Comfort Food

I don’t know if it’s just me, but October seems like the month of comfort food. 

I thinks it’s probably because of the change in temperature. The chilliness makes want to have warm minestrone soup along with garlic bread and pasta– one of my favourite meals growing up.

So, because there was no school day (it’s Thanksgiving holiday), I decided to prepare one of my all time favourite pasta dishes… MAC N CHEESE. 

The amount of buttery and cheesy goodness in this dish just warms up my stomach and places a huge smile on my face.

Unfortunately, I recently found out that my body doesn’t respond well to dairy, which would explain the breakouts I get after eating froyo, desserts, and pizza. So, I’ve decided to try and find a way to prepare my mac n cheese sans cheese. How you may ask? 

With DAIYA CHEESE! I first learned about this alternative cheese product that’s vegan, gluten and soy free from a cooking class I took with Marni Wasserman. What I like most about Daiya is that it melts like cheese! Unlike other non-dairy cheese alternatives, Daiya’s rich and creamy flavour of cheese certainly delivers the bold flavour and the gooeyness flavor of cheese without compromise!

The recipe I used was adapted from Veg Web– but I’m warning you now that it’s not the healthiest meal. After all, the title of this post is “Comfort Food.” However if you are looking for healthier alternatives to dairy-free mac and cheese, I’d suggest you try a few of these websites below

http://veganyumminess.com/cauliflower-macaroni-and-cheese/

http://ohsheglows.com/2011/10/03/butternut-squash-mac-n-cheeze/

http://thekindlife.com/blog/2013/01/vegan-soy-free-sweet-potato-mac-n-cheese-recipe/

Now, the recipe I used to prepare my sinfully delicious mac n cheese: adapted from VegWeb

Ingredients

- 4 tbsp of earth balance 

- 1/4 cup of spelt flour

- 1/3/4 cups vegan milk at room temperature (add more depending on the thickness you want for your sauce)

- 3/4 cup Daiya mozzarella shreds

-1/2 tsp pepper

- 1 tsp onion powder

- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard

- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast

- 3 cooked cups of brown rice spiral pasta from Tinkyada

- 2 cups of baby kale

Topping

- 1/4 cup Daiya mozzarella shreds

- 1/4 – 1/2 cup of spelt bread crumbs

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 Degrees Fahrenheit 

- Heat a deep skillet over medium heat and add the butter in. Once the butter melts, add the flour in and combine until you get a brownish colour or becomes a roux

- Slowly add the milk and continue to whisk the ingredients and bring the mixture to a bubble (you can decide here if you want to add an extra 1/4 cup of milk)

- Stir in the Daiya cheese and add in the pepper, onion powder, dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, and baby kale (feel free to add in some salt or extra spices if you want at this step)

- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and coat completely 

- Transfer your pasta into a baking dish and top with extra Daiya cheese and spelt bread crumbs.

- Place the dish into the oven for 20-23 minutes, or until the crumb turn light brown and the cheese on top melts.

** Sorry for such bad quality photos! Turns out that I forgot to charge my camera! You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that this dish was uber-tasty and creamy. Even my parents, who are not huge fans of sauce-based pasta dishes, loved it!

Lastly, my question to you is: What’s your favourite comfort food recipe to make?

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AMAZING PANCAKES

Yes, that’s right– today’s post will be about PANCAKES!

This past weekend was extremely busy and stressful as I had many assignments and tests to prepare for.

So, having completed one of my assessments today, I wanted to treat myself with pancakes. That is, Banana Bread Oat Pancakes!

It’s been a long time since i’ve indulged in this delicious recipe, so I am eager to share it with you!

Despite the fact that the recipe is gluten free and vegan, by no means does it lack in flavour.

