Thursday, November 21, 2013

Spicy Corn and Chicken Chili

I write about the snippets of life that are good. This is about the Christmases in a cup after all. But, both you and I know we all have trying days. This week has been filled with many of those for very personal family reasons. But instead of letting it all get to me, I channel my emotions and energy elsewhere. One of a few ways I do that is through cooking. 

So, it is almost midnight. Everyone in the house has pretty much retired to their own rooms, and  that's when I'll whip out a soup pot. And I'll begin to chop. There is something therapeutic about cooking.  Following a recipe or not. Mindlessly measuring out spices and chopping vegetables. Whatever it may be. I always find myself in a comforting hum-drum. It's my "me" time at its best. Tonight, I decided to whip up a good pot of chili to fit the cold weather we've been having. 

After it is all done, I'll play around with the food. Propping white cardboard around it to "bounce light". Then, I'll climb onto a chair so I can get on top of my creation with my camera. If you walk into my kitchen at this very moment, you'll probably find the whole set-up a little strange. I wasn't cooking to eat.

When I was done with the photos, I took the bowl of chili and dumped it back in the pot.  Then comes the pattern of washing the dishes, turning off the lights, washing up and then going to bed. It actually a pretty common thing for me to do at midnight. It is then the peacefulness inside me is restored.

This chili recipe was very easy to make, and it tastes fantastic. If you want an easy and quick chili recipe, give this one a try.

I adapted this recipe from Whole Foods Mobile App. 

Spicy Corn and Chicken Chili 

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 to 2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp gr. cumin
1 tsp gr. coriander
cayenne pepper to taste
1 lb gr. chicken breast
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup mild or medium salsa
1 cup frozen corn
1 can kidney beans
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1. In large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat, and add onions and garlic. cook for 5 mins until onions are translucent. 
2. Stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin, coriander, and cayenne and cook for 1 min.
3. Add chicken and cook for 3 mins. 
4. Add tomato sauce, 1 cup water, salsa, kidney beans and corn. Season with salt and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 20 mins. 
6. Then stir in cilantro and serve.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Roasted Vegetables

Roasting vegetables is my winter version of a salad.  My current favorite vegetable to roast is brussle sprouts and broccoli. Can't explain why. Just love the taste. Perhaps they both have a little bit of crisp to them too. I added a sprinkle of seasoning salt, olive oil and italian seasoning to intensify the flavours of the veggies. After roasting for 45 mins at 400C, the aroma fills the air when I pull open that oven door, and the colourful veggies come out golden brown and toasty.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Look what this lucky gal got for her birthday! Flown all the way from NYC. When I went to Paris back in 2007, I wasn't big on macarons at all. In fact, I'm not sure I've even tried them before that trip. But we did walk into a Laduree store when in Paris because the store itself is gorgeous, but we didn't actually buy any macarons. It wasn't until my trip to Toronto and Montreal in 2009 with KDer that I started to find an interest in these colourful sweets. We mapped out a "bakery walk" (I've forgotten in which district of Toronto), and a group of us had spent a day walking from bakery to bakery in this little area, sampling macarons and other mini desserts. We made our way to Montreal and came home with a huge box of macarons from La Maison Du Macaron. Since then, I've been hooked.

Now, I'm not super crazy about macarons.  I don't personally think they're a must-have to-die-for kind of sweets. But I do appreciate them. After helping out my friend, Kat, make many batches of macarons and learning about the secrets to making them, (one being time), I've come to admire their delicateness  and beauty. Besides trying to achieve that perfect soft almond-flavoured shell with a chewy inside,and making sure there's "feet" to the shells (meaning height), being able to come up with an intense, enjoyable flavour also requires skill. And to be honest, I've tried a lot of macaron shops locally, and nothing really stands out. (I still think Kat makes some of the best macarons when it comes to local choices).

And then of course, there's Laduree and Pierre Herme from Paris.

I'm a sucker for packaging. I appreciate quality and beauty, and the thought that goes into presentation. How elegant is this box? It's gorgeous.

What was inside was even better. The flavours of each macaron, even so simple as lemon, pistacchio, chocolate, and raspberry, are all super intense. And I love that about them... simple flavours. The texture of not just the shell but the filling is amazing. From jelly, to cream, to marshmallow fluff. I now know why Laduree is so popular when it comes to macarons. I think I can say they are the best macarons I've had so far.

