the trouble with being hip

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For your average twenty-something with a blog, I am remarkably bad at social media. I don’t have instagram*, I rarely remember to check my facebook, and my twitter gets used maybe three times a year. I keep thinking I should use twitter more often. Maybe it will be my mid-year’s resolution for 2015 to tweet twice a day.

Or maybe not.

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When did we decide we were all going to hashtag everything? Why did we even decide to call it a hashtag, when twitter is American and Americans call it a pound sign? Things get messy when we hashtag. I was walking by a downtown hotel recently where all the trees were wrapped in magenta fabric. The only indication of what was going on was a large banner that said #projecturbanfabric. At first glance, I thought it said project turban fabric. I wasn’t really sure what the symbolism was of wrapping tree trunks.

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On the seawall last night, I was walking behind a guy wearing a shirt that said #TGIGNT. How am I supposed to know what that stands for? Thank God it’s girls’ night tonight? Try getting into green neon tights? Toothless guy is getting new teeth? Thank God I got no typhoid?

(I know that’s grammatically incorrect, but this is twitter after all.)

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A Google search revealed that it’s actually supposed to promote a local distillery’s Thank God it’s gin & tonic [Fridays]. Hmm.

Much better? Tell Grandma I’m growing nice tomatoes.

And making tomato and cheese tarts with them.

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*I didn’t have instagram at the time of writing. I do now.

Tomato and Cheese Tarts

Ingredients

one package (17.3oz) of frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge
one package of herb and garlic cream cheese (I use Boursin)
three roma tomatoes
a few leaves of fresh basil (I forgot these when I made the batch I photographed… But you’ll be happy to know they still tasted amazing without!)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Unroll the puff pastry, and cut into rectangles. I made mine about the size of a poptart. Spread a little herb and garlic cheese in the centre of each one, leaving at least half an inch of pastry around the edges.
Slice the tomatoes approximately 1/4 inch thick. Julienne the basil – I pile the leaves up and roll them up, then slice them.
Place a few slices of tomato on each pastry on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with basil.
Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry edges are golden brown. Serve warm.

Notes

These are so easy to play with. Try adding some sautéed yellow onions or some thinly sliced red onions along with the tomato, or top before baking with flaked parmesan cheese. Substitute thyme or rosemary instead of basil. Use crumbled goat cheese instead of Boursin. Drizzle with balsamic glaze before serving.

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Portugal beckons

Just outside of Lisbon, there’s a town called Sintra.

It was pretty awesome.

We traipsed around some rich dude’s summer home and through a palace that contained the most magnificent kitchen I’ve ever seen (the first thing that has made me regret not being born a royal in the 1800s).

We ate lots and walked lots and, if you get the chance, I highly recommend visiting.

Recommendations

Pena Palace – one of the best palaces I’ve been to (and yes, I’ve experienced the palace fatigue of many a European vacation).
Piriquita – a cool little patisserie in the old town centre. Try the travesseiros de Sintra, quinins, and queijadas de Sintra.
Tacho Real Restaurant Bar – the grilled sea bass was delicious, the ravioli was to die for.
Cantinho Gourmet – they’ll get you drunk on samples of Portuguese booze while you pick out souvenirs for friends back home.
Quinta da Regaleira – the rich dude’s summer home. He was a Freemason and the whole property is unreal.

the things we do for love

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I did something in code.

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While the rest of you are scratching your heads, I’m beaming in the corner.

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What I mean is, given a little push in the right direction, I’ve decided I should get on with actually providing you with a way to contact me (beyond just leaving a comment on a post). So now, on my about page, you’ll find a brand new contact form.

(And also an incredibly dorky but hopefully slightly endearing photo of me eating Portuguese pastry.)

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What I’m so chuffed about is that, in order to create the form, I had to do all sorts of fun things within brackets and involving equals signs and 1s and 0s.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I clicked an “Add Contact Form” button in WordPress and they created it for me. But then I got to see the coding before I hit publish, so that sort of counts, right?

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Anyway, the point is that you can now have your streams of conciousness delivered directly to my email inbox (which, as any millennial knows, might as well be directly to my brain). Because I love you.

