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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Baked Oatmeal with Cinnamon Apple and Walnuts



With the cold winter weather coming, warm oatmeal dishes become my go-to meals. On its own, oatmeal can be so plain but thankfully oatmeal is so versatile. By adding different fruits, spices (i.e. cinnamon, turmeric), syrups (i.e. maple, chocolate) , milks (i.e. vanilla almond milk, cashew milk) or even peanut butter, oatmeal can be transformed into something to satisfy your cravings. Even by baking oatmeal in the oven, the texture and taste of oatmeal changes into a hearty healthy dessert. Below is one of the best baked oatmeal recipes I have tried from the ohsheglows cookbook. Since I didn't have a pear on hand, I used green apples instead. The baked tart apples combined so well with the warm cinnamon oatmeal. This baked treat is great to store in the fridge and heat up the next day for breakfast or dessert making it an excellent meal prep staple. 

Below is the original recipe from ohsheglows:
  • 2 1/4 cups rolled oats (gluten free if needed)
  • 2 TBSP coconut or brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 apples, peeled and diced
  • 1 ripe pear, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 375’F. Lightly grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
2 In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, salt, and nutmeg. Mix well.
3. In a separate bowl, combine almond milk, applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla and stir well to combine.
4. Pour the liquid mixture over the oat mixture and stir until combined. The mixture will be soupy. Stir in the apples and pear.
5. Spoon the oatmeal into the casserole dish and smooth out the top. Sprinkle the walnuts on top and gently press them down into the oatmeal with your hands.
6. Bake, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes until the oatmeal is bubbly and the apples are fork tender.
7. Cool the oatmeal for 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy with a splash of almond milk and drizzle of maple syrup if desired.
8. Cool the oatmeal completely before wrapping it up and placing it in an airtight container. It will keep in the fridge for 5 to 6 days or in the freezer for 2 to 3 weeks.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Halloween Vegan Chocolate Cake



Although Halloween has passed and Christmas season has already started, I figured it would be better to post this later than never. For the Halloween weekend, I had some friends over to surprise my boyfriend for his birthday. It didn't quite work out as planned; the surprise I mean, but the cake turned out well! This was my first cake creation and I really wanted to experiment with a unique recipe. As I searched for a chocolate recipe online, I came across Dana's 1 bowl chocolate hazelnut cake. The reviews were all positive and I thought...hmm a dairy-free cake made from applesauce, almonds, oats, flax seeds, maple syrup and coconut oil? If this turns out good, it'd be a hit, if not...well that's okay, I have time to go out and buy another one anyways so I had nothing to lose. Thankfully this cake turned out really good with a brownie-like texture of chocolatey goodness. 

Recipe adapted from minimalistbaker's 1 bowl chocolate hazelnut cake. I opted to use a mix of walnuts and hazelnuts. I also decorated the cake with chocolate covered strawberries and sprinkles.