The best part isn't the fact that I got not only one, but two, boxes of Laduree macarons. Of course, what was better than finally being able to try out these macarons, is knowing unexpectedly that someone thought of you while they were away. Gah, I'm special. I know it 'cause family and friends always make me feel that way. I'm one lucky gal. Thanks, KDer!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chau Veggie Express

I've been to Chau once in the summer, and since then, I've been thinking of going back. I remember the loads of veggies (well, it is a vegetarian place after all), and the fragrant asian flavours. I love that there's a little trendy coffee shop that it is partnered with right next door. Anyway, as mentioned, I wasn't really up for celebrating anything birthday related, but I was up for a casual dinner with friends. So, since I've been wanting to go back to Chau, I suggested we all meet there.

I think we were all hungry by the time we met up at 8pm, so the five of us ordered practically everything on their menu. We sat on the Satori side of the restaurant (the coffee shop), just because there was more room there.

We had pho-like noodles, a dry coconut noodle dish, green papaya salad, a veggie rice roll, curry, and probably a few other things that I cannot remember. I ordered a tamarind citrus soda which I found sour - just to my liking. To be honest, the food wasn't as exciting and great as I remember it to be. Don't get me wrong. It was all still pretty delicious, but I guess the trouble came with ordering everything. When some dishes were comparatively more flavourful than others, it made some dishes seem rather bland. In other words, the dishes don't compliment each other, and they aren't suppose to. I think, it would be best to just order what you feel like and not mix - whether it be a light noodle soup or a heavier curry noodle.

Eating all those veggie dishes (with friends who don't particularly like veggies in general... whoops! oh well), made it seem less guilty to go for a dessert run afterwards. All of us ended up at the Keg near Willingdon, because I was craving their mud pie. And now that, if you haven't tried, is certainly something worth splurging your calories on. Mmm...

The signs of aging are definitely showing through our conversations. We've now come to chat about our own aches and pains, and deteriorating vision. We certainly shared a lot of laughs... and silly stories... and I love that. I miss that. It was a relaxing and chill kinda night. Absolutely fitting for our aging bodies. Ok, I'm kidding. We're not that old.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Red Wagon Cafe

Since Guy Fieri's visit to The Red Wagon Cafe for a segment on Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives, this brunch spot has been super busy. On my birthday, a couple of my coworkers decided to hang out with me for lunch, and we were all craving pancakes. Well, for me... craving pancakes is rare. But, this pulled pork pancake is well known at Red Wagon, and there's a good reason for that.

It was raining cats and dogs, and I was all giddy about having the chance to wear my new rainboots. Of course, I was only prepared from knee down, and got royally soaked everywhere else. I could feel the cold through my pants. But still, I was happy. To be brunching with my coworkers. Not to mention the jack daniel syrup soaking my pancakes.

Luckily, Andrew got there first and waited in line for a table, so by the time Dee and I arrived, we were all ready to eat. I had to order eggs on top of my pancakes just because for me, there is no brunching without eggs... but of course, that meant finishing only one pancake out of the three. But boy, it was good. Their pancakes are done perfectly in my opinion. The perfect amount of chew and fluffiness. I also tried a bite of their banana pancake and that is also very good. Chunks of banana giving a balanced banana-to-batter ratio.

Anyway, it's not one of my go-to's because the line-ups can get crazy, and I have only tried the one item on their menu. But whenever I crave that pulled pork pancake drizzled with jack daniels syrup... nothing will stop me from going back.


Friday, November 15, 2013

My Birthday

This year, I felt like keeping my birthday low-key. To be completely honest, I haven't really cared to celebrate my birthday much in the past decade or so. It's a mix of feelings. It's not that I'm grumpy about being another year older, and I do love celebrations ... but I guess being center of attention and making a big deal out of  me makes me uncomfortable. Yet, I do appreciate feeling special. Then there's the hassle of organizing. Yet, it isn't really that much work at all.  Does any of that make sense? Hence, a mix of feelings. So, for many years in a row, I had chosen to travel during my birthday. My birthday being in November makes it a good travel month (because the weather starts to get dreary and requesting time off isn't so hard. Not to mention that it isn't high season in a lot of places making it for better prices). So, when I stay in town, half the people I'd normally celebrate with are gone anyway. And when I really think about it, all I care is to hang out with the people I care about. So, I thought I'd postpone "celebrating" until people are free. But Jen, who's already got the "free night pass" from baby duties from her husband, insisted we had to go out on the night of my birthday. And so we did. (Next post).