Send me recipes, send me requests for cookies, send me love letters and questions about baking temperatures and restaurant recommendations. Don’t send me pictures of your you-know-whats.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know, I’m highly unoriginal these days. All I want to bake are cinnamon buns and chocolate chip cookies. But hey – there are worse things in life. Let’s just go with it.

Ingredients

one cup butter
one cup sugar
one cup brown sugar
two eggs
one teaspoon vanilla
two cups all-purpose flour
one cup bread flour
one teaspoon baking soda
two teaspoons hot water
half teaspoon salt
two cups chocolate chips (I prefer milk chocolate)
flaked sea salt, for garnish (I use Maldon)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until combined.
In a small glass or bowl, stir hot water and baking soda. Add to butter mixture along with vanilla, and mix well.
Sift in flours and stir until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Scoop by large spoonfuls on the prepared baking sheets, and then sprinkle with a small amount of flaked sea salt.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are browning and the cookies look done.

Toronto, again and again and again

Toronto was, as always, a fantastic time.

We left the airport during an extended layover on the way to Portugal, and spent the day wandering around aimlessly (or, at times, with the aim of finding something that was not remotely close to where I expected it to be) and eating and drinking. During the 12-hour venture into the city, I racked up over 40,000 steps, as my fitbit (also known as the device tracking my early downward trajectory into middle age) informs me.

A few resulting recommendations:
Fran’s, for a very professional breakfast of chocolate chip waffles.
Bakeryhaus, for the custard croissants.
Scheffler’s in the St. Lawrence Market, for pepperoni sticks.
The Distillery District, for Soma Chocolatier and cool furniture shops and brick everything.
Soco in the Delta Hotel, for drinks (though the drinks were excellent, the company was better… Cheers Dave!)
G for Gelato, for possibly the best gelato I’ve ever had, and I don’t say that lightly. (In the spirit of full disclosure, however, I will note that I had been depriving myself of gelato in the name of the Whole Life Challenge for the past six weeks).

sun and sand and salt and books

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It’s basically summer now, which means my brain is full of travel plans and colourful bikinis and picnic food.

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There is a lot to look forward to this summer. I’m off to Portugal and am hoping to throw in a few extra weekends away. I got accepted to a professional development circus training program and adopted an ambitious number of books from the recently-closed Indigo in downtown Vancouver. I plan to spend a generous amount of time lying on the roof of my new apartment building eating potato salad.

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My summer reading recommendations:

The Martian by Andy Weir. Such a fun read. Very rah rah engineering.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. Over and over and over again.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I was late to the party on this one. It’s brilliant.
Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves by James Nestor. A little long but very cool.

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My summer reading list:

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova, because, Lisa Genova.
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown, because I need all the help I can get.
How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen. A friend had bought this and I started reading the first few pages and basically stopped listening to anything he had to say. He was a good sport and bought me my own copy.
Motorcycles I’ve Loved: A Memoir by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

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Sweet Potato Salad (paleo)

Ingredients

Salad

one purple sweet potato, peeled, boiled and cut into chunks
one white sweet potato, peeled, boiled and cut into chunks
three tablespoons finely chopped red onion
two tablespoons finely chopped green onion
four eggs, boiled, peeled and cut into chunks
two small apples (I used Braeburn), cored and cut into chunks
one cup grapes, sliced in half
one cup celery, diced
eight slices of bacon, cooked and cut into bits

Dressing

one egg yolk
one quarter cup olive oil
half cup canola oil
half cup Dijon mustard
half tablespoon salt
one tablespoon lemon juice
one teaspoon white balsamic vinegar

Directions

In a high-powered blender or food processor, emulsify all dressing ingredients. The dressing should end up with a consistency similar to mayonnaise – mine didn’t at first (I suspect it was too cold) so I abandoned it in a jar on the counter and when I came back 15 minutes later it was perfect.
Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, add the dressing, and stir until it’s all mixed up.
Serve cold.

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psst… weirdo

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Everyone has their own little idiosyncrasies.

Some people (ahem, me) have more than their fair share.

