Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Double Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Gah! I've lost the recipe to these yummy cookies. Oh well. I'm sure I can find something of the like when I feel like making them again. These are made with some proportion of cocoa powder, semi-sweet chocolate chips, bananas, oatmeal, butter, AP flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. People in the house have been whining about my breakfast bakings being too "healthy" tasting, and preferred that my next batch be made with at least... butter. (I've substituted with apple sauce or just leaving it out altogether). So, these double chocolate and again, over-riped bananas cookies were made (with reduced sugar and more bananas and oatmeal still). I quite enjoyed these ones. (What is there not to like?!) I froze the majority of them for a grab-and-go energy booster whenever I need it. Yum!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka (and Said The Whale)

After the Pentatonix concert, I was running on "mini concert fever", and couldn't wait to go to the next one. Kat mentioned over dinner one night that CBC was having a free concert series called the Toque Sessions. Kat read out the line-ups of bands and musicians, and I recognized a couple, and one was happening the very night after the Pentatonix concert. 

I've been listening to a whole lot of different genres of music just to see if anything particular tickles my interest, and I've been enjoying a lot of alternative rock and indie rock. I've been able to pick up specific songs using my trusty Shazam app on my phone, (and if you don't know what that is... when you hear a song you don't know and want to find out what it is, you can press the "listen" button on the Shazam app, and let the app tell you the name of the artist and song after it listens to the music). I've been using it a lot in  at home with the tv, in restaurants and in my car... when I hear something I like, I Shazam it. That night, Said The Whale was performing. And my Shazam has been picking up a few Said The Whale songs for me. Check them out here if you haven't.

Anyways, long story short, I didn't get to see them. I was pretty excited anticipating it while at work, but Kat and I got there at the said time of line-ups starting at 6:30pm, but unfortunately, people had started to line up at 4pm. So, by the time we got there, it was already full. That's the thing about free concerts. People were streaming towards the CBC building, and a poor staff had to take the brunt of many disappointed souls whining about it being full. It's a Vancouver-based band, so apparently a lot of family and friends were at the scene, and fans were a little disgruntled by it. 

So, we were downtown anyway, so we decided instead, to fill our tummies with food. When plans fail, let's eat! Neither of us had tried Santouka Ramen before, but we've heard lots about it. Lucky for us, the long line-up did not start until after we were seated. I got the combo of miso ramen and salmon don, and we shared a side of gyoza. In Chinese, we call this "眼闊肚窄" ( translates to "your eyes are bigger than your stomach"), which means to be gluttonous and greedy or eating more than you really could. I couldn't finish the salmon don.

The restaurant does live up to its hype. I mean, it's good ramen. Good, creamy and rich broth. Good texture for ramen noodles. And I liked the atmosphere. Kat ordered a spicy ramen and it was also really yummy. I would rate it as one of the better ramen places in town. Ramen isn't something I always crave, so I cannot rave it being the best thing I've ever had, but if I do crave a hearty, warm and soupy ramen with a yummy, rich broth, I'd come back to Santouka. That kinda made up for my disappointment in missing the concert.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pentatonix Concert

On a mild, winter Wednesday night, Kat and I found ourselves in one of the longest line-ups we've ever been in for a concert. It started at the Vogue Theatre on Granville St., and wrapped all the way down Smithe and around the corner half way down the block on Seymour. Which all translates to "a very long line-up". It didn't bother us at all even though it was general seating, knowing that we'd enjoy it the same no matter where we sat. Infront of us in line were a couple of girls in their 20's. Frequent concert go-ers by the sounds of their conversation. Behind us in the line-up were three young girls with their parents. Probably around seven or eight years old. The three of them held hands in a circle, and jumped up and down with excitement, waiting to get in. The next in line behind them was a couple probably in their 50's. A concert for all ages.

If you don't know Pentatonix, they are a group of five a cappella vocalists who won the third season of the show, "Sing Off" back in 2011. Check them out on YouTube if you haven't heard of them already. (check out their "Evolution of Music" video). The most amazing, aside from how well they harmonize their voices together, is especially Avi Kaplan's deep, vocal range. His low registers gave us shivers!

