Category Archives: Life

Boo! & Brr

Wow, November has started out with a cold snap. It’s been quite fresh and crisp outside, which has been lovely. Right now I have been taking a mellow approach towards the holidays. I have been already looking at cookie recipes for Christmas, but I have also been enjoying the moment, i.e., no Christmas songs until December! It’s helped that I actually celebrated Halloween this year.

First, in celebration of October, I made these amazing pumpkin swirl cheesecake squares, which got rave comments. The crispy shortbread crust and the smooth cream cheese made one good bar. I used spreadable cream cheese instead of the brick cream cheese, since that was all I had. I was concerned that it wouldn’t turn out, but it was totally fine. I recommend you make these if you still have pumpkin hanging around!

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The entrance to our current school abode before a Halloween party.

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This year I decided to dress up for Halloween. I don’t think I’ve had an actual costume since grade 6. I didn’t have midterms so I had some time to put together a costume: I became a flamingo for the night. It was fun to dress up in pink feather boas, even though I shed everywhere. I made a no-sew tutu out of tulle and boas and I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. This was also my first time putting on fake eyelashes, but I tried them out anyway and they really made the costume.

Hope you all had a good Halloween, and that you enjoy this upcoming holiday season!

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Supercrawl 2013

A couple weeks ago, I went to Supercrawl in Hamilton, a city about an hour away from Toronto.  Supercrawl was a two-day festival over Friday and Saturday, celebrating music, art, and culture. While I had heard about the emerging art scene in Hamilton, this was my first time experiencing it, and I was excited to explore Hamilton!

Each year, Supercrawl gets bigger and I can definitely see why. The biggest draw to Supercrawl for me initially is the music line-up. This year they had some big bands such as Passion Pit, Yo La Tengo and Said the Whale. But I fell in love with so much more.

Supercrawl took place along a blocked off James Street North, so there was no need to worry about cars except for one crossing. We spotted interesting art in strange places.

SupercrawlA functional merry go round made out of scrap metal.

Supercrawl-003Sculptures made out of packing tape

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There were so many cool vendors both on the street and vintage shops along James Street North.  

In particular, I found out about a very cute pop up vintage vendor, Dizzy Alice. Their selection of goods was so charming! I was also impressed at the quality. In my brief foray into vintage stores, I noticed things like broken zippers and frayed ends, which I understood was part of the hunt, but it was sometimes frustrating. So I was happy that I found a cute purse in good shape there. Not too adventurous, but I had been looking like something like this for a while.

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I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of their stall as it was freezing that Friday night we were there. This is Dizzy Alice’s write-up about Supercrawl. There were a couple items that I was eying that night. Now  I am kicking myself for not getting them. But I will definitely try to follow these girls around as their “shop” pops up in more places.

Part of the Supercrawl took place by Lake Ontario, as there was another stage by the water a bit further north than the rest of the event. This provided some serene views.

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Lastly, the music was fantastic. I was happy to see Young Galaxy play. It was also amazing to see the legends from the ’90s, Yo La Tengo, play. I wasn’t too ready for the ambient sounds live, but it was a good time. 

Then for the last musical act of the weekend, I somehow ended up literally front and centre for Passion Pit. That was a surreal experience in such a large (and younger) crowd. It was a lively show.

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This was a grand break from school and a lovely way to spend a fall-ish weekend.

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adieu, summer

Alas, the real end to summer is here. We’ve had some surprisingly chilly days already and a couple last (?) heat wave days in Toronto. I’m settling back into the school year. Yes, even autumn appropriate recipes are starting to catch my eye. 

As such, here is a belated last glimpse of summer 2013.

First up, sangria sorbet from Ed’s.

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A lot of good tunes:

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In July, my sister and I went to the Weezer memories concert. Weezer is a 90s alternative band that still makes music, but like many bands their earlier stuff is the best. They put on a tour in which they played their greatest hits reverse chronologically, followed with the main event: their first album, the Blue album, in full. It was a fantastic nostalgia-filled night.

I went to the last Wavelengths music festival at Artscape Gibraltar Point on the Toronto Islands in August. I found out about a lot of bands I hadn’t heard of before. A couple highlights were Catl, a rhythm and blues duo, and Beliefs, a lovely shoegazy band. Both are from Toronto!

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Beliefs

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I also caught the Wooden Sky’s traveling show as part of Summerworks. The audience literally followed the band as they played across CAMH, the backs of buildings, and alleys. We ended up with a full out concert inside.

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I of course did some further cooking.

I held a brunch earlier in August for my birthday. I put out way too much spread, but I learned it’s really fun having friends over and sharing food. There was no need to stress out.

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Kinda sloppy shot, but these two overnight casseroles were a life saver in the morning: cinnamon toast French toast and a savoury “New York” breakfast casserole of bagels, red onion, cherry tomatoes and cream cheese (Smitten Kitchen’s cookbook). I prepped everything the night before, and put both of them in the oven in the morning.

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I continued my pie craze by making a a savoury tamale pie. I didn’t take a picture of the innards, but there was a turkey tomato stew underneath that cornbread crust. It was all baked up in the oven in a cast iron pan.

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I made one more pie: peach blueberry pie. This was my first double crusted pie and once again I tackled the crust. I have to say that rolling pie dough is probably the most stressful part, since the rolled out dough has to be large enough to cover the pie and you have to transfer the dough without it tearing. Fortunately, I just covered the pie, and it baked up beautifully/at least tasted good.

