Uncategorized

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup

I’m not going to sugar coat it – being sick sucks. Stuffy nose, body aches, tingling skin, and worst of all anything I put in my mouth seems flavourless and bland. When I was still living at home my wonderful parents would often make me Jook or Rice Congee to make me feel better. Unfortunately, now that I’ve moved out and their catering services are a bit too far away I’ve got to fend for myself.

When I’m stuck nursing myself back to health I’ve found that spicy ethnic food is the only thing that keeps my spirits up (and the only thing I can taste). So, in light of my recently contracted cold I decided to treat myself to some Coconut Curry Lentil Soup. It’s a little spicy, a little sweet, and has a creaminess that has soothed my persistent cough. To be honest, I even love this recipe for when I’m not coughing out a lung, and I hope you will too!

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-4-30-57-pm

COCONUT CURRY LENTIL SOUP

Ingredients

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tbsp red chilli flakes (you can add more or less depending on your spice tolerance)

2 small onions, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tbsp ginger, minced

2 tbsp ketchup (or tomato paste, I just didn’t have any on hand)

2 tbsp curry powder

1/2 tsp red curry paste

2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

4 stalks of Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli), rinsed with leaves and stalks separated

1 400mL can of Coconut milk

2 cups tomato sauce (I used the sauce my family jars, but pureed canned tomatoes work too)

4 cups vegetable stock (chicken stock works too!)

1.5 cups of dried lentils (I used the Six Leaf Sprouted French lentils from Costco)

Salt & Pepper to taste

My apologies for the lack of prep photos, my sick brain didn’t clue into the idea of posting this recipe until it was too late.

Heat a large sauce pan on medium-high and add the olive oil and chilli flakes. I always like to warm chilli flakes because I find it brings out more flavour/fragrance, but you do you! Once sizzling add in the chopped onions and hit them with a pinch of salt & pep and sauté for 4-5 mins or until they are almost translucent.

When the onions are translucent add in the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant (or if you’re sick like me and thinking I CANNOT SMELL, WHAT IS FRAGRANT?? sauté for another minute or so). Then add in your wonderful veggies – carrot, celery, and gai lan stalks (I finely cut these on a bias because I was feeling fancy). Stir until combined and the veggies soften, approximately 4 mins.

Then add in your curry, ketchup, and red curry paste. Stir until all the veggies are coated in spicy-yumness and continue to brown until you have bits of curry/red curry paste/ketchup stuck at the bottom of your pan. This usually takes another 5 minutes or so.

Now all those delicious spices stuck at the bottom aren’t going to go to waste – grab the canned coconut milk and pour it in, scraping the bottom to get those browned bits. Add your tomato sauce and veggie stock, stirring to combine. Once that’s all in you’re ready to add your lentils, and honestly if you don’t have lentils I can see this working with basically any other seed/grain you can think of – quinoa, dried split peas, even rice. It really just depends on the texture you want, I like lentils because of their high reheat value and they seem to soak up any flavour you toss them with.

Cover your pot and bring it to a boil for 5 minutes, making sure to stir every so often to ensure all those veggies aren’t stuck at the bottom. Turn down the heat and keep it simmering for 20 mins or until the lentils are tender. After 20 mins add in the chopped gai lan leaves – they don’t take long to cook through, just a minute or two.

If you want to be extra fancy you could serve the soup with some Naan bread, but really all you need is a spoon. Bonus tip – this freezes REALLY well, so if you make a big batch you can seal it up in a tupperware and toss it in the freezer for the next time the flu bug hits.

What kind of foods do you like to eat when you’re feeling under the weather??

Chicken Fried Quinoa

IMG_0212-0.JPG

I’m forever trying to find ways to make classic comfort foods more healthy. Tonight I had such a strong craving for chicken fried rice, but the MSG in most takeout versions gives me the WORST headaches. Not to mention the fact that I’m trying to save money for my next trip, so picking up Chinese is pretty much out of the question.

In typical food-fiending fashion I began searching Foodgawker for inspiration and found the perfect compromise – Chicken Fried Quinoa! I’m not exaggerating when I say I have an obsession with this seed. I usually cook a cup of it at the beginning of every week and use it as a healthy filler in my lunches. Whether it be on its own or in some hodge podge salad quinoa is definitely a superfood.

This recipe is super simple and once again can include basically any veggies that you have lying around. If you haven’t noticed a theme yet most of my recipes include a mix of whatever is about to go bad in my fridge!

