own, so this recipe features the simple combination of cinnamon and ginger.  If you want even more of an autumnal spice kick, I recommend adding approximately 1/4 tsp of each.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

4-6 Tbsp pumpkin puree (canned or homemade, whatever works)
1/2 cup agave syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 - 1 tsp ground ginger 
1 cup water

  1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally so as not burn any of the pumpkin
  2. Once you reach a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until you reach a nice syrup-y consistency
  3. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before transferring to an airtight container, store in the fridge and enjoy!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Link Love-In: Vacation reading

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Coron, Palawan, Philippines

Whoa. This post was actually meant to get sent out more than a week ago, but I seem to have gotten carried away prepping for, and then taking, a week long vacation ... sorry! None the less, I'd like to highlight that it's that time of year again! The time where I celebrate the fact that we are graced with a week-long vacation just one month into the school year ... huzzah!

This October holiday Other Half and I jetted off to the Philippines to spend a week in Palawan soaking up sun and (most of all) snorkelling! The sun was only with us for about half the vacation, but the snorkelling was an amazing daily occurance.  I'll be sure to provide a full report on here when I get through all the photos, but while you're waiting for that ... feel free to read these things from around the internet that I found interesting!


  1. How to eat sushi, like a well educated human (via. Huffington Post Canada)
  2. I love craft and DIY. I have dreams of a house in my future that has my DIY hand all over it. Until then, I'll continuing reading Poppytalk and gaining inspiration. Their DIY roundups are always my favourite! (via. Poppytalk)
  3. I updated my life (aka my phone and ipad) to iOS7 recently. It's beautiful. I'm smitten. Lot's of other things updated themselves too... here are some cool apps to pay attention to. 
  4. I don't have a waffle maker (in Toronto OR China), so I can't make these... but if you can, please, please do - and then report every fine detail to me! Drool. (via. Minimalist Baker)
  5. I'm a stationary fanatic, and  long time maker of completely covetable stationary, Rifle Paper Co. is a go to ogling resource of mine. Though I've been really (really) good about not investing in any stationary of any kind for a long time (because if I'm honest, I don't use it, I stare at it) I can't help but be drawn to these amaaaazing calendars. Helpful trip planning? Plain old floral beauty (another soft-spot of mine)? I'd take both.  (via. Rifle Paper Co.)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Hey friends! I'm here today to share a recipe that I made up on the fly recently.  The goal was these chocolate peanut butter bars, but as I set out to make them, I quickly realized I was missing a few key ingredients....and so a cookie was born!

I'm mostly excited about this recipe because I can easily say it's the first baking recipe I've ever developed myself.  Cooking dinner rarely sees me with a cookbook because I find it much easier to adapt those foods, and while I grew up in a household with the mantra "baking is not an exact science" I was still aware that it was a science, and so while I'm comfortable adapting recipes and making some fairly grand substitutions/additions, I've never been fully comfortable just throwing the book out and going at it from scratch. But sometimes necessity dictates our actions, and on this day cookies were a necessity.

This cookie comes together quickly, is highly adaptable and bakes up in no time at all.  The combination of oats, peanut butter and chocolate chips creates a substantial chewy gooey goodness cookie that is slightly more addictive than is healthy, but totally worth every bite. It's all I can do to not sit on the couch and eat them all one by one while simultaneously feeding my new found "The Mindy Project" addiction.  It's good times folks.

Let's get to it!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Wide Angle: Vol. 9 - Back Again

Pin It While I've been getting into the routine of being back at work, and back in China, I also seem to have been getting into the routine of ignoring this wee lil blog.  That's not my goal. My goal is actually to make the very best of this year, use my knowledge of the city/country/school to it's fullest and maximise my fun time... and then share it all with you!

That's the goal. I'm still working on it. So while I work on that, you take a look at the last couple weeks of my life as told by my iPhone.

1. and 2. This time of year Shenzhen is hot (like HOT!!!! hot) and sunny, and everything looks a little more positive. Looking up on my walk home had the instant payoff of this beautiful view, and stepping outside my classroom was also a bit of a reward.

3.  One MAJOR improvement over last year is getting my very own oven - obviously celebratory chocolate chip cookies were in order.

