Nov 10, 2014

Slow Cooker Garlic Lemon Chicken Breast

I recently bought a crockpot for $30 CDN at Walmart, and it has been a Godsend for making meals during the week. This recipe is from Allrecipes, the original recipe called for Cilantro, but I didn't have that on hand. 

There's bokeh in the soup! Yay ~


  • 1 jar (16 ounces) salsa (garlic flavouring)
  • 1 package of dry taco seasoning
  • 2 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 3 lbs of chicken breast


  1. Put in salsa, taco seasoning and lemon juice in the slow cooker, mix.
  2. Slowcook on "high" for 4 hours. 
  3. Shred the chicken with fork, serve with sauce.


Nov 9, 2014

Perfect Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Original recipe from Canadian Living - I always love their recipes. Everything I've baked from them has come out perfectly. 


  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tsp lemon juice, let stand for 5 minutes)
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 357 degrees Fahrenheit. Line muffin tray with paper liners. 

  1. Mix together all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl mix together eggs, buttermilk vegetable oil, and vanilla.
  3. Add flour mixture gradually to egg/milk mixture until well mixed.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Fill muffin paper liners 3/4 full. 
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until cake taster comes out clean. 

Nov 2, 2014

Halifax, Nova Scotia

I was in Halifax, Nova Scotia for an academic conference. Its my first time in the Maritimes, and really the first time outside of Ontario (except for Montreal, Quebec, but thats so close to Ontario it almost doesn't count). For the most part I did travel alone, and although I had some reservations about this I actually really enjoyed it! I travelled at my own pace and did the things I wanted to do without obligation to stick to someone's schedule.

I was staying at an Airbnb by the downtown Halifax harbourfront and its beautiful here. The owner is an architect and has fantastic taste in home decor as I've slowly been taking my own little notes here and there for ideas on my own place.

My host gave me a quick tour of Halifax after picking me up from the airport, we drove through Darmouth, which he dubbed "the Dark Side" and he said its much like the "Scarborough" of Toronto. This area is not as affluent as downtown Halifax and tends to be considered a bit more sketchy by the locals. We crossed the McDonald toll bridge (lo and behold, a toll bridge).

Here are my photos from the trip:

Halifax Seaport Farmer's Market

DIY Minion Costume: The Outfit + Minion Hat for Halloween

While browsing Pinterest I came across a DIY Minion Tutorial that I really liked. So I decided, since I've been piecing together some past cosplays, why not make my own Halloween costume?


Minion Goggles [tutorial here]

  • Using supplies from Home Depot and the dollar store, I cover a tutorial on DIY Minion Goggles here.

Minion Outfit [scroll down for logo print out how-to]
  • Yellow Shirt ($6.95 from H&M)
  • Blue Shorts/skirt ($12 from H&M)
  • Knee-High Socks ($9 from Walmart)
  • Black Shoes (flats) ($9 from Walmart) 
  • Suspenders ($9.50 from Hot Topic)
  • Print logo to t-shirt ~$22

Minion Hat [for tutorial, scroll down]
  • Craft Foam for minion hat (< $10)
  • Glue gun with glue (less than $4 at the dollar store)

Getting the Printed-Tee

There were several options to get the printed logo, this "Gru Logo" which I have provided in large resolution here [click for large version, png]:

Oct 17, 2014

Happiness is in the Pursuit of Happiness

“The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand
as in what direction we are moving.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I always thought happiness was a destination, that once reached life would be immediately better. That perhaps after reaching a goal ______[weight, making a certain amount of money, finishing school, buying that new tech piece, clothing item, vacation] that would be it, I would have finally achieved happiness, life would be perfect and smooth sailing. How I ever came to that conclusion, I don't know. No one has ever explicitly explained it to me.

In the past, during those pursuits of said goals ______ [weight, getting a job, finishing school, buying that  new tech piece, clothing item, vacation] I focused SOLELY on just reaching that destination at whatever mental, physical, spiritual cost that came along. Once I achieved that goal, guess what? I felt EXACTLY the same as I did as before.  The only thing I really felt was surprised, unfulfilled, and all I could think of to myself was "is that it? thats what I worked for? And I don't feel any different.. any happier?"

What happiness is not: 
  • It isn't about the acquisition of material possessions or monetary wealth (as media and businesses would have you believe).

    One pervasive example of the effect of money on happiness - lottery winners have an elevated level of happiness that lasts about two weeks before that level goes back to what it was before they ever won the money. Although that amount of money makes life considerably easier in terms of living expenses, they are still the same people, with the issues and self-limiting beliefs.

