Youth Food Project: Cookie Decorating

The Youth Project had its last session for 2014 last Thursday and we learned how to decorate cookies! As an intern/mentor, I assist in teaching the youth but for that evening we had a special guest (Monika Paradi) who took the stage and showed us some of her decorating techniques–I love it when I get to be a student too!

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I am surely going to miss the Inn for the next few weeks! As I keep telling people about my experience there, I love how we don’t just focus on the end product but also (especially!) on the process of cooking/baking–the gathering of community and building of relationships. It’s definitely something I want to keep doing in the future, and possibly share to the rest of the world.

 

Catching Up with the Season

When I was still in UBC, life usually slows down as the calendar turns to October and everyone’s finally settled in school. Extended summer breaks are over, frosh kids are all partied out, and adding/dropping courses are past the deadline. As for me, it’s my cue to get serious with my research papers and bury myself in readings.

Here in Toronto, it’s different. The leaves are changing but the city is as vibrant as ever. From Nuit Blanche to Oktoberfest, park crawls to zombie walks, and food shows to chocolate festivals, there’s always something big happening every weekend. The city sets its own pace, which I too have come to do for myself.

One way I’ve gained control of this fall season is by volunteering. The great thing about the culinary and hospitality industry is that it is part of everything we do so there will always be events to work on. I’m grateful that George Brown is very hands-on and really pushes its students by regularly updating them of the opportunities all over the city. Last weekend I was able to work at the Homegrown Park Crawl with AGO’s FRANK Restaurant, then on the 25th I’ll be working at the 2014 Canadian Hospitality Foundation Gala.

Aside from these special events, I have been spending my Thursdays helping out at a small community kitchen. They have an amazing Youth Food Program wherein they encourage kids to learn culinary skills like cooking and baking from scratch. I’ve only volunteered twice but I’m really enjoying it! I get there and my mind just enters its comfort zone. It’s not like one of my culinary labs where I am under pressure and have to present 4-5 dishes in 2 hours; it’s more of building a relationship with the youth, contributing what I know (in culinary as well as in life in general) and simply having fun in the kitchen. At the end of each session, we gather for a lovely home-cooked dinner, strengthening our sense of community, but more importantly, sharing a unique food experience with everyone. And if there’s something I wouldn’t mind doing for the rest of my life, it would be to encourage those kind of experiences.

Since it’s Thanksgiving on Monday, this week we taught the youth how to make chicken pot roast and their choice of either apple or pumpkin pie. I chose the latter since I’ve only made it once before and that was from a canned pumpkin. At the volunteer, we got to use fresh pumpkins, and although it’s more work, we all had fun deseeding, roasting, and scooping out the insides. Not to mention that fresh purée tastes so much better!

I ended up with extra pie filling so I played around by adding flour, baking powder, baking soda and butter to make these pumpkin donuts. I also coated them with homemade brown sugar glaze and chopped pecans for toppings. They actually turned out really good. They’re flat-sided donuts but it works for something that I came up with by just randomly mixing in stuff!

Have a great weekend, and if you’re in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving!

Raw Kale Caesar Salad 

(A recreation of UNA Calgary‘s version, adapted from Dr. Weil’s Kale Salad)

Ingredients

  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch kale, ribs removed and leaves picked into 1/4 inches
  • eggs, boiled (I use the 6 minute method)
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, shaved
  • panko breadcrumbs, toasted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet with parchment paper, arrange prosciutto in a single layer. Place in the oven, and bake until crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. (Keep a close eye because they can burn easily!) Remove from the oven, and crumble into pieces once cooled.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper flakes. Add kale and toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes.
  3. When ready to serve, top salad with boiled egg, shaved cheese, toasted panko breadcrumbs, and crispy prosciutto bits.

The call of the water

Harbourfront Centre
Toronto, ON

Photos from yesterday’s 7 km run. Whether its around the hills of Calgary or within the streets of downtown Toronto, running never fails me. It cleared my mind for a good hour. I also saw this small crew gathered on the dock that reminded me of how working on a cruise ship was one of my dreams a few years ago. My mom wasn’t into the idea because I’d probably be away for months but I seriously didn’t mind. I wanted to be away. Life on land is too complicated and consuming. It’s a race, and there are too many responsibilities. I prefer being out in the water. You are simply there, in the middle of something endless and unchangeable. It doesn’t judge, expect nor impose anything; you are who you’re supposed to be.

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cupcakes with Cocoa-Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Vanilla Cupcake Recipe from Cloud9 Specialty Bakery

Cocoa-Vanilla Buttercream Frosting adapted from Add A Pinch’s Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2-3 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
  • salt

In a bowl or a stand mixer, beat sugar and softened butter until it turns pale and into a cream-like texture (about 3 minutes). Add in milk, vanilla extract, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt. Keep mixing until you get a frosting consistency. It should be smooth but if you were stubborn like me and didn’t sift the powders, then you will get a lumpier frosting. :P

Finding Stillness

Whatever it is you do and are passionate about, whether it is something like yoga or any other craft, remember that when you honor your practice, it will always honor you back. 

Although things have gotten better with me figuring out my long-term goals, I am still being challenged every day by my own mind. Yoga—hot yoga, specifically—physically and mentally removes me from those “distractions.” It reminds me to be still. To pause, breathe and appreciate myself and my practice.

When you encounter a bump a long the road, do not rush to the finish line. In fact, you can’t. Everything happens on its own time no matter what you do. Instead, be patient and acknowledge that the glitch isn’t based on where you are but on how you choose to react to the situation you are in.