But before that, I always give birthdays as a reason to treat myself. Some years it could be something expensive, I'm not gonna lie. (Like last year's Nikon D600). But, I can get happiness from small things too. I went out to a Maxim's bakery, and waited for some piping hot egg tarts to come out of the oven, and bought myself half a dozen. When I sunk my teeth into the flakey crust and warm custard, I was in total bliss. That's all I needed to call it a good birthday.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Flu Shots

I administered flu shots all day long today. My manager had set up an appointment sheet months ago with 5-minute interval appointment slots. It wasn't until the appointment booking log was all filled out that he realized that he meant them to be 10-minute intervals. The administering part doesn't take long. Clean, jab, dispose needle, apply bandaid. But, because some flu shots came in multi-dose vials, I had to load them beforehand. And I couldn't pre-load them too far in advance due to reasons of wastage and stability. Then there were the pre-filled syringes. And then there were the ones that are saved for those who are 65+. And then the difference between public and private. Not to mention consent forms. Anyway, just sorting those things out makes the 5-minute appointment slots pretty tight. I knew I was in for a busy day. I had two chairs, one on each side of me... and I swivelled back and forth, poking people as they sat down. "Okay, NEXT!". 

Here in B.C. Canada, pharmacists have the choice to go through training and be licensed as an injection pharmacist. Certain injections can be administered right in your local community pharmacy. I went through my training maybe five years ago, just to broaden my practice. As choatic and crazy as the day went, I really enjoyed it. Not the idea of inflicting pain on others, but the nice break from the dispensary. Everyone was grateful for my service because I had just saved them from a two-hour wait-time to see their doctor for a flu shot. And even though I was hella busy, I still had time while prepping the syringes, to take this photo.

My thoughts on getting the flu shot (and not just because I administer them) : I do think everyone should get the flu shot. I do think they work. And no, I do not think they cause the flu. Very often, after a flu shot, people experience flu-like symptoms because their bodies are working to make antibodies that will in future help fight flu viruses. And even if you do happen to get the flu after a flu shot, it doesn't mean the shot didn't work. There are many different strains for the flu, and the vaccine covers only certain strains. It is impossible to develop a cure-all flu vaccine because well, they are viruses... and viruses mutate so quickly to create new strains, that you cannot develop a vaccine to cure all. And that is why it is necessary to get one every year. The vaccine you get can protect you up to 70% from the flu. It is especially important for the little ones and the elderly because their immune system is comparatively weaker than the average adult. What information that doesn't get passed around is how many end up hospitalized, and even dead, because of the flu every year. 

A lot of people are skeptical of the flu shot, and sometimes, I don't argue. Everyone of course make up their own minds on what they want to believe, and very often, the media and rumours from family and friends make up a big part of their decision. I am not saying that vaccines don't come with a risk. Everything you do normally does. But the chances of you getting a major side effect versus hospitalization and deaths are highly outnumbered, and people need to take chances with better knowledge. 

On a different note, did you know that with intramuscular injections ( just like the flu shot that you get in your arm ), they are done with one-inch needles? And did you know, the entire one-inch goes into your arm? 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sushi Nanaimo

Because Tacofino was closed at the time we went, Andrew and I ended up at Sushi Nanaimo. We each picked our own favorite nigiri's and decided to keep it light. We both took photos of the food, and it was obvious that Andrew's iphone 5S took photos way superior than the ones I took with my 4S. On a different note, now that my compact camera (that has been MIA for a while) has been found, I should try to stop posting just photos from the mobile.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Circle Craft Christmas Market @ The Vancouver Convention Centre

I check out the Circle Craft Christmas Market every year. Different stands made up of BC and Canadian artisans showcasing their work such as glassware, clothing and jewelry, pottery, toys, and more. If I find anything neat, I like to pick up most of my Christmas shopping from these kind of markets. I already made a good start to the shopping!