4. Another improvement? A bigger apartment, off campus and 2 bathrooms! whoa!? 2? I've never had that before. And so slightly less obviously, but still awesomely, some robot stickers were in order.  Here we can see our guest bathroom.  I really want people to know what to expect from us... I think this does the trick perfectly

5. and 6. Nights out in Shenzhen (for us) mean sushi. Lots and lots of sushi. Followed by a walk home past rollerblading lessons... this was a particularly good one.

7. and 8. Another goal of mine is to do a lot more exploring of Shenzhen ... you never know what you're going to find. One day it's directions to a juice bar, the next it's jewellery at a craft fair. Win!

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Honey Almond Granola Bars

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It’s the end of summer already!? I’m a week into classes already!? It’s basically September, ALREADY!? I can’t even begin to understand where time went, it’s vanished faster than my ice cream sandwiches!

I was on the go a lot this summer, in fact I barely spent more than three nights in the same place before moving on to the next. In a word it was hectic. It meant a lot of on-the-go food and drinks  which was often delicious but most costly and not the healthiest.  I wish I had these granola bars with me everywhere I went - tasty, filling, and packed full of yummy goodness these hit the spot for so many different occasions.

Travelling and wary of airplane food - check! (I kept a couple of these in my purse on a flight to the UK this summer and they were the perfect breakfast after my overnight flight, and on my train journey several hours later!)

Need a pick-me-up during/after work? - check!

Plain greek yogurt in the fridge? - check! (just crumble it up on top)

Going hiking, need a snack? - check!

Just really like granola bars? - double check!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Wide Angle: Vol. 8 - Off Again

Pin It I'm sitting in the Toronto airport waiting for our flight back to Hong Kong to begin our second year in China. That means that my glorious summer of fun, food, family and friends has officially come to a close and I'm now left with great memories and too tight jeans (totally worth it).

To tide the time until we settle in China and get our internet booked up and oven purchased so that I can start blogging regularly again, here's another wide angle look at my everyday.

1. Canada Day was spent with friends, beer, and bocce.  A look here at my best shot.

2. Just a simple glance at some of the amazing food I've been enjoying.  A falafel burger at The County General in Toronto. Yum!

3. and 4. Flowers, flowers, everywhere! I literally cannot get enough!

5. and 6. I spend A LOT of time out doors this summer in the great nature that Canada offers.  Here are Tobermory and Lake Manitowaba, respectively.

7. A walk with friends in Hamilton's hidden trails

8. An ice cream festival led to some time with furry friends ... win win!

9. and 10. Last, but absolutely not least, I GOT ENGAGED! A picnic in a meadow led to happy tears and many glances at my left hand. We also managed to find a venue mere days before our flight out for the year and I'm am SO EXCITED for the beauty that will be a farm wedding in my hometown. WOOP!

Until next time!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Ice Cream Sandwiches: A Childhood Favourite!

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Let me tell you about me and ice cream sandwiches. I'm a fanatic. Not just a fan, but a legit fanatic. I've eaten so many ice cream sandwiches in my life that if I ever turned into a food, it would be this one. It's the first thing I ate when I got home from China, and I've had more than my fair share over the last several weeks.

I don't know when my love affair with ice cream sandwiches began, I just know I've always loved them.  Sure freezees, popsicles and cornettos are also a dream on a hot day, but nothing satisfies like a good ol' fashioned ice cream sandwich.

Let's reminise for a minute, shall we? Here's a favourite memory of mine (stay with me folks, it's about ice cream sandwiches): When I was in high school I was staying home by myself taking care of the dog while the rest of the family was away. Naturally I had friends over, partly because that's what normal teenagers do (not that I was very normal), but mostly because I lived in an old house that made too many noises of its own accord.  On this occasion I met my friend Kyle for the very first time. He came over with one of my closest friends and we sat around colouring and laughing - a good start.  Our mutual friend was in a jazz band at that time and had to go for a gig, so in the mean time Kyle and I decided that it would a great idea to walk to the grocery store and pick up some nourishments for when our friends returned. Obviously we walked out with a box of 24 ice cream sandwiches - an excellent middle. Over the next 18-24 hours that box of delight was easily polished off, mostly while 4 of us piled on my sisters bed to eat and chat - the best ending!  I don't know 2 of the 3 others that were there anymore (Kyle included), but I hope they all know how great that memory is for me.