Banana Bread Oat Pancakes: adapted from http://almondsandavocados.com/banana-bread-oat-pancakes-gluten-free-vegan/

Ingredients

- 1 cup oat flour–use gf oats if you are celiac (you can easily prepare this by grinding oats into a food processor of a high speed blender until it becomes a flour)

- 1 tsp baking powder

-1/2 tsp cinnamon

- 2 small bananas

- 1/4 + 1 tbsp almond milk (or any other dairy free alternative)

- 2 tsp ground flaxeed

- 2 tsp maple syrup (you can omit, I did because my bananas were extremely ripe and bursting with sugary flavour)

- 1/2 tbsp coconut oil (or grapeseed or EVOO)

- 2 tsp vanilla extract (I LOVE THIS STUFF)

Instructions

1. In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, and mix until incorporated

2. In another bowl, mash the bananas with a fork and add in your milk, flaxseed, maples syrup, oil, and vanilla and mix the batter. Alternatively, you can use a blender or food processor for this step

3. Add your wet ingredients into the dry and mix until incorporated

4. Head some oil in a pan, and once it is hot enough, pour the batter into the pan. When you see bubbles form on the surface of the batter and the edges of your pancake turns brown, flip and cook until the bottom has browned.

5. Serve with maple syrup/ agave/ Nutella and top with toppings of your choice! As well, feel free to whip up a smoothie to go along with your banana pancakes. I did a mix between blueberries, strawberries, frozen banana, watermelon, and chia

ENJOY!

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Macaron Madness

Sorry that it’s been a while since I’ve posted!

But, do not worry, this post will sure make up for the time I’ve been absent!

Recently, I had a few friends over to make the infamous MACARON.

Previously, I tried making macarons, but they weren’t too successful because there were no feet (the ruffle on the edges of the macaron). As well, the macaron shell were deflated due to an extremely runny batter– it was oozing out of the piping bag!

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Attempted Matcha Macaron

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The second time I made the macarons, I was a bit more successful. Small feet appeared on some, but many did not rise enough.

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Nevertheless, the third time’s the charm right?! This time, ALL the macarons had feet, and rose pretty well with minimal cracks. I was extremely happy with the result because I sure put tons of time and effort into making these french delicacies. I guess this goes to show that practice makes perfect.

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Chocolate Macaron with Nutella Filling

The recipe I used is here and involves using the Italian Meringue method, which essentially boils the sugar in the water until the soft ball stage (around 235 F) The product was extremely chocolaty, but hey, I’m not complaining! However, I do want to give a few pointers to those of you making macarons for your first time!

1) Look for youtube tutorials on how to make. Here is one that I recommend.

2) Gather all your ingredients first, before you start whipping your egg whites or else the fluffiness of the whites will begin to deflate– a bit no no for macarons

3) SIFT YOUR INGREDIENTS! I cannot stress how important this is because you don’t want to end up with chunky bits

4) Let your egg whites age the night before (or even 2 nights before) to reduce the moisture content, allowing the macaron to have a more elastic texture.

5) Follow the directions. This may sound trite, but with macarons, it’s extremely important because every little step will count! Be sure not to over mix or under mix the meringue or else, the macarons will not turn out properly– that is why I suggest looking up youtube tutorials

6) Gently fold your dry ingredients into the whites. Be sure to not to over mix or else you will end up with a runny batter like the one I had with my matcha macarons. The batter should be thick and drip slowly from the spatula.

7) HAVE FUN! Don’t worry if you don’t get it on your first try. Cooking and baking is all about experimenting :)

Butter Avenue

Since my trip to Paris in 2011, I’ve fallen in love with macarons. I cant believe I didn’t try them earlier!

In Paris the famous Maison Ladurée was where I had my first macaron. The light and airy crunchy shell along with the sweet and smooth buttercream was just heaven in my mouth.

Now that I’m in Toronto, one of my missions is to find the perfect macaron– and I think I’ve done it!
Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you, Butter Avenue.

Even though they just opened last year, Butter Avenue isn’t far behind some of the other macaron stores in Toronto!

The beautiful and chic white decor makes the store a great place to sit down with some friends and enjoy a nice cup of cappuccino and some sweet delicacies!

Today, I got three flavours: Vie en Rose, Lime & Honey, and Blueberry Cheesecake.

