Thursday, January 30, 2014

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Those who know me know that I am not a morning person. Don't get me wrong. I love mornings. If I have a purpose for getting up early, I can spring out of bed. When the weather is nice, I enjoy the cool, crisp air when the sun is just starting to peek out. Mornings are just as much of a favorite as night especially when camping outdoors because that cool, crisp air is doubly enjoyable when you're out in the woods amongst the trees. Cooking a hearty, warm breakfast outdoors on a propane stove, while bundled up in fleece because the sun wasn't quite out yet... those are some of my favorite morning moments. There's more. But... I am not a morning person. 

While I can enjoy a good morning, don't bother trying to talk to me. I am not ready to break out into a chat about weekend plans when my voice has barely cracked open. As much as I have fond memories of cooking hearty breakfasts on camping trips and vacation, it isn't something I love to do before a morning shift at work, especially after realizing I'm running late because I chose to sleep an extra ten minutes. And that happens every. single. morning. shift. My head is still in a fog when I'm trying to remember "lunch, keys, smock, phone, etc" before I head out the door. So...

That's why I needed these. There are mornings when even buttering a piece of toast takes way too long. I wanted a grab-and-go breakfast, but I usually want something with a bit of ... substance. Fibrous. That will fill me up. Morning shifts can be harsh... they're usually crazy busy and I don't get a break until almost 2pm. I've tried a yogurt and banana, and by noon, my stomach is yellin', "Hey! Give me something else!". 

Kat gave me a couple bags of chocolate chips which are perfect for adding a bit of sugar and energy into these muffins. Bananas are always good for the mornings. And the flax is great for fiber and bulk. So here is my now go-to recipe for some morning breakfast banana chocolate chip muffins to grab-and-go. 

The recipe was taken off of : 

3/4 cup white sugar 
6 tbsp butter, softened
6 tbsp ground flax seed 
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
t tsp baking soda
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 
2. Beat sugar, butter, flax seed, vanilla and eggs together in a bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
3. Sift flour, salt, and baking soda together in separate bowl. Mix creamed mixture 1/2 cup at a time, until batter is stiff. Beat bananas into batter with electric mixer on low. Fold chocolate chips and walnut into batter. Fill each cup 3/4 full. 
4. Bake for about 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in tins before removing to cool on a wire rack. 

I really enjoyed these muffins. My brother... not so much. He said they were a little on the "dry" side. I personally think he's mistaken the dryness with the "bulk". I grounded the flax seeds myself, and they probably weren't ground down to the finest powder, which weren't my intentions anyway. But the flax added texture to the muffins, which I think made the muffins heartier. Perfect for my breakfast needs. Not so much for someone who's looking for a fluffy dessert.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Bit Of This, A Bit Of That

I crave warm food during the winter, so although I do eat sandwiches now and then, I like to pack something that I could heat up at work. Since packing/making lunch/dinner for the next day is very often a late-night, last-minute before bed thing for me to do, I normally have to just work with whatever I have at home. I try to keep as much healthy choices at home, so I don't resort to anything else. This was my "a bit of this, a bit of that" dinner to bring to work.

Frozen salmon from the freezer. Spinach and grape tomatoes. Pasta. Parsley. And then just garlic (a lot of it), salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice. So much better than a cold sandwich in my opinion!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Maui Gold Pineapple

A few of my friends did a mid-winter trip to beautiful Maui, and it didn't work out for me to join them. But, Jen brought home a pineapple for me to have a taste of Hawaii. Oh, how I miss Hawaii..... !! This will have to do for now. 

Look at its golden yellow colour. The colour that we learned from school that pineapples should be. If I was a kid who had to draw a pineapple based on my memory of pineapples I see here in Vancouver, I'd probably colour it green. 

Cutting a pineapple isn't as intimidating as it may seem especially with instructions attached to it.

You know it's ripe when you can pull off a green leaf from the top easily.

Doesn't that look so good?

Mmm.... sweet, juicy, and refreshing. Brings me right back to Maui. I was almost able to feel the warm, tropical sun on my skin, picturing myself strolling along the Hawaiian beaches...

Thanks, Jen!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Justin Timberlake

So I'm admitting that I'm a fan of the once mickey fan club boy. We've watched him grow up from mickey fan club boy, to boy band, to now a rather spiffy-lookin' young man who's growing more class. Even though he's been in the entertainment business since young, he hasn't land himself in jail like the other Justin, and I applaud him for that. Have you seen him on the Jimmy Fallon Late Night show? Hilarious. That's what I think he is. A good entertainer. (In fact, he was on a lot of my friend's Top 5 "Which Celebrate Would You Love To Go On A Date With". Because if all else fails, at least you'd be entertained). Not that any of that really justifies the chunk of $$ that I've spent so far going to his concerts... but is there any need to justify...really...?

His last concert that I went to was about seven years ago. Amazing show. Rotating stages. A full-functioning bar on the floor. High energy Justin was bouncing all around the stage. Jen and I loved it. We were totally "fan-girling". (Just recently learned that term).