Ice cream sandwiches come in all shapes, sizes, and flavours, and while I'm happy to try them all, I'll always, always, be partial to the old fashioned chocolate cookie and vanilla ice cream combo. The cookie that sticks to your fingers and teeth just so, the ice cream that tries to oosh out the sides, and that oh-so-classic flavour combination - well ... it get's me everytime.

When I was still in China, and I was planning all the foods I wanted to eat and/or make while home, these were top of my list.  And boy am I glad they were! While the steps aren't difficult I did find it easiest to spread the process out over a couple of days to ensure everything was as cold as possible.  The assembly can get messy if you let things warm up to much, so if attempting these (and you should) work quickly!

Ice Cream Sandwiches!
adapted (slightly) from, Brown Eyed Baker

Just under 2L of vanilla ice cream - homemade or store bought
½ cup vegetable shortening
1¼ cups dark brown sugar
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ - ¾ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

4 Tbsp of water, divided

  1. Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with foil, allow excess to hang over the edges to ease the removal process later
  2. Soften the ice cream slightly so that it can be spread more easily into the prepared pan. Freeze overnight.
  3. The cookies can be prepared the same day and frozen over night or prepared the next day and frozen for at least 30 minutes before assembly. 
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the shortening and the brown sugar - easiest with an electric mixer - for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, and vanilla. Mix until incorporated. Mix in 1 cup of the flour, followed by 2 tablespoons of water, and then add the remaining 1 cup flour and another 2 tablespoons of water, mixing well until no dry ingredients remain.  This will take a bit of time, but it will come together. 
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough to roughly 1/8-inch to ¼-inch thickness. 
  7. Cut the dough into desired size and shape. I used a template cut from a cereal box and a pizza cutter to help get them the same size. Re-roll and shape the extra bits as you go. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough, ensuring you have an even number of cookies (a top and a bottom of your sandwich!)
  8. Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a skewer, toothpick, fork, etc., poke a pattern of holes on each cookie's surface. Place the sheets of cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking.
  9. Bake for 7 minutes, or until the cookies are just set. 
  10. Allow the cookies to cool slightly before transferring them to cooling racks and cool to room temperature. Freeze cookies for at least 30 minutes before assembling the sandwiches.
  11. When you're ready to assemble, work quickly! Use the edges of the foil to lift the block of firm ice cream from the baking pan and place it on a cutting board. Working quickly, cut the ice cream into the same size as your cookies (again my template helped here). 
  12. Place a piece of ice cream between two chilled cookies and press the cookies together to help them "stick". Wrap individually in parchment paper or plastic wrap and store in the freezer (obviously).
  13. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Summer Detox Salad

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The summer is flying by and I am feeling great! It's been an amazing summer so far but it's scary to think about the fact that I'll be flying back to China in just two and half weeks (already!?).

Because we should all be spending our time making the most of the long days and warm breezes this post is going to be short. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take it seriously. This is a serious salad.  Broccoli and cauliflower join carrot, seeds and cranberries to do a bit of dance with mint and lemon and they are all working hard to fill you up with all kinds of yummy goodness so that you can feel a little less guilty about that last glass (or two!) of pink wine - and really, when it comes down to it, we should never feel guilty about a little pink wine now and then.

This salad is packed with only great for you foods and was a nice, light, accompaniment to this soup. A food processor is highly recommended to make this a snap to make, but if you feel like you need to spend some time in a zen state, allow this salad to lead you there with a good bit of ol' fashioned chopping!

Enjoy as a meal in itself, a side, or even as a topping (great on veggie burgers!) and share that glass or two with a friend.