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The Vie en Rose was great! Although I wish there was a greater rose taste to the macaron, I was extremely pleased with the texture of the macaroon. Crunchy exterior shell, but extremely light on the inside. As well, I’ve had some macaroons in other stores and they were just too sweet! However, i don’t have to worry about that problem with the macarons at Butter Avenue!

After , I tried the lime and honey. I could taste the tartness of the lime and the sweetness of the honey. Another great flavour.

However, my favourite flavour would have to be the blueberry cheesecake. I was very surprised that I even liked it because I’m not a fan of cheesecake. However sandwiched between the sweet macaroon shell was a creamy “cheesecake” buttercream. If that isn’t enough cheesecake goodness for you, there was also a blueberry gelee in the middle of the macaron!

The Blueberry Cheesecake macaron with a "cheesecake" buttercream and blueberry gelee

The Blueberry Cheesecake macaron with a “cheesecake” buttercream and blueberry gelee

For those who enjoy their desserts, I would definitely make a stop on Yonge St. and stop by for some Parisian macarons! You won’t be disappointed!

Why Can’t There be Waffles Every Morning?

In light of the past new rainy and dark days, this morning was actually quite nice! So, in celebration of the sun coming out, I decided to make gluten free and vegan banana walnut waffles– YUM!

These waffles were delicious! Every bite into them had crunch from the walnuts as well as sweet flavour from the bananas. The best part about these waffles was that there was NO sugar added whatsoever.

Gluten Free Vegan Banana Walnut Waffles or Pancakes (whatever you prefer!)

Adapted from My New Roots

- 1/3 cup walnuts

- 2/3 cup rolled oats (I used Bob’s Red Mills Gluten Free Oats)

- 1 tsp cinnamon

- One and a half ripe banana

- 1 tsp. vanilla extract

- 1 tsp. coconut oil (EVOO, Grapeseed, or any other oil is fine)

- 2/3 cup almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk– if you want to make the recipe dairy-free)

- 2 tsp. maple syrup

- Feel free to add any chocolate chips (Be sure to check that they are dairy free if you want to make dairy free waffles/pancakes)

The Ingredients (Although a half of a banana is missing!)

The Ingredients (Although a half of a banana is missing!)

 

Directions:

Place the walnuts in a high powered blender, such as a Vitamix or Blendtec (or even a food processor) and pulse the walnuts until they resemble a flour-like texture. Remove the walnut flour from the blender, and add in the oats and pulse them until they become a flour. Add both flours together as well as 1 tsp of cinnamon.

In another bowl, mash the banana, and add in the liquid ingredients and mix them.

Banana and Vanilla Extract

Banana and Vanilla Extract

Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix until well combined.

Mixed batter

Mixed batter

 

Heat a little oil onto a skillet or waffle iron, and add in the waffle/pancake batter. If making pancakes, check to see if the bottom has browned, once it has, then it can be flipped. If making waffles, sit back and relax until the waffle iron is done cooking. I let my waffles sit in the iron for a bit longer because I was afraid of the batter sticking to the iron. So, if you are planning on using a waffle iron, leave it longer, for the waffle to fully cook.

ALMOST perfect waffle

ALMOST perfect waffle

Once the cooking is completed, feel free to add some toppings to it!

ENJOY!

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Moksha

One of my new years resolutions was to take up some sort of new exercise.

I’m not the most active teenage person, but I want to change that. So, I decided to take up hot yoga: Moksha to be exact.

Yesterday was my first class and boy was it rewarding. The day before yesterday, I was busy googling people’s experiences with hot yoga/moksha and I was horrified. I read about many people feeling nauseous, dizzy, and even sick. Upon reading those posts, I was scared for my experience. However, there was nothing to be scared or worried about!

The staff at Moksha were extremely friendly. They offered me some great tips such as placing my mat near the back of the classroom, where it was less hot, as well as letting me know that it was okay if I wanted to take a break in the middle of the class and go into child’s pose.