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Finally, I savoured summer’s last peaches with sour cream peach pancakes (also from Smitten Kitchen’s cookbook!).

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Until next year, summer! You were a good one. Let the season of stews, pumpkins and apple pie (hopefully) commence.

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Belated Gung Hay Fat Choy

As I mentioned earlier, the first day of Chinese New Year was last Sunday.

My mom made us breakfast with all the “go” she had made the week before. “Go” has the texture of pudding. She made a variety of go, which I really need to learn how to make soon: savoury (turnip, taro) and sweet (coconut, water chestnut and red bean). What a spread! I felt so lucky.

BreakfastLater on in the day we went to my aunt’s house for other goodies and to wish everyone a happy new year. My cousins dropped by with their families. There were so many babies, toddlers and kids. Our family gatherings are certainly growing.

For dinner we went to the restaurant we always go to for Chinese New Year because they bring in people to do a dragon dance. The children loved it. It seems very hard to do the dragon dance because the dancers are either supporting the head or the fabric that flows from the head that acts as the body of the “dragon”.

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chicken of the sea

On one of my busy days I got some sushi from a nearby surprisingly good take-out sushi place. This was a brown rice avocado and salmon roll. It was so delicious and they were really generous with the fish.

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But luckily, I finally had the chance to make something in the kitchen again.

I had some ground chicken hanging around my freezer for way too long–I just had no idea what to do with it. I read about meatloaf muffins which used ground beef in my now go-to recipe book, Fast Flavours, and I decided to use my ground chicken instead. After browsing some other “chicken meatloaf muffin” recipes online, I chose the ingredients I liked in the different recipes and then really tried cooking “without a recipe” and without (too much) measuring. What an interesting change!

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These chicken meatloaf muffins ended up including oats, one egg, two finely diced celery stocks, half a shredded carrot, a little Sriracha, a good tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper. I baked them for about half an hour. They tasted pretty good and I was quite happy with myself.

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I also finally opened the immersion blender I got for Christmas. I made my first smoothie out of frozen blueberries, yogurt, oats and half a banana. Yum!

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This weekend is Chinese New Year, so I’m back home. Tomorrow is Chinese New Year’s Eve, and my immediate family and I will have our “reunion” dinner. On Chinese New Year’s Day (Sunday), I have a fam jam with my extended family. It’s always a good time and I can’t wait.

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New Year Soy Sauce Chicken

Happy new year! Oh dear, I am entering the “weird zone” of when it’s OK to wish someone a happy new year, whoops. I had a lovely new year’s eve with a good friend, friends of friends, as well my brother and sister — I think this the first time the three of us have been “out on the town”. We saw Sheezer, an all-lady Weezer cover band, as well as a bunch of other bands and musicians. It was a good night, indeed.

This week my mom taught me how to make Chinese soy sauce chicken, which has been a family recipe for three to four generations. It turns out it is really easy to make. Now I hope to share it with you too!

Soy Sauce Chicken

Ingredients

1 whole chicken

Marinade

1 tbsp cooking wine

2 tbsp soy sauce

Sauce/Braising Liquid

2 tbsp medium soy sauce

4 tbsp dark soy sauce

60 g of brown sugar (~ 1/3 cup, packed)

3 spring onions, chopped into thirds

3 slices of ginger (~ 15 g)

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My mom and I actually used Chinese “layered sugar” which is essentially a pressed slab of brown sugar; regular brown sugar will be fine.

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Instructions

Butterfly the chicken by cutting out the back rib.

Marinate the chicken in the wine and soy sauce for about half an hour. The idea is just to get some colour on it.

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In a large non-stick sauce pan, add the soy sauce, sugar, spring onions, ginger, and the chicken. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered.

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After about ten minutes, flip the chicken over and cover again. Spoon sauce over chicken occasionally.

After about another ten minutes, turn the chicken over again, and cook for about ten more minutes until the chicken is done (total cooking time is approximately 30 minutes). You can test whether the chicken is cooked by cutting where the thigh meets the body and seeing if the juices run clear.

Serve the chicken with all the sauce on a large plate.

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Makes delicious, moist, sweet and savoury chicken.

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Christmas Recap

I have finally emerged from Christmas, but I think I was holding onto my holiday mindset since I was waiting for my brother to arrive from Saskatoon. He got back this morning, because he was working over Christmas. I suppose I just wanted to share  a bit of Christmas with my brother. I was particularly excited for him to open the present I got him because I found it back in September and it seemed perfect for him. I think he liked it.

Christmas was a lovely time to spend with family. Some of my cousins and their children stopped by for a bit to say hi. It was definitely different having younger children around! My aunt and uncle joined us for dinner.

For our dinner, I made crispy roasted potatoes: crispy on the top like a potato chip and soft in the middle. Yum! Thank goodness for the food processor – it would have taken forever slicing the potatoes with a mandolin.

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Unfortunately I was in such a rush I didn’t snap a shot of the main event of Christmas dinner: my mom’s delicious Cornish hens in an ale barbecue sauce. My mom first made Cornish hens for Christmas about four years ago to change things up. We liked it so much that Cornish hens are now a yearly tradition on Christmas. We make sure to have turkey on Thanksgiving.

For dessert, we had my mom’s trifle. We also had my Christmas cake that I made back in October! Mm, this was sweet and rich. It was definitely fulfilling just making this cake and feeding it for the last couple months.

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Lots of dried fruit

Lots of dried fruit

I just came back from a buffet with my dad’s side of the family. It was great seeing my cousins again. Now, however, I am stuffed and ready to go to bed.

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