A tip for parking when going to the Vancouver Convention Centre on a weekend : park at the EasyPark right under the Vancouver Club. The entrance to the parkade is on Cordova St. I thought perhaps all parking lots in the same area are about the same price, so I had originally skipped my usual plan, and went into an Impark parkade on Burrard and Canada Place. The cost for all-day parking in that lot was $25! I drove right out after realizing the price, and drove around the corner to park at the usual parking lot that I park at, and it was only $7 for all-day parking (which is cheaper than if the three of us that went in my car decided to take public transit). The funny thing is, when we were trying to figure out how to get out of the parking lot, we ended up walking through the $25 parking lot to get to the Convention Centre, because the two lots are connected. So essentially, you could park in the same lot for less than a third of the price. Tricky.

Anywya, Little Sarah was such an entertainer at the fair. She was hyper on fatigue, and was giggling non-stop while wanted to touch every Christmas tree. Afterwards, we said goodbyes to Jen and Anth, and the rest of us (Kat, Ray, Rex and I) grabbed a bite to eat at Tap and Barrel... and took home a little souvenir. (Hah). We topped it off with a cup of hot chocolate from Leonidas. So good... if you haven't tried. I like the milk chocolate version. I prefer my hot chocolates more milky than chocolatey, but I heard the darker chocolate ones are good too. And that all made it a pretty darn good day.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mary Poppins Cancelled

This was, unexpectedly, my favorite musical that I watched when I was in London out of the four that I watched there. ( between Mary Poppins, Chicago, The Lion King, and Dirty Dancing). Kat got me tickets for my birthday to watch it here in Vancouver at the Stanley Theatre!

Unfortunately, it was opening night and they had technical difficulties, so the show was cancelled. Will re-book and watch it later!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Red Cups

OH, the red cups are in! Yes, I'm talking about Starbucks. That means two months of the holiday spirit!

There is no doubt that Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, hence the title of my blog. I do have to say though that even with the red cups and the Christmas songs already playing at work, I'm not into it just yet. But, I will not turn away a red cup. On a cold day, like most days starting now until the next little while, I most definitely can enjoy a half-sweet peppermint hot chocolate. And red cups just seems to help make me feel a little more warm and fuzzy inside.

I hope I remember to screenshot some of the conversations I have with my girls. Fun to see how our crazy and sometimes neurotic convos evolve as we umm... age.

I received a text from Lily all the way across the country in TO : "Christmas windows are up at Holts!!! The windows totally reminded me of you!". A simple text to let you know someone's thinking about you ... sometimes, you don't even need red cups or a season to get the warm and fuzzies.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dressing for Vancouver Weather

I'm baffled how I've lived in Vancouver for so long and not own a pair of rainboots. Vancouver weather can be tricky. It could be rainy and cold one minute, and sunny and hot the next. Especially during the Spring and Fall seasons when weather is changing. But one thing is for sure... we get a lot of rain here. Some ask how we put up with it being gloomy so many days out of the year. I guess it comes with being rewarded with luscious greenery surrounding us with the rain watering our gorgeous trees, grass and plants. More greenery, aside from its beauty, to me also means more fresh air. To be honest, everytime I get off a plane and come home, I feel the difference in air quality. Anyway, a little more rain doesn't really hurt. Plus, we got the rest of the Vancouverites in this city to complain to about how gloomy and wet it is outside. (Oh yah, we do comment on the weather a lot here). 

So... here comes my rainboot hunting adventure that has been lasting years. My problem with finding THE perfect rainboot, or any rainboot for that matter, is that they don't fit. I have the problem that a lot of girls have with boots. My calves don't fit in a lot of them. And with my height (or there lack of), I just don't think I can pull off short boots. (They make my legs seem shorter). So, I've been putting up with a lot of soggy shoes and wet socks while I try to find something that I like. 

I've actually given up on looking at tall boots (after my crazy incident in trying to convince myself that I fit in Hunters... I could put them on, but had a hard time taking them off, and was almost convinced that that was ok). So how I found these boots that I recently bought... came almost like it was fate. 

After a morning of brunching with the girls (re: last post), we took a stroll along Main St., and we ended up at a cute, unique shop called Much & Little. I mostly do window shopping along Main St., because their one-of-a-kind selections are usually a little pricier. We decided to pop into Much & Little to check out their fancy table mats and cool wooden sunglasses, and that was when my friend, Bran, spotted these rainboots. She knew I was (always) looking for a pair, so she told me to try them on. With little to no hope that they would fit, I was close to not trying them on. But after feeling how light-weight and soft the rubber was, I thought what-the-hey. 