When I first walked into the classroom, I was blown with a hot breeze of air. I quietly found a place near the back of the room and rolled out my mat and placed my towel over top. I left my water bottle and small face town near my mat as I laid down on my back into Savasana.

Savasana was a great way to start off the class because it allowed to body to adjust to the temperature. My mind stopped racing about all the things I had to do later on in the week as I tried to focus on my breathing. After laying in Savasana, the instructor came into the room and spoke to the class in a soft tone. We rested in Savasana for a little bit, as we got to concentrate on our breathing a bit more and then we stood up and moved into the standing series. Although some of the poses were a bit hard for me, I liked how the instructor offered modified positions for the students in the class who couldn’t. My favourite of the standing series was Eagle pose. After a short while, I could feel the sweat dripping down of my face, as well as places I didn’t even know could sweat!

After the standing series, came the floor series. I wished there were a bit more poses that targeted the abdominal muscles, but I was pleased with the body-toning poses.

The class ended with Savasana. Although it was quite warm in the room, not once did I feel nauseous, dizzy, or sick. I’m very glad that I stuck through the whole class and can’t wait to go back to another class. I also hope that I can try pilates since I would really like to strengthen my body.

Have any of you tried pilates or hot yoga?

A Hot Summer’s Day…

At 6:00am yesterday morning, I was already up and eating breakfast. Why? you may ask. Well, I was getting ready to head over to Brickworks Farmers Market to volunteer!

My day at Brickworks started from 7:00am and ended at 2:00pm– and boy was it a LONG and HOT day. However, I had tons of fun at Evergreen as I got to learn a  bit more about the area, as well as help out some of the staff in leading activities.

After the day ended, I was almost ready to hot into a tub filled with ice. However, I had a better idea… GELATO. Just up the road on Bayview Avenue was Hollywood Gelato, one of Toronto’s many Gelato shops. I had never been to Hollywood Gelato, so I was extremely excited to try out some of their flavours. I ended up getting a small cup with pistachio and pear, while my mom got pistachio and hazelnut. Ever since going to Paris and trying the gelato at Amorino, my mom and I have been extremely judgemental about other gelato shops because Amorino is THE BEST place for creamy, rich, and flavourful gelato.

My mom wasn’t too crazy about the flavours she ordered as she didn’t think the flavours were truly pronounced. On the other hand, I thought that the pear flavour was something quite unique. The pistachio flavour however, was nothing too special. I was expecting a nuttier flavour, since the pistachio flavour from Amorino had little chucks of pistachio in every bite, but instead got a sweeter taste. This isn’t to say that  Hollywood Gelato is not a good shop, but I prefer gelato to be rich in flavour rather than sugary sweet.

To the right is the cup my mom ordered (Pistachio and Hazelnut), while to the left, is the cup I ordered (Pear and Pistachio)

To the right is the cup my mom ordered (Pistachio and Hazelnut), while to the left, is the cup I ordered (Pear and Pistachio)

Since I had spent the majority of my day in the blazing heat, I decided I should go to another gelato shop– I mean, who can say no to having gelato twice a day. My mom and I headed over to Il Gelatiere. I actually think that Il Gelatiere is one of the best gelato shops I’ve been to in Toronto. Although it is a bit pricer that Hollywood, their flavours are richer and less sweet. I ordered pistachio and hazelnut (you can probably tell that I LOVE pistachio), and I loved its creamy texture. I found the the pistachio taste was much more evident than Hollywood Gelato’s. My only complain would be the portions. I hoped for a greater serving size for the price I paid because the bottom of my cup was hallow. The server who served me placed the gelato on the side of the cup rather than placing it at the bottom, which lead to a gelato-less bottom.

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Pistachio and Hazelnut

Overall, having a total of four scoops of gelato was a fantastic end to my day :) I’m glad that there are so many more hot summery days left for me to enjoy some gelato!

What are some of your favourite gelato flavours? What was the strangest flavour you saw at a gelato or ice cream shop?

Tako Sushi

For lunch today, I went to Tako Sushi, one of the best places to get a cheap and delicious meal.