Chicken Fried Quinoa

2 tbsp canola oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp hoison sauce
1.5 cups quinoa
1 medium stalk broccoli
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1.5 cup chicken stock
1.5 cup vegetable stock
1 green onion, sliced
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste

IMG_0205.JPG

Generously season the diced chicken breast with salt and pepper – no one likes bland chicken! Make sure all the vegetables are prepped and cut beforehand and set them aside.

I had some leftover quinoa from earlier in the week, but if you don’t have a fridge brimming with half eaten (aka forgotten at the back of the fridge) meals like me, you’re going to need to make some! In sauce pan combine both veggie and chicken stock and the quinoa. You could just use either chicken or vegetable stock alone, I just ran out chicken stock … so the perpetual laziness continues! Follow the quinoa’s package directions to cook – typically you need to bring the mix to a boil then reduce the heat so it simmers, cover the pot and cook for 15 mins, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. DO NOT BURN THE QUINOA – unless you a) want to say goodbye to your pot … burnt quinoa is near impossible to get off or b) want to have the most sore arms in existence from scrubbing said pot.

IMG_0206.JPG

In a large frying pan heat the canola oil on medium-high and add the diced chicken breast. I ended up frying it in two batches so that the pieces weren’t crowded. Crowding the pan will make the chicken boil not brown – you want to see that light brownish crispy exterior :) After the chicken is cooked remove it from the pan, reserving the cooking oil, and place it on a plate
covered in paper towel to blot off the excess grease.

IMG_0207.JPG

IMG_0210.JPG

Add garlic, onions, carrots, and broccoli into the same frying pan, season with half the 1 tbsp of both hoison and soy sauce and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots have softened. Slowly mix in the quinoa until everything is combined. Add the remaining hoison, soy sauce and the eggs, quickly stirring so that the egg breaks up coats everything evenly. Grab your cooked chicken and toss that back in the same pan. Once the chicken is heated through pour it into a serving dish and garnish with green onion.

IMG_0211.JPG

If you wanted to make this recipe even healthier you could even swap out the whole eggs for egg whites! What are some recipes you’ve made with healthy ingredient substitutions?

Jamaican Seasoned Rice

My family, like many others, is utterly obsessed with food. When we get together we mainly discuss new recipes we’ve attempted and restaurants that everyone ‘MUST TRY’. Holidays around here are like going to a 5-star restaurant that serves family style. Being food centric meant that I spent a large part of my childhood in the kitchen helping my parents . I will forever be thankful to my parents for teaching me how to cook, in my opinion there are wayyy too many twentysomethings that have the culinary expertise of Carrie Bradshaw (ovens are NOT for storing magazines) !!

My Dad is definitely the head chef in our family, I’ve always been amazed by his ability to throw together a meal with random ingredients he finds in the fridge. Growing up I was very privileged to have him show me the ropes in the kitchen, and it was great bonding time for us. Even now that I’m older he still surprises me with delicious new recipes. Just last week I came home to the most amazing smell wafting out of the kitchen. When I asked him what he made all he said it was Jamaican Seasoned Rice. To be honest I had to ask him twice – I couldn’t hear him over my salivary glands going into overdrive. If you enjoy ackee and saltfish (a classic Jamaican dish that’s usually served with green bananas) you’ll love this dish! It was everything a one pot meal should be savoury, salty, and satisfying.

It was so delicious that I decided to recreate it for dinner last night with a few additions (AKA vegetables that were about to go bad in my fridge).

Jamaican Seasoned Rice

2 cups basmati rice

2 cups cubed butternut squash

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 red pepper, chopped

1 cup green beans, chopped

1 tbsp finely chopped Scotch Bonnett Pepper (this can be omitted, but I LOVE spicy food)

1/2 cup broccoli, chopped

2 tbsp dried thyme

1 1/2 cups salted cod, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup coconut milk powder

1/3 cup water

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 tbsp canola oil

2 tbsp olive oil Becel

Fresh ground pepper

image

Heat the canola oil in a large pot on medium-high heat and add the butternut squash. Season with pepper and cook until it’s softened, but not browned. Add the onions, red pepper, thyme, Scotch Bonnett pepper, green beans, broccoli, and salted cod and cook for another 5 mins (basically just look for the onions to be translucent).

image_3

Combine 1/3 cup of coconut milk powder with 1/3 cup of water and set aside.