This time, seven-years-older Justin gained a little more class. In his "suit and tie". The music was pumpin'... changing the arena to a humungous dance club. My friends and I bopped and danced to the music. Nobody was sitting in their seats. He did a tribute to MJ. And when the stage rose and moved along the entire arena so that everyone at the concert got a pretty darn good close-up of Justin, we were all screamin'. Amazing!

I wasn't planning go... to spend another $--- dollars to see him. I thought of so many other things I could buy with that money. But I figured... the concert I saw seven years ago, I still remember it pretty clearly today. Good moments with good memories I think helps justify the pricetag. But is there any need to justify.... really...?

(Have a couple more concerts lined up to go this year. All very different from each other. Can't wait!)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Always Dad's Little Girl

Dad has a bit more free time now that he's retired. He's always been the one who does all the cooking in the house. Mainly because mom's not well, and sometimes because I've got shift work and cannot work out a steady schedule, but mostly because bro and I take it for granted because he's always done it.

A few nights ago, after finishing a 6L pot of vegetable soup (because I've mentioned veggies, veggies, and more veggies in passing), my dad asks me, "What kind of soup should I make tomorrow?".

I replied in Chinese, "Fun kot tong". (Fun kot = kudzu root. Best description I could find of this soup could be found at this link).

I say random things all the time without meaning any of it. I didn't actually want 'fun kot'. It was actually just the most unusual and random Chinese vegetable I could think of on the spot. We rarely have 'fun kot' soup, but we've made it a few times before. It's been a while. I decided to pull it out of thin air to be amusing. Only to myself of course.

When I came home the next day, low and behold, there was a pot of 'fun kot tong' simmering on the stove.

"You made it?!?!?", I said with surprise. I'm not really sure why it's still shocking to me that my dad would do something like that.

Yesterday night, I was watching my dad make homemade wontons. "I figured this would be cheaper. You only get fifty wontons for $10 if you buy it outside! I can get at least double that if I make it at home," he tells me. After using up all the filling he prepared, he had a stack of wonton wrappers left over, so he asked me what he should do with the remaining.

Again, without much thought, I said, "fry them." Again, speaking the first words that come to mind. Not even shifting my eyes off my computer screen while I was busily editing photos.

Today, when I came home after work, the table was already set for dinner. Among dishes of vegetables and fish, there was a plate of deep-fried wonton wrappers alongside some homemade sweet and sour sauce. We never make anything deep-fried. And we've certainly never had deep-fried wonton wrappers with sweet and sour sauce. My brother was just as astounded at why we were having deep-fried wonton wrappers for dinner... so I told him that I may have merely suggested that he fried the leftover wrappers last night.

My brother then goes, "Gosh, whatever you say, he does. Let me try." He shouts over to my dad in the kitchen, "Hey DAD! Can you make me something tomorrow??". (Cannot remember what he requested).

Dad shouts back from the kitchen, "Go make it yourself!".

My brother looks over at me, "See."

(Dad would have done it for him. He just knew we were talking about him.)

I offered to do the dishes. The least I could do for dad making deep-fried wonton wrappers that I didn't actually want to eat. But I appreciate them and love them like ya wouldn't believe.

The extent of a parents' love cannot be measured. But I'm lucky that with my dad... I feel it. Everyday.

(On days of frustration and anger at home, I want to be able to have a post like this to go back to and think on, and be reminded that it isn't always so bad).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

The best part about having already-prepared cookie dough in the freezer is the convenience. Whenever you need to satisfy a sweet tooth, just pop these into the oven frozen, and bake them for 7-10 minutes. And ta da! Amazing, soft and chewy, with a slightly crunchy bottom. The worst part about having already-prepared cookie dough in the freezer is the convenience. One cookie... then two... then three... too easy.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Coconut Tarts

It's not always about food, but sometimes it is. Now that my dad has retired, he's busier than ever in the kitchen. There is definitely no doubt about where I get my kitchen curiosities and recipe hunting tendencies from. Today, dad's decided to make coconut tarts. When we were kids, this was one of dad's must-haves whenever we visited a Chinese bakery. I never liked coconut when I was a child, but now, with a change in palette, I love pretty much coconut anything. These were made, in his words, "just perfectly. The filling is fluffy and not dense. Not too sweet. And packed with the richness of coconut". And they are... they really are.

Sesame Turkey Meatballs + Smashed Chickpea Salad

I'm taking this opportunity of free time to crack open some of the cookbooks I got for Christmas, and whipping up some dinner that's besides the usual. (Turns out I have laryngitis and what I think is also bronchitis on top of that, and was ordered from my doctor to take a couple days off work so that I could not talk/whisper for three days to get my voice back).

One of the cookbooks I received is the Smitten Kitchen cookbook from the very popular food blog, I've been following her blog off and on for some time now, and the first time I actually spotted the cookbook (and found out that there was a book), was in a random bookstore when I was in Taiwan last February. I just couldn't add another heavy item to my already bursting luggage, so I didn't purchase it then. Fast forward to this past Christmas, when my brother asked that I just tell him what he should get me for Christmas, I thought, hey, the Smitten Kitchen cookbook! So of course, come Christmas morning, I found it under the Christmas tree. Yay!