Summer Detox Salad
adapted from Oh She Glows

2 heads broccoli, stems removed
1 head cauliflower, stems removed
3 small-medium carrots, shredded

1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup dried cranberries, unsweetened 

3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
juice of 1 lemon

kosher salt, pepper to taste (1/4-1/2 tsp salt and lots of pepper)
4 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2-3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  1. Chop the broccoli and cauliflower so that it is quite fine - use the food processor to save yourself a lot of time and effort. Place both into a large bowl.
  2. Stir in the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, raisins, and mint. 
  3. Mix in the lemon juice, vinegar, oil and syrup.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. If the salad isn't "dressed" enough for your tastes gradually add more of the wet ingredients and alter to your desired tastes.
  6. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes (the more time the better!) before serving
  7. Enjoy!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup

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Let's talk about soup.  I'm a big fan. Like, a BIG fan.  It's one of the most versatile foods you can make. It can be as simple or complicated as you want. It can be guilt free or calorie packed. Chunky or smooth. Creamy or broth-y. Simple or exotic. Soup has a lot going for it.

But to me, soup is a winter food. Warm and comforting it always hits the spot when the temperatures dip and old Jack Frost is nipping at my nose. Soup in the summer is generally non-existant in our house hold. I'm not much for gazpacho and generally prefer foods that are cool and crisp. And yet here I am talking about soup, in the height of the summer. Why? Because this soup, while hearty and warm, tastes smooth and light. The balance between the sweet potato and coconut is perfect and exactly what I was hoping for when I served it as a test recipe to Other Half's family at a recent cottage getaway.

Nothing in this soup sat too heavily on the stomach, and served with a crisp salad it made for a great summer meal. I may just have changed my mind on this whole summer/winter soup thing.

The best part about this soup is that it comes together in a snap, I didn't have to turn the oven on once, which means I didn't have to add any extra heat to the already hot cottage - win! With just three base ingredients (plus some spices) this comes together for busy weeknights or, like me, when you'd rather be in the lake than just about anywhere else.

Serve hot and top with avocado and crushed tortilla chips for an extra delicious treat and texture.

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup 
adapted from, Healthy. Happy. Life. 
Serves 4-6

4 sweet potatoes, cooked
2 cups vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk

(spice levels are approximate - adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
pinch of cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Wash sweet potatoes and poke with a fork all over to allow steam to escape - place in microwave and cook on high for 20 minutes or until it is soft all the way through (feel free to cook this in the oven or on the BBQ - whatever you have access to). Allow the sweet potatoes to cool slightly
  2. Heat vegetable broth until hot and add the coconut milk
  3. Peel the sweet potatoes and add to the broth/coconut mixture
  4. Using an immersion/hand blender mix until you reach a smooth velvety consistency
  5. Stir in spices and serve
  6. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Tobermory, Ontario

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Ohhh Canada! It's good to be back. Posting will be sparse this summer as I spend my time picking up where I left off with friends and family. I'm hoping to cook up a storm (not so much so far!) and spend as much time as possible out of doors (lots so far!).  As a celebration of our return home we decided to head straight north and explore some of the beautiful scenery our province has to offer.

I like to go camping and/or cottaging at least once per summer and this year I'm lucky enough to be going three times. My first trip is to a place I've long heard of for it's jaw-dropping scenery and great camping, so off I went with Other Half and two of our very best friends to Tobermory, Ontario. And when we arrived to find water more clear and more blue than I ever thought existed in Canada, I knew we were in for a good time.

Sitting at the very tip of the Bruce Peninsula, which juts out into the middle of Lake Huron - one of our 5 Great Lakes, Tobermory is known for several things, most notoriously as the home of Bruce Peninsula National Park, the start of the infamous (to Ontarians) Bruce Trail - which for interests sake runs 885 km from Tobermory to Niagara, as well as shipwrecks from the late 19th century and a natural phenomenon known as Flowerpots - huge stone pillars formed from changing water levels and crashing waves. I had never been, but longed to go and so decided that was my year - and I'm so glad I did.

Because there is so much on offer to us in this region, and we wanted to make the most of our time there, we decided to make it an extra long weekend and stay for 4 nights - it was the right choice. With this time we were able to hike, swim, and explore to our hearts content during the day and eat some great camp food by night (that's not an oxymoron either, we cooked everything from nachos to orange scented brownies over the fire).