And this comes my lesson of never losing hope. The back of the boots gives a lot, so I was able to fit them comfortably! And surprisingly, they are super lightweight for a pair of high rainboots. I was sold instantly. I didn't even so much care about the price considering how long I've waited for boots that fit, but they weren't so bad at $155. (The $129 pricetag on the photo is from a different website). The interesting story behind these boots is that they're actually boots made in Japan for rice paddy fields. And they're foldable so that you could carry or travel with them. A big rubber band is provided for you to tie them up as shown in the picture. I've already worn them out and I absolutely LOVE them. So, if you have the same calves problem as I do, go check out these boots! 

I also discovered a relatively new shop nearby called Main + 8th, that sells brands like Vera Moda. Trendy and relatively inexpensive stuff. Okay, I think you guys get the point. I'm loving Main St. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Whip

Continuing with my trend of eating and shopping my way down Main St., I met up with KDer and  Bran for a girls brunch this morning at The Whip. I don't know why I loved that their Halloween decorations were still up. It was almost like a lazy, late morning recovering after a good night of partying.

The first time I came here  was half a year ago when I came for a first date. I remember walking out having a good feeling about the guy, only unsure how he felt the date went, but quickly shrugged it off thinking about how I should come back for brunch again. And ever since then, I've been coming here a lot, and have absolutely fallen in like with it. Although busy, I've never had to wait for more than ten minutes (I usually go around 11am on a weekend). It gives me a chill and laidback kinda feel. I love the sunlight spilling in through the many windows, that just seems to go perfectly well with easy breakfast food. Their menu is just right with enough selections. Everything is simple. I do enjoy a more complicated fricasse in a warm skillet like the one from Cafe Medina from time to time, but there are days when I just want everything simple. Bennies are made with a just the right amount of hollandaise. Their hash is made with both yellow potatoes and yam. Nothing fancy. I had the roasted veggie omelette this time, and it was just what I wanted.

It was a nice and relaxing morning with the girls. It was almost like my send-off brunch with them since one is going to London the next day, and the other to New York. What lucky ducks. We chatted about all the good things to eat and do abroad, and all the shopping to be done. It was a splendid late start to a gorgeous Autumn day.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Campagnolo (on Main St.)

If you've been following my blog, you'll notice that I frequent Main St. A lot. And I am not done with it yet as restaurants, shops, and cool places continue to sprout in this neighourhood. Today, my family and I decided to check out Campagnolo to celebrate my brother saying goodbye to his 20's. (Happy 30th!)

This isn't a new restaurant, and has been open for a few years now. When it first opened, I heard good things about it from a couple of my friends. Then I heard a couple of mixed reviews after that. Somehow, I never got the chance the check it out myself. 

When I was trying to think of a restaurant for my brother's birthday, (we've developed this trend of checking out a different restaurant each time someone in the family celebrates a birthday), I was craving some good hearty pasta. I crave it quite often actually. But just don't eat it all that often. 

Dad always orders a beer, and the rest of us always start of with appies. We had the seared albacore tuna topped with eggplant and charred onion, and the baked clams with anise and butter. They were both delicious. The melted-down eggplant gave a fresh pairing flavour with the tuna, and the clams were enjoyably rich. 

Then we shared four different entrees : Tagliatelle with pork ragu, basil, and pecorino romano cheese. Rigatoni with short ribs and kabocha squash. Canelloni with roasted vegetables. Pulled pork pizza with roasted peppers and beans.The food was delightful. Each entree had its own distinct yummy flavour. My favorite was the tagliatelle and I can't wait to go back and order it again! It was that good. 

One of the best part of our meal was our waitress. She was exceptionally nice. We exchanged good chats. She even told us a story about her grandma in Croatia when she was trying to describe to us what a quince is. (Do you guys know what a quince is?). So, for dessert, we ordered the quince cake. My mom describe it as nothing special, and I could see why she would think that. The cake was not moist or especially flavourful. But it was paired with a topping of quince crumble, which was all of tart, sweet, and salty. Frankly, I enjoyed it. Because it was new to me. I enjoyed being able to taste a little bit of the crunch from the flesh of the quince fruit and the burst of complexity between sourness and a tad of savoury.

Overall, a very pleasant night spent at Campagnolo and I'd definitely return.

Friday, November 1, 2013

My Little Bugs

Love what my little bugs (friends' kids - Alayna, MacMac, RahRah) were dressed as for Halloween this year! They are all so darn cute. Love them to bits.