Oct 16, 2014

DIY Halloween Minion Costume: Goggles

I've been working on a Despicable Me Minion Costume and decided to DIY this year instead of purchasing a costume (partly inspired by DIY cosplays for conventions I've started to attend this year). I was inspired by Bethany Mota's Minion Tutorial on Youtube and decided to try my hand at it.

I'll be blogging shortly about the outfit I'm putting together for the costume. 


Minion Goggles
  • PVC Piping Ends 2 or 3 inches in diameter (95 cents each at Home Depot)
  • Silver/Glitter Spray Paint ($12.95 at Home Depot). I chose one specifically for crafts
  • 6 small nuts (from my dad, can get them from Home Depot)
  • Glue Gun ($3 from the Dollar Store) with Glue Gun Fillers ($1.50 from Dollar Store)
  • Velcro straps (from Dollar Store)

Oct 14, 2014

Pumpkin Spice French Macarons

Attempt #3. Basic Macaron Recipe from BraveTart, pumpkin spice flavouring from Tasty Kitchen. Pumpkin buttercream recipe adapted from Wicked Good Kitchen and Marvelous Misadventures of a Foodie



Basic Macaron Ingredients 
  • 115 g of almond flour 
  • 230 g of icing sugar 
  • 72 g of sugar 
  • 144g of egg whites 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 

Spice Flavouring/Colour 
  • 1 drop golden yellow or Orange Food Colouring 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Measure out almond flour, icing sugar. Put in food processor, and pulse on high until while ground (~15 times). Sift TWICE into bowl that you will set aside.
  3. Mix egg whites, sugar using an hand/standing electric mixer with a whisk attachment - and time yourself for this next part: 3 minutes on low speed, 3 minutes on medium, then 3 minutes on high. 
  4. Now, add the salt, vanilla extract, food colouring, cinnamon, and allspice, and bump the speed up to maximum for 1 minute (time yourself!). 
  5. Your meringue should be very stiff. It should NOT be runny, and should clump in the middle of the whisk. If it doesn't, beat for another minute or keep beating until it clumps in the middle of the whisk.
  6. Now add the almond flour/icing sugar mixture, and using a spatula FOLD the ingredients, which should take approximately 25 "folds" turns. 
  7. Pipe 1 inch onto baking sheet. Then bang the baking tray hard against the counter surface to dislodge air bubbles. Do this two more times. 
  8. Bake for 18 minutes, turn the baking sheet around after 9 minutes. 
  9. Remove from oven. Allow to cool completely - and be patient! Gently slide them off the parchment paper. If they are still sticking, put in freezer for 1 minute.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Buttercream 

  • 3 tbsp canned Pumpkin Puree 
  • 1/2 package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4  tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups icing sugar, sifted
    1. Beat butter and pumpkin puree together until smooth (20 seconds).
    2. Add cream cheese & vanilla
    3. Add icing sugar gradually and beat until well combined
    This was my third attempt at macarons. Needless to say there are some things I learned this time around:
    • Allow Macarons to Cool: Allow macarons to cool completely before attempting to take them off. I just let them cool for 20-30 minutes. When I became impatient, I ended up tearing some of the macarons before they were ready to be taken off. 
    • Over-mixing: I think I may be over-mixing the batter, instead of folding almond flour/icing sugar into egg white mixture 25 times (an arbitrary number) I think I'll do it until it is absorbed in the fewest strokes possible. 
    • Importance of sifting: My sifter broke on me at my last attempt, and the macarons were a bit lumpy. This time I sifted three times - and food processed any left over bits to ensure they were well grounded! The macarons held well together. 
    • Banging the tray against the counter: Sounds strange, but once I piped the macarons on the counter, I banged the tray against the kitchen counter 2-3 times to get the air bubbles out. Result? The macarons didn't crack after baking! It was a great tip I read on Bravetart
    • More reading/research: I need to read up more on technique to see where I can improve upon. 
    These baked goods are super stubborn to get right, but luckily, so am I! 


    Oct 13, 2014

    Pumpkin Pie

    Tried this recipe from Allrecipes and also adapted from Canadian Living.


    • 1 can (15 ounces, 1 3/4 cup) canned pumpkin puree
    • 1 can (14 ounces, 414 mL) Sweet Condensed Milk
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
    • 1 unbaked pie crust - I used a frozen deep pie crust, which required thawing for 15 minutes before pouring contents into pie dish.


    Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 
    1. Heat canned pumpkin puree, spices and salt over low heat for 8-10 minutes. Stir frequently. Heating the puree removes the "canny" taste.
    2. Remove mixture from heat and pour into bowl. Add condensed milk, vanilla and eggs. Whisk together until well combined. 
    3. Pour pumpkin filling mixture into crust. 
    4. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
    5. Reduce oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 35-45 minutes until cake taster comes out clean. 
    6. To prevent cracking of crust, allow the pie to cool gradually in the oven. 


    Oct 9, 2014


    "You can learn new things at any time in your life if you're willing to be a beginner. 
    If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you." -Barbara Sher

    I've been dancing salsa pretty regularly for the past year (actually, just over a year) and I've built some confidence in my skills and abilities. I can follow pretty well and dance in a social setting.

    The idea of feeling bad at something is very uncomfortable for me. I like the idea of being competent and decently skilled at any particular activity. So as someone that has finished school, and have been doing a very familiar set of hobbies/activities for a long time, I haven't had that feeling of "being a beginner" for a while.

    Anytime you learn a new skill - riding a bike, playing a new sport, playing a new instrument - its inevitable, you're going to suck at it - like be really really embarrassingly bad. "Sucking", at least initially, is a necessary step to eventual mastery of a skill. Embracing this attitude humbles us, and forces us to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. And that if we continue working persistently at it with deliberate practice, we can get a level where we don't suck as much - we might even become good, or great at what we do.

    For me the activity I "suck at" is urban dance. I've attempted hip hop before, bad at it.  I decided to take up breakdancing after trying out one class and really enjoying the class, teacher, and moves we were learning (top rock, down rock and freezes - beginner class doesn't cover power moves like windmills).

    If someone shows me a set of choreography, I'm relatively okay at replicating it. For the first few classes we did a "monkey see monkey do" routine. The instructor showed us some moves and we copied it. Very straight forward, very non-threatening and comfortable.

    What REALLY pushed me outside of my comfort zone was when we tried applying what we learned in freestyle. Our instructor introduced us to breakdancing "cyphers" aka a dance circle. We play the bboy music and take turns trying out different moves we learned together. All of us are beginners (albeit 1 or 2 I'm PRETTY sure had bboyed before) but we encouraged each other, cheering or saying "good job good job" if one of us messed up.  When it was my turn, I went into the circle and did my thing, and I was HORRIBLE at it. I felt eembarrassed self-conscious... all really unfamiliar, uncomfortable feelings.  However in spite of this, I was absolutely delighted and excited - for the first time (in a long time) I felt challenged. I went home thinking about how much practice I needed before I would enter the dance circle again.

    Oct 5, 2014

    Healthy Poutine

    Poutine is a very Canadian dish made with French Fries, topped with cheese curds and gravy. There are different variations of Poutine, including a pulled pork, "Canadian Bacon" and "loaded Nacho-like" versions of Poutine. I decided to make this recipe when my younger brother had asked for healthy poutine.

    I had previously made poutine using low-sodium McCain fries. Upon telling my coworkers they convinced me to try making my own fries and so I did :)


    • 5 Potatoes of your choice
    • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
    • Salt and Pepper to Taste
    • Grated low fat cheese of your choice (Mozzarella, Marble, Cheddar or Cheese Curds)
    • 3 tbsp Low fat and low sodium beef bouillon powder
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1 1/2 cup water
    • 4 tbsp low fat, unsalted butter


    For Home Baked Fries
    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. 
    2. Submerge potatoes in cold tap water for at least 30 minutes, this helps to remove starch and makes it for an easier cut and bake. 
    3. Slice potatoes using a sharp knife into 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch.
    4. Put cut fries into bowl, add 1 tbsp and coat thoroughly.
    5. Place fries on baking sheet, put in oven and bake for 30 minutes, turning a couple of times
    For Gravy
    1. Mix together butter, flour, water, brouillon powder in saucepan.
    2. Cook for 10 minutes.
    To Layer:
    1. Fries, then cheese, then gravy. 


    Oct 4, 2014

    Chocolate French Macarons

    This recipe adapted from Delicious Everyday, Eat Live Travel Write and Stella from Bravetart - who has been making macarons using a tried, tested and true method. This is my second EVER attempt. Unfortunately my sifter broke half way, and I don't think I quite had the texture I needed. I'll continue to do more digging on good macaron-making techniques. It was a good attempt and I think I have the method (steps) down pat. 

    Makes: 20 Macarons


    • 57 g of almond flour
    • 115 g of icing sugar
    • 1 tbsp of cocoa powder
    • 36 g sugar
    • 72g of egg whites
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp salt

    * Its important that your ingredients are measured precisely.

    Cream Cheese Buttercream used from a previous recipe. 