Camping in Ontario is like a competitive sport. It has people mapping out their campgrounds (and specific sites) early in the year and waking up at all hours of the morning to be the first on the reservation system when it opens in early spring.  So because I'm not that organized, when we did manage to get our act together in early April all the sites in the National Park were already booked solid for July - we really like our camping in Ontario! That loss was also our gain as it forced us to seek out a privately owned campground which led us to Harmony Acres.  Placed on the edge of the National Park and 5 minutes from town, we were able to score a sleeping cabin (essentially a wood tent) in a small campground with spotless toilets, friendly owners, and a field of horses for us to admire.

We knew we had lots we wanted to see, but we also knew there were going to be a lot of other people seeing them too, so we decided to save our most "tourist-y" adventures to the end. For our first day we planned to pick up a portion of the Bruce Trail at Emmet Lake and hike to an area known as the Grotto.  Unfortunately for us the Grotto was actually twice the distance we had originally estimated and we missed the trail marker which (fortunately) led us to bouldering along the coast of Georgian Bay. Who knew heaving yourself up the side of boulder, down the other and then doing it again and again (and again and again!) could be so much fun.  We were able to ramble the beach and explore each little nook and cranny. A great day out.

The next day we were determined to see the Grotto so took a more direct route, a gentler hike and marvelled at the geography of the area.  The Grotto is an area within Bruce Peninsula National Park that is a natural cave accessed by swimming (a good distance) from a nearby beach and then through (a not short!) underwater tunnel or by climbing in from above.  We chose to climb down, and though it looks daunting at first it is made surprisingly simple by natural footholds and plenty of craggy rock to hold on to.  Once in the Grotto you can swim into the cave which is eerily lit from below by the aforementioned tunnel and jump from a natural outcropping or just enjoy the view.  Though it took us two days to get there it was well wort the visit as we managed to pass a couple of very pleasant hours hanging out in the glassy waters.

looking out from the grotto

looking into the grotto - from above

Our final full day was the day we saved for our “tourist day” and bought ourselves a place on a glass bottom boat to see a couple of the local shipwrecks, followed by a few solid hours on Flowerpot Island and a meal out in town.  While I personally found the shipwreck portion to be only okay (better explored by scuba or snorkel I think – both available in town), the hours spent on Flowerpot Island were some of the best of the whole trip.  A simple trail took us from the docks, past the flowerpots and over to the lighthouse and a more adventurous trail led us from the lighthouse through exceptionally lush forest back to the dock. The whole loop took us about 2 hours and was well worth the journey.  Most people seem to avoid the loop trail (doubling back the way they came past the flowerpots) but in my opinion the are missing some of the best scenery the whole region has to offer.  The forest is so lush it reminds me strongly of the temperate West coast of Canada that I could have easily have mistook one for the other.  It’s this trail that winds most naturally from end to the other and shows off mossy vines, vast height, and bright wildflowers.  If you’re on the island, don’t skip this trail, it was my favourite of the whole trip. 

They say that being away makes you appreciate home, and while I suspect that's true for every place, right now it's hard to imagine a more diversely beautiful place than my home.

Tobermory, Ontario

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Wide Angle: Vol. 7

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most photos via my instagram

The first week of hometown love has been a busy one! While I adjust to the time and get caught up with all my favourite people in the world, here's another look at my day to day.

1. We moved into a new apartment the day before we left China - this is our view from the 15th floor (much impoved from our non-view of the 6th floor residence building!)

2. Flying out of Hong Kong means a stop at Pizza express for a tasty treat and cold drink.  Here, my first iced tea in many months.

3, 4. Two monumental occasions: my first glass of tap water in 10 months (I'm basically addicted to the stuff now), and my first big salad made of fresh fruit and veg. purchased that morning.  It was the best salad I've ever eaten.

5. Love on a blanket.  Zorra and I have been inseparable this past week.

6, 7, 8.  Right after I got back from China I had to head to the UK for funeral of my grandfather.  A rose from his garden, the train journey from Waterloo to Weymoth, and a stroll along the Weymouth beach - all quintessential for visits past and future.

My grandfather was a immortal legend in my mind, and his loss has not been an easy one.  As a man of 91 (and 3/4's) he lived a long and full life.  He was always patient, and funny, and kind. I aspire to be half as good in the garden as he was and live as smartly and as wholly as he did.  I miss him everyday.



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