The concert was more than what we expected. It was a ton of fun for a weekday night.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Soft Pretzels

I haven't had one of these pretzel in years. Probably a decade. But they are kinda special to me because when my friends and I turned 15, a group of us raided the local mall handing out our resumes like Halloween candy, and one of my friends and I ended up getting our very first jobs at Pretzelmaker. I had to google to find out that there aren't many left here in BC anymore, and their menu now has changed to include all these other funky items. Pretzelmaker back then was simply like the pretzels at a concession stand at the arena. Very simple, oversized soft pretzels. You can get them with plain salt and butter, or, my favorites used to be either parmesean or cinnamon sugar. I could almost smell the butter thinking back. And I literally would smell like butter everytime after work. I was also a spectacle for those walking by our store in the mall. People would stand on the other side of the window watching me roll out the dough into a rope, and twirl it in the air (like I was taught on the job) to twist the dough into a pretzel. It became a couple years of fun and learning the value of working 'hard' for a dollar, and also teenage drama with my friend and I crushing on highschool boys we used to work with. Oh, the teenage years.

So, because I wanted to play with the dough hook attachment to my kitchenaid again, I was looking up bread-y recipes and found this one. And what is better than being able to experiment in the kitchen as well as re-living some of the memories of my carefree teenage years?

Even though when working the dough, it seemed to be a little more tough and elastic than what I remembered it to be, the end result was just the same. Almost two decades later, I still remember how to twirl that dough. Of course, simply twisting it into its shape isn't hard and just the same, but twirling them in the air like I used to know is just more fun. We didn't have a baking soda soak at Pretzelmaker, but this recipe called for one... and it helped with giving the pretzels a golden brown. The pretzels were ever so lightly sweet, and perfectly chewy and bread-y. Just how I remembered it. I even remember the 8-to-1 sugar vs. cinnamon ratio for the cinnamon sugar coating. I did one up with cinnamon just for old times sake, but I much prefer the simple salt and butter now. 

This recipe was adapted from with some of my own changes : 

Makes 12 (but I halved the recipe and made four in hopes to have even larger pretzels)

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water (110 F/45 C)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
salt, for topping

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 1/4 cup warm water. Stir and let it stand till bubbling has stopped. About 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl attaching to stand mixer, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough using dough hook. If the mixture is dry, add one or two more tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. (If kneading by hand, 7 to 8 minutes). Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Put in an oven, without turning it on, but turn on light).
  3. Preheat oven to 415 degrees F. Grease baking sheets.
  4. In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in 4 cups hot water; set aside. When risen, turn dough out and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda-hot water solution and place pretzels on baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake in preheated oven until browned, about 8 minutes.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Olympics - Sochi 2014

Watching the Olympics has always been a somewhat "big" thing in my family. Since young, we've always gathered around the TV during the two weeks of competition, and of course, rooted for our Canadian athletes. We followed all the news and updates, and felt every victory as well as every disappointment. So it was only natural when we had the amazing opportunity to host the Olympics in our very own backyard four years ago... that we'd go nuts attending as many events and celebrated and partied with the rest of the world. And gosh, I don't regret any of it. It was an experience that I totally embraced and it's now become an incredible memory of mine.

Now that it's been four years, (still can't believe it's been four years!), and once again watching the Olympics through our TV screen, it brings back all the fond memories of Vancouver 2010. I could go on. Sochi 2014 has so far had its many great moments, as listed in this article. I'm proud to be Canadian. But just as important, I love that even for if just a moment, that the world (if even just parts), can come together and exhibit such passion and comradery. (If that makes sense...).

One thing I wanted to say about today's men's figure skating competition though. Patrick Chan wins silver. Trending articles about him coming so close to gold, and his own disappointment in his performance and his apology to his country are going around. (As well as Joannie Rochette's tweet. Which in my opinion, can only be interpreted one way...).

I really wish instead of disappointment, he could just let himself bask in the glory of medalling! How many people can even make it to the Olympics, let alone medal? Even though the story of Denny Morrison (and Gilmore Junio) winning silver in speed skating is very different, watching them literally go to the moon and back from the joy they felt from his silver medal was amazing. And Patrick Chan's silver was no less! What was more unfortunate than his mistakes and falls that costed him the gold medal, was the amount of pressure that he carried had prevented him from living his moment of celebration. I know... there will always be an argument about it. "Well, he should handle pressure better." But really, who can even imagine what these top-performing athletes go through not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. So he choked. So did the gold medalist. Choking is a part of the competition and doesn't make any athlete less of a champion in my opinion.

Nonetheless, that's my two cents. Can you tell that I get so wrapped up in the Olympic spirit? I love it.

Go, Canada, go!