Ingredients
CAKE
  • 4 flax eggs (4 Tbsp (18 grams) flax seed meal + 10 Tbsp water)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) unsweetened plain almond milk + 1.5 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp (146 ml) maple syrup or agave nectar (sub honey if not vegan)
  • 2/3 cup (154 grams) cane or granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (126 grams) melted coconut oil or vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (~486 grams) unsweetened applesauce (or other hearty fruit puree, such as beets)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup (120 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (if clumpy, sift)
  • 1 cup (118 grams) almond meal (finely ground from raw almonds)
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) gluten free oat flour (finely ground from raw oats)
  • 1 1/2 cups (200 grams) gluten free flour blend (*see notes)
FROSTING / TOPPINGS
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1 1/4 cups (230 grams) dairy free dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (56 grams) melted coconut oil or softened vegan butter, cut into slices (such as Earth Balance)
  • 1 1/4 - 2 cups (~150 - 250 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (~175 g) roasted unsalted hazelnuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter two 8" round cake pans (or line 24 muffin tins with paper liners). Dust with gluten free flour and shake out excess.
  2. Measure out almond milk and add vinegar. Stir and let curdle while moving onto the next step.
  3. Prepare flax eggs in a large mixing bowl and let rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Add baking soda to the almond milk vinegar mixture and stir.
  5. Add the sugar, maple syrup and almond milk mixture to the flax egg and beat/whisk to combine. Then add applesauce, vanilla, melted coconut oil, salt and mix.
  6. Add cocoa powder, almond meal, oat flour and gluten free flour and beat/whisk to combine. If the batter appears too thick, add a touch more almond milk, but it should be perfect. It should resemble a semi-thick batter that’s pourable.
  7. Divide batter evenly between cake pans (if using muffin tins, it should be enough for roughly 24 filling generously 3/4 full).
  8. Bake cake for 35-45 minutes or more (cupcakes for about 29-35 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top appears dry. Time will vary if you sub ingredients, as well as depending on the size of your pan.
  9. Let rest in the tin for 15-20 minutes, then carefully run a butter knife along the edges and invert onto cooling racks. Let cool completely.
  10. FOR FROSTING: Add almond milk to your rinsed out mixing bowl from earlier and microwave for 1 minute. (Alternatively, heat in a saucepan until just simmering and then transfer back to mixing bowl.)
  11. Immediately add chocolate to warm milk but don’t touch for 3 minutes so it can melt.
  12. Stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate, then add coconut oil or softened butter and cover. Let rest untouched for another 10 minutes.
  13. Use your mixer (or a whisk) to beat the mixture together. Then add 1 cup powdered sugar, mix again, and place in fridge to set for 20 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you tip it and it’s slow to move.
  14. Remove from fridge and beat again. If it’s still too thin, add another 1/4 - 1/2 cup powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. I found that adding 1 3/4 cups total powdered sugar was perfect. Set aside.
  15. Transfer the bottom layer of the cooled cake to a serving plate/dish. Spread a semi-generous layer of frosting on the top of the bottom layer and top generously with hazelnuts. Press down with hands to settle them into the frosting (see photo).
  16. Carefully top with second layer and frost the top generously, then the sides. Using a butter knife yields a smooth surface. It should be the perfect amount of frosting - not too thick, not too thin.
  17. Add hazelnuts around the perimeter of the top of the cake. Slice and serve.
  18. Will keep well-covered at room temperature for several days, though best when fresh. Refrigeration not necessary.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

National S'mores Day


There seems to be a National holiday for everything now; National Watermelon Day, Grill Cheese Day, No Beard Day, you name it. -Why not? Every day should be something to celebrate about right? Today, August 10th marks National S'mores Day. Originally called 'Some More' and eventually shortened to "S'mores", this ooey gooey delicious treat has been around since the 1920's. S'mores are usually created over a campfire and consist of roasted marshmallow with a layer of chocolate, sandwiched between two pieces of graham crackers. Due to my lack of fire equipment and this humidity we've been experiencing, the stove top had to do to celebrate S'mores today. I also bought some vegan marshmallows to try for the first time. They tasted the same as regular ones in my opinion which makes me wonder why we even need to use gelatin when we don't have to!

Anyways- go enjoy some S'mores! They can made using the stove, microwave, BBQ, or even a lighter so there's no excuse! 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Looking Back: Osheaga 2015 and Reflection





I had an unproductive Saturday with a lot of things on my mind, which had me bummed out, but today I woke up early and motivated to get things accomplished on my to-do list. After a glass of water and a bowl of watermelon (yum!), I went for a morning run to beat the sun and summer heat.  

Since it was early and Sunday morning, it was quite peaceful as most people I assume were still at home and maybe still in bed. The weather was also nice and crisp as we were expecting some rain in today’s forecast. It was perfect. All I could hear were the birds chirping, but to get me pumped up to continue running, I plugged in my earphones and started to listening to my iPod. Many songs that played today spoke to me and made me think of my own life.

One of the songs that played was “Shake it Out” by Florence and the Machine. This song made me reminisce of when I went to Osheaga this time last year and saw her live. She’s such an amazing free spirited person which reflected in her performance. When she was on stage, she wore a flowy all white outfit with no bra (#Freethenipple) and was barefoot.

Ironically, even though the title of this blog post is “Looking Back: Osheaga”, the song “Shake it Out” is about letting go, forgetting the past and how moments seem dark but then always get better. There’s also a line, “Regrets collect like old friends, here to relive your darkest moments.” Sometimes you do things that you regret that haunt you but regrets cannot be changed. You just have to move on.

I like how Florence Welch, the singer, described the song. She said "So this song was kind of like, 'Shake yourself out of it, things will be OK. She continued, "[Because] sometimes I have to write songs for myself, reminding me to let it go. But then, the end refrain of 'What the hell' is really important as well, because you'll dance with the devil again at some point, and maybe it will be fun. I've heard he does a really good foxtrot."