Tako Sushi has many different options for lunch (and dinner) that range from a bento box, to tempura, or even a sushi tray! I ordered one of the sushi combos that allowed you to choose from two different hand rolls. I wasn’t feeling too adventurous today, and stuck with only the avocado and cucumber roll. However, my mom ordered the curry with shrimp that came with 3 cucumber and 3 california pieces. Both of our meals came with a bowl of miso soup, a small garden salad with the house japanese dressing, and ice cream for dessert.

The miso soup was nice and warm, and the japanese dressing was very nice.

Miso Soup with the House Salad and Japanese Dressing

Miso Soup with the House Salad and Japanese Dressing

I am a HUGE fan of sushi, and I thought that the avocado and cucumber roll was dynamite! The vinegar in the rice was not over powering, and the creamy texture of the avocado with the crunchiness of the cucumber was just what I needed.

All 12 pieces down my belly!

All 12 pieces down my belly!

My mom said that her curry dish was good, but a bit salty. However, she seemed to enjoy the crispiness of the shrimp.

There were four pieces of battered shrimp, but my mom ate one before I could grab a picture!

There were four pieces of battered shrimp, but my mom ate one before I could grab a picture!

After, we got to choose from three different ice cream flavours: mango, green tea, and red bean. I ordered the green tea and my mom ordered the red bean. I personally loved the creaminess of the green tea, and the sweetness was just right. My mom doesn’t have too much a sweet tooth, and thought that the ice cream was a bit too sweet. I could resist and had to try a bit. I thought it tasted fine, but compared with the green tea, I preferred the green tea flavour.

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Overall, Tako Sushi offers a great variety of Japanese cuisine at a great price!

Gourmet Vegetarian Restaurant

Now that school is over, I have oodles of time to do what I love– EAT and COOK!

To start my morning, I made a large Greens smoothie that contained blueberries, raspberries, kale, chia seeds, and bioflavia.

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There wasn’t enough room in the blender for all of those berries and kale, so unfortunately, the raspberries were the ones that had to get squished!

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Later on in the day, I was around the Highway 7 area, and decided to stop by at one of my favourite vegetarian restaurants in Toronto, Gourmet Vegetarian Restaurant. They serve some of the BEST vegetarian food in Toronto in my opinion. What I like about Gourmet Vegetarian is that compared to other Asian vegetarian or non-vegetarian restaurants, they do not use too much oil or salt, and can make the dishes without adding MSG, which is a major chemical additive in many of our foods today.

Some of the dishes ordered were the veggie steak with black pepper sauce on hot plate, veggie curried fish, cha shiu bao (which is a traditional chinese dim sum order that contains barbecued pork in buns), and veggie meatballs.

The veggie steak with black pepper sauce is one of the best dishes made at Gourmet Vegetarian– I order it EVERY time I go there. The black pepper sauce is extremely rich in peppery flavour. The veggie steak, which resembles thin slices of beef , is perfectly seasoned and tastes amazing with the sauce. Not everyone has tried mock meat/ seitan before, and if you are wondering, it is fairly chewy and tastes very good with seasoning and flavouring.

Veggie Steak with Black Pepper Sauce on Hot Plate

Veggie Steak with Black Pepper Sauce on Hot Plate

The veggie curried fish was a new dish that my mom and I ordered and it was up to par with the other foods we’ve tried. The curry sauce was not too spicy, which was perfect for my mom since she doesn’t do overly spicy foods, and having the veggie fish in the sauce was a great addition of flavour. The veggie fish itself is lightly covered in a tempura-like batter, and the taste of the “fish” adds some saltiness to the curry. One of my favourite parts of this dish, is that it wasn’t greasy. Usually, when my mom and I go for curry, the sauce is just so rich with the butter and oil, that we are left feeling sick. However, this curried dish was just right.

Veggie Curried Fish

Veggie Curried Fish

The dim sum that we ordered were also just as appetizing. The veggie meat balls had tons of juicy flavour to it, and the cha shiu bao had a great fluffy bao, and a sweet mixture of the barbecued “pork” inside of it.