    Preheat oven to 230 degrees Fahrenheit. 
    1. Measure out almond flour, icing sugar and cocoa powder. Put in food processor, and pulse on high until while ground (~15 times). Sift TWICE into bowl that you will set aside.
    2. Mix egg whites, sugar using an hand/standing electric mixer with a whisk attachment - and time yourself for this next part: 3 minutes on low speed, 3 minutes on medium, then 3 minutes on high. 
    3. Now, add the salt and vanilla extract (at this point you would add food colouring or flavours, but we do not do that for this recipe) and bump the speed up to maximum for 1 minute (time yourself!). 
    4. Your meringue should be very stiff. It should NOT be runny, and should clump in the middle of the whisk. If it doesn't, beat for another minute or keep beating until it clumps in the middle of the whisk.
    5. Add the salt, vanilla extract, food colouring, cinnamon, tumeric, and allspice.
    6. Now add the dry ingredients, and using a spatula FOLD the ingredients, which should take approximately 25 "folds" turns. 
    7. Pipe 1 inch onto baking sheet.
    8. Bake for 12 minutes, turn the baking sheet around after 6 minutes. 
    9. Remove from oven. Allow to cool complete, then gently slide them off the parchment paper. If they are still sticking, put in freezer for 1 minute. 


    Oct 2, 2014

    Apple Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

    Yet another recipe adapted from Canadian Living. I baked this for my boss's birthday. This was a perfect Thanksgiving/fall recipe and the aroma while baking was AMAZING.  My brother's verdict who is a taco-bites with occasional desserts kind-of-person was: "This is surprisingly good!". Sharing this at work, I got a lot of feedback that this actually wasn't too sweet, and smelt very good!


    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla 
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk with 1 tsp lemon juice allow to stand for 5 minutes)
    • 1 1/2 cups of cake-and-pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp of ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
    • 1 medium-sized apple grated, drain juices (I used honeycrisp Apple). 


    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Celsius. 
    2. In butter mixture: Beat butter, and gradually add brown sugar. Add egg, vanilla and beat until well mixed. Combine buttermilk. Set aside.
    3. For dry mixture: In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. 
    4. Stir in dry mixture gradually (beating between additions) until well combined. Beat in apple mixture. 
    5. Bake for 17 minutes, or until cake tester comes out dry. 


    • 1/2 cup (125 g, or 3 ounces) of cream cheese
    • 1/2 stick (2 ounces) of unsalted butter
    • 1 cups confectioner's (or icing) sugar
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    ** this makes just enough icing for the amount of cupcakes in the recipe above 


    1. Beat together cream cheese and butter until fluffy.
    2. Beat in vanilla and cinnamon.
    3. Gradually add confectioner's sugar (half a cup at a time), beating between additions. Scrape down sides as necessary.
    4. Ice cupcakes (once cooled down) with a 1M Wilton Tip. 

    These were the honeycrisp apples I bought from farmer's market. 


    Sep 28, 2014

    Bang Bang Ice Cream and Bakery

    Today we had a high of 25 degrees in Toronto (really rare at the end of September) and we decided to go for ice cream in the Trinity Bellwoods area.  The owner of the Bakerbots Bakery opened up this store just a few months ago and its quickly becoming very popular. 

    Their delicious ice cream sandwiches were HUGE. So we each ordered half ice cream sandwich. Eating these were challenging, as each bite caused ice cream to squish out the other side.

    The lineup was the door, and we got inside eventually after about 25 minutes. It was well worth the wait.

    Waiting in line for icecream :)

    Sep 27, 2014

    Ultimate Banana Bread

    My co-worker Kinga bakes banana bread all the time, so when Terri forwarded an Ultimate Banana Bread recipe from Canadian Living, I had to try it. The result? A super-moist tasty banana bread, not too sweet. 


    • 3 ripe bananas 
    • 1.5 tsp of baking soda 
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
    • 1.5 tsp of baking powder 
    • 1/2 tsp salt 
    • 3/4 cup (or 170 g) butter (unsalted, room temperature) 
    • 1 cup brown sugar 
    • 1 tsp vanilla 
    • 1 egg
    Optional: 1 cup chocolate chips.


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

    1. Mash bananas, baking soda and buttermilk together, set aside.
    2. Mix together all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt in another bowl, set aside.
    3. In mixing bowl, beat room temperature butter and brown sugar until well combined.
    4. In butter mixture, add vanilla and egg. Then add banana mixture.
    5. Stir in flour mixture into butter-banana mixture until well combined.
    6. Optional: Add chocolate chips, stir in by hand.
    7. Fill pan.
    8. Bake for 60-70 minutes.