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When I’m going somewhere with another person, I really like to need to walk on the left. Being on the right stresses me out and I have trouble paying attention to the conversation (and oncoming traffic). Turning around becomes a little bit a lot stressful, because if we both stop and do a 180, I end up on the right. Then I have to somehow loop around the other person to end up on the left again without them realizing I’m being super weird.

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I cry when people touch my toes. I don’t think we need to go into this one.

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Some people deal with stress by impulse buying shoes, or going for a walk and venting to a friend, or losing all their hair. I partook in the retail therapy side of things, but I bought meat.

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The other day, I stopped by the local community college’s marketplace where they sell the food prepared by students for cheap, and while I eye-drooled all over the pies and breads and cinnamon buns and muffins that I’m not allowed on this stupid challenge, I bought meat. A giant roast, two steaks, and some frozen burger patties.

Then I had to awkwardly carry my giant bag of raw meat back to work, and store it in the communal fridge until the end of the day, and then carry it with me on the skytrain ride home.

But it was worth it, because then I made a pot roast.

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Beef Pot Roast

Ingredients

any type of beef roast. To be honest I don’t know what kind of roast I bought; it was about 3 lbs, pre-tied and grass-fed.
one 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
one quarter of a white onion, diced
peeled cloves from one head of garlic
quarter cup whiskey
tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
one shake (maybe half a teaspoon?) of dried thyme
salt and pepper

Directions

Throw everything in a slow cooker set to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and leave for 3-4 hours. Slice and serve with spoonfuls of tomatoes and extra sauce.

I served mine alongside these vegetable pakoras.

gratitude

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These past few months I have been a mess of emotions. I was half homeless, half nomadic, and totally living out of a bag in the trunk of my car. I was hunting for a condo in metro Vancouver that’s slightly larger than a shoebox and doesn’t cost the GDP of a small country. I was eating way too many cookies and wouldn’t have objected to someone putting an IV drip of coffee directly into my bloodstream.

But moments like those reminded me just how many amazing people I have in my life. I now have a new place of my own and feel like I’m getting back into a routine and I can’t thank these people enough for keeping me almost sane (let’s not get carried away here). Thanks are due to:

L, for venturing out of her house at ungodly hours of the night when I need to eat pizza and cry, and for practically providing the IV drip of coffee. For giving me a key to her new place that she didn’t even live in yet. For deep conversations about the meanings of life and love, shallow conversations about shoes, and pre-emptive conversations about how to dispose of dead bodies.

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My mom, for not batting an eyelash and making me breakfast whenever I sleep over.

J, who is an incredible realtor and the best big brother ever (no, not biological; I’m Asian and he’s a ginger) even though I’m a terrible little sister and don’t keep in touch even close to often enough.

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T, for the hours of help scouring the internet for a decent home, for reading condo disclosure statements, for being more protective of my feelings than I am, and for bringing back much-needed tequila from Mexico.

K, for tea and always asking if I’m okay.

G, for the secondary IV drip of coffee.

C, for everything. I don’t even know where to start.

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You guys are better friends and family than I ever could have dreamed of.

It’s also super convenient that none of your first names start with the same letter.

And now, though hopelessly inadequate: thank you cookies.

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Matcha Cookies (paleo, gluten-free, sugar-free, WLC-friendly)

No, these are not the proper sweet and gooey and chocolate-filled cookies that I should have made. But I’m on the Whole Life Challenge again… I’ll be back to real baking soon.

Ingredients

one and three quarters cups almond meal
one and a half tablespoons matcha powder
one tablespoon vanilla powder
one tablespoon poppyseeds
zest of two small lemons
one egg white
two tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients and zest.
In a stand mixer (or another bowl, you’ll just have to use your muscles), lightly whip the egg white. Add all the dry ingredients and melted butter and mix until well combined -you may need to press it together with your fingers.
On a piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough to about a third of an inch thick. Use your favourite cookie cutters and place shapes on the prepared baking sheet. Re-clump the remaining dough, roll it out, and repeat until you’ve used it all up.
Bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies look dry in the centre.