Cha Shiu Bao on the bottom and Veggie Meatballs on the top

Cha Shiu Bao on the bottom and Veggie Meatballs on the top

After sampling a bit of everything, My mom and I left the restaurant feeling stuffed. There was no way we could have finished all of the food, so we took some of it to go– leftovers for tomorrow :) I urge any one, vegetarian or non vegetarian, to head over to Gourmet Vegetarian to try some of their DELICIOUS asian dishes.

Some of their other noted dishes include deep fried veggie fish, taro & veggie chicken with coconut milk, and chinese style veggie steak with BBQ sauce.

Deep fried Veggie Fish

Deep Fried Veggie Fish

Taro & Veggie Chicken with Coconut Milk

Taro & Veggie Chicken with Coconut Milk

Chinese Style Veggie Steak with BBQ Sauce

Chinese Style Veggie Steak with BBQ Sauce

Dinner tonight was inspired by the taro & veggie chicken with coconut milk

Taro

Taro

Coconut Milk

Coconut Milk

Mock Chicken

Mock Chicken

... and voila! Taro and Chick'n Coconut Milk Pot

… and voila! Taro and Chick’n Coconut Milk Pot!

I am so glad how the hot pot turned out– and the best part is that it wasn’t hard to make at all! The taro was extremely soft and the coconut milk tied the whole dish together. Overall, it was a fantastic meal, and I will definitely be making this again!

Have a lovely evening!

*Also, if you have a TVA card, you get 10% off your meal at Gourmet Vegetarian!

Canada Day

Happy Canada Day!

Today was an extremely relaxing day. It started off with a Greens smoothie, followed by Wimbledon, and then cooking! I have to say that the highlight of my day was the game between Lisicki and Williams. Although I was disappointed with Serena Williams’ loss, Sabine Lisicki played extremely well . Now I can’t wait for the quarterfinals as I am sure it will be an intense match between all of the players. Half way into the game, I went upstairs to grab a snack, which turned out to be mangosteen, “Queen of the Fruits.” For those of you who haven’t heard of this delicious and tropical fruit rich in antioxidants, let me tell you, it is delicious! It is extremely succulent and sweet– almost like a lychee. I may have not taken the best photos, as they do not look very appetizing, but I’ve come to terms that not all tasty food has to look good!

Exterior of the mangosteen

Exterior of the mangosteen

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The black spots that you see are actually the seeds of the mangosteen

The black spots that you see are actually the seeds of the mangosteen

Later on in the day, it was time to prepare (or reheat) my lunch! On Saturday, June 29th, my mom and I went over to Brickworks Farmers Market and bought a tray of Chef Doug McNish‘s Vegan and Gluten Free Cheesy Squash Baked Mac N Cheese with Smoked Tofu and Kale. It is one of my most favourite dishes. The creamy “cheese” sauce made with butternut squash is very flavourful and not overly salty, like many other vegan mac n’ cheese dishes. In order to bring more texture to the dish, there is a  gluten free breadcrumb crust, which is my favourite part because it adds some crunch to the mac n’ cheese. The bits of kale and tofu are also a great addition of some veggies and protein, and work extremely well in the pasta dish.

"Cheesy" Goodness

“Cheesy” Goodness

The butternut squash gives the mac n' cheese such a vibrant and natural colour-- none  of that artificial orange colour that is found in most cheddar cheese

The butternut squash gives the mac n’ cheese such a vibrant and natural colour– none of that artificial orange colour that is found in most cheddar cheese

For dinner, I prepared some tasty roasted potatoes with EVOO, chive, basil, rosemary, garlic, pepper, and salt– boy did they taste good! They were perfectly seasoned and not too salty.

Seasoning the potatoes

Seasoning the potatoes

Coming out from the oven

Coming out from the oven

The colours of this dish were beautiful

The colours of this dish were beautiful

Well, that’s all for today, got to get working on my assignment for school! Have a wonderful night!