This is the first recipe that I'm trying out of the book. And it turned out great. The family loved it. The meatballs were tender and deliciously flavoured with cumin, coriander, and toasted sesame seeds. The chickpea salad cannot be any easier to make, and the tartness of the lemon juice pairs well with everything else.

I am so in love with the book. It not only has gorgeous photos of every recipe, but the recipes are easy to follow. No fuss. (Okay, maybe I should try a few more recipes before I make that kind of conclusion). What I also love about the book is, Deb also tells a little story with each of her recipes... whether it be about her childhood and cooking with her mom, or how she came about creating the recipe. Well, just like her blog of course. It sorta makes food... not just food, y'know? Can't wait to try the rest.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Meet Sydney

I'm totally biased on this, but my friends have the cutest kids. This little froggie is just way too cute!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cheers to Good News!

(Re : Last year's post on Gurm's Christmas party).

This year, I didn't take a whole lot of photos. But good news was announced at the party, and we were all celebratin'. We all toasted with our cups of Emerci pink moscato. To a very exciting new year coming ahead!

Burgoo (And Seasons)

This isn't right now, but it happened a few days before Christmas. Since I had the day off work today and recovering from the hustling and bustling of the holidays, I thought I'd do a little updating on what went down during the holidays (when I neglected to blog). 

Whenever it snows, I'm probably the first person to whine and complain about it. Don't get me wrong... it's gorgeous. But transportation in this city goes ka-put when it snows. Bus lines freeze. Roads don't get salted in time. Crazy drivers become crazier. I won't go into the stories of how one year, I spent three hours trying to bus to work (which is usually a 10-15 mins drive away) or how I had to spend the night at my cousins because I was stranded. 


I really do love the snow. When I didn't care so much about getting to places on time, (when I was in school), winter (with snow) was my favorite season. It's gorgeous. It's serene. It's romantic. 

You really don't know what how beautiful winter is without snow. The air is crisp outside. Your nose and cheeks get a little rosier. And when return inside after being out in the cold, the heat generates such warmth that gives you both a sense of satisfaction and appreciation. Even a cottage-like restaurant becomes even cozier. 

Kder, Bran and I met up at Burgoo (yes, on Main St.!) one night, a few days before Christmas. I miss these intimate girls night, where we eat and chat guilt-free about Vampire Diaries. The fake frost on the windows, the woody cabin-feel atmosphere, and us layered in our sweaters and scarves, is the perfect setting for winter.

We ordered a few warm meads and eggnog rum to warm our bellies and get into the holiday spirit. This was our more adult version of Christmas In A Cup, and we love it. 

It is very rare when the girls meet up that we have no food. So, we ordered a yummy brie fondue made with roasted garlic, honey and white wine. It was the perfect accompaniment to our fantabulous night. 

This is one of the reasons I love Vancouver. It comes with all four seasons. Of course, when it's cold, you wish it's warm. And when it's warm, you well... most likely love that it is warm. But, I do honestly enjoy all four seasons that we get. I cannot imagine missing out on colourful Autumn leaves, the crisp winter air with the ground covered in snow, and even the Spring showers. But for this particular season... I think Burgoo's a pretty cool place to hang out. We might just have to add warm mead, eggnog rum, and fondue to our list of witner traditions. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

So, it's happened again. I am once again.... sick.

I have probably run myself into the ground once again, and I have nobody to blame but me. But even though I had spent New Years Day without a voice, and slept the entire afternoon away, I'm still feeling pretty fantastically upbeat.

New Years Eve was spent exactly the same as I have the last few years, running up and down the block banging pots with wooden spoons at the strike of midnight, and shouting "Happy New Year!" to all our neighbours. There has been a few years where families have come out to watch our insanity of a parade (of my cousins and friends), and joined in on the cheer and shouted back "Happy New Year!". This year, some of the families had come out to set off fireworks. Gotta say, it's my kind of New Years Eve party. Board games and wine with the cousins, and then noise-making and fireworks at midnight. I hope that'll never change.

We woke up this morning to do dim sum with the same cousins. It's great when we're all in the exact same sluggish mood. And there's nothing better than chowing down on some greasy, yummy Chinese food after a great night of partying.

After a long afternoon nap, KDer, Ray and I made a roadtrip out to visit our friend, Wendy, out in Langley. We've made so many jokes about how incredibly far Langley is from Vancouver (about a 45 minutes drive), so when Wendy invited us over for a get-together tonight, we all joked that we were "too busy". The get-together ended up getting cancelled because Cliff was feeling under the weather, but we decided to drive out to Langley anyway to surprise Wendy with a birthday cake. We dropped it off and didn't stay, and drove the 45 minutes back home. Wendy totally felt the love. "You came all the way here for me?".

No, Wendy. Not really. (Haha).

Then KDer, Ray, and I met up with Vic and Mab, and we shared a whole lot of laughs chatting about Ray's dopplegangers (something between Alex Wong from SYTYCD and a philipino star named Lucky) over a couple bottles of wine.

My voice was hoarse and raspy at the beginning of the day, and now, practically non-existent. But still, I think the year has already gotten off to a pretty good start.

Happy Birthday, Wendy!

Happy New Year, everyone!