When I went to Osheaga last year, not only did I get to cross “Going to a music festival” off my bucket list, but it was also one of the best weekends of my life! Osheaga was amazing with lots of good people, music and activities to do. Some tips I have to save money during Osheaga would be to buy tickets ahead of time, book a place via Airbnb.ca and to bring a reusable water bottle along with snacks. If you’re at Osheaga this weekend or planning on going, you will for sure have lots of fun! 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Thrift Store Tips from a Newbie Thrifter



Now that a new season has started, I'm in and out of my closet thinking "I need new clothes!!"  The perfect spot for some new finds are thrift shops. You can also get rid of your old stuff here as well and make room for the new. Here are some tips that I bring to you from my experience.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Eat Sunshine: Waking Up to Fresh Fruit



Over time, I’ve been experimenting with eating different foods and am still experimenting to see what works best for my body. For breakfast, I find that fruit in the morning works best for me. I’ve tried to have heavier meals thinking I would eat less later on in the day and have it fill me up but it doesn’t always work that way. After having a heavier meal, I’ve found that I feel more sluggish from having to digest everything and I don’t necessarily eat less throughout the day. I still seem to get hungry around the same times throughout the day (Habit might also have a role on this).
I believe experimenting with food is what everyone has to do as there is so much conflicting information regarding nutrition these days- one day the news says something is good for you and the next day, it’s bad.  I strongly encourage you to do your own research as well and see how your body reacts to different types of foods and diets (when I say diets, I am not referring to losing weight but rather what you eat everyday).
Have fruit in the morning makes me feel light as it’s easy to digest. The natural sugars also help wake my body as your brain and body runs off glucose. Eating the right amount of fruit is very important though. You want to eat enough to help keep you full and satisfied so that you have enough energy for the day. Usually I have two “breakfasts”, one in the morning at home and then one when I get into the office mid-morning before I have my lunch. Fruit is filled with lots of fiber and vitamins and is easy on your body after a night of fasting so it’s a great way to start your morning.  What do you usually have to eat to start your day?
My love for fruit is strong. I even take pictures of the fruit I consume. The above photography include some of my food snaps.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A Day Out: Wishing Well Sanctuary


This past weekend I went to visit an animal sanctuary for the first time. My friend invited me to the event they were having and I thought it’d be fun to go and see the animals. As we were driving along the countryside roads, I questioned her, “What’s the difference between a sanctuary and a farm?” (This is how uneducated I was about where we were going)  She told me that at a farm, they kill the animals. For some reason, this never clicked for me growing up. I just enjoyed petting and feeding the animals but never realized that the animals there would be someone’s future meal.
To give you a better understanding of the difference, a farm is for profit and the animals do not stay there forever while at a sanctuary, the lives of the animals are spared and cared for as long as possible.
Located in Bradford, Ontario, Wishing Well Sanctuary was bigger than expected and as we approached the sanctuary, I felt one with nature. The air felt fresh and the environment was so peaceful. All I could hear were the sounds of birds in the distance. I was there for “The Love of the Lambs” event celebrating the lamb, Meadow, and her first year anniversary at the sanctuary. Due to unusual agreements with a meat packing company, Meadow’s life was saved and she did not become someone’s Easter dinner. The tour started at around noon and we were taken around the sanctuary  to cuddle with the sheep, play with the goats and pigs, and see the cows, donkeys, llama and ducks. Each of the animals had a backstory of how they arrived at the sanctuary and it was fun to interact with their different personalities.
After the tour, the sanctuary hosted a vegan potluck for all to join. The food was so good there! I was very impressed by the variety and taste of the vegan dishes there. People brought Devilled “Eggs” (I have to try making this!), “honey”, “tuna”, salads, pasta, pizza, and donuts! The donuts were insanely good and I plan to go on a road trip to get more! (They were from Beech Wood Doughnuts in St. Catherines, Ontario)
Since last year, I’ve cut down on my meat and dairy consumption primarily for health reasons. I’ve also been so fascinated with vegan youtubers as I find they are so creative with their food and I was curious as to what they ate. I love those “What I Ate in a Day” videos and could seriously binge watch those all day. Visiting the sanctuary, meeting fellow vegetarians, vegans and tasting the amazing vegan options out there has inspired me to be more cruelty- free.