Wash the rice under cold running water until the runoff water runs clear. You don’t want all that gross starchy-ness making your delicious rice sticky! Then combine the rice with your veggie pot. Make sure you’re stirring this mixture continuously so the rice doesn’t burn. Trust me, burnt rice is not fun to remove from the bottom of a pan.

image_4image_6

Once the rice is combined with the vegetables add the coconut milk mixture and Becel.  Bring the pot to a boil and ladle in a small amount of chicken stock, reduce the heat and cover it so the mixture is just simmering. At this point you’re probably thinking I did not sign up for risotto-esque cooking, but trust me – it’s worth it. Check the pot often and add chicken stock as needed, making sure it’s fully absorbed into the rice before adding more. I used around a cup and a half of chicken stock to cook the rice, but you may need more or less depending on the type of rice you’re using.

image_8

The final product is fluffy, salty, spicy heaven. As I mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of ackee and saltfish, but there’s been a green banana shortage in Toronto so this is a perfect replacement! My Dad’s original recipe included tomatoes as well, but I was far too lazy to head out to the store so I’ll definitely be using those next time!

Day 1: Split and Trogir

The calm after the storm in Kastela Marina

The calm after the storm in Kastela Marina

As I mentioned before, our first day didn’t exactly go as planned because of the freak thunderstorm that closed down the coastline for two hours. When the rain did finally let up we began getting ready for our first night out in Croatia!

10649632_10152346873732596_7622243152939340075_n

Rain couldn’t dampen our spirits – or stop our drinking

Instead of sailing from the marina to Trogir we ended up having to take a cab in order to get to the party on the riva. Our night out in Trogir was my least favourite of the week, but I’ll chalk it up to hauling luggage around and grocery shopping completely exhausting my energy stores.

The strip of bars that were on the riva weren’t the greatest – we were actually subjected to a lot of sketchy characters that, thankfully, were never to be seen again. One of which being a 12 year old that seemed to run one of the bars. In typical drunk girl fashion two of my girlfriends (ehm Emma and Tori) befriended him and were fed free drinks the remainder of the night, which definitely wasn’t a horrible experience. To combat their drunkenness my friend Alex and I decided to go on an adventure to find them both something to soak up the excessive amount of vodka shots they were consuming. This wouldn’t be the last drunk food search of the night, but it was certainly the easiest. As it turns out drunk food really isn’t a thing in Croatia, unlike in Canada, where drunk food is the quintessential way to end a messy night out. It took the girls and I a good half hour to realize we needed to cross a bridge to find a bakery that was open at 3am – but let me tell you, it was completely worth it. There are few things that make me happier at 3am than drunk food, especially if that drunk food is a flakey pastry filled with cheese and minced meat.

Our crew

My wonderful crew on the riva in Trogir

 

The Yacht Week: Introduction, Booking, Getting There, and Check-In

My trip of a lifetime started out in Croatia! Our YW preparations started months ago when two of my girlfriends decided to rally some of us together for a graduation/Eurotrip. Most people thought that we were nuts when we said we had booked a yacht. There’s a stigma attached to YW that makes most people think it’s super expensive and unattainable, when in reality if you plan it out it costs just slightly more than a really nice all-inclusive in the Caribbean.

Booking the yacht itself was very simple – we simply had to log onto TYW website and chose the number of people sailing with us (not including our skipper – more on this later) and the website listed off the yachts that could accommodate our party.As of right now our crew is actually the background movie playing on the bookings site! I even have a quick headshot in there:)

One thing that could throw some people off is that they ask for the exact number of girls & boys that will be on the yacht (no doubt to ensure fairly even gender ratios for that week). When choosing the yacht, there is a percentage directly beside the model year that shows the percentage of females that must be on the yacht for you to be able to book. From experience going over this ratio is encouraged – being the only all girl boat (that I knew of) on our week was a TON of fun. We were immediately coined the ‘Toronto Girls or Canadian Girls’ and were known for hosting a few too many APs on our boat.

Depending on which week you plan on travelling you follow a different payment schedule (all of them include 3 instalments) – the first two are usually around the same amount (30% of the total cost) and the last is the largest (40%). We opted to purchase TYW bracelets which grant you entry to all TYW parties – I STRONGLY encourage this as TYW puts on some of the best parties I’ve ever been to, especially at Fort George in Vis and Carpe Diem and Carpe Diem Beach in Hvar. You also need to budget in money for a skipper, unless you are particularly skilled at driving large yachts, and even then I recommend hiring a skipper – who wants to be worried about steering when you could be funnelling beers? Our skipper was an absolute godsend – I have no idea how he dealt with 11 girls for a week without loosing his mind, but we absolutely adored and appreciated him for it. Skippers also know all the best places to eat on the islands, bays to swim in, and they party the hardest – you don’t survive a summer of yacht week without being able to out-drink the average 20-something. That last reason alone is enough to befriend your skipper – ours brought us a funnel, something that I had originally wanted to bring but had no room to pack – yes, he is actually the best skipper in existence.

Looking for a taxi outside of the Split airport

Three of the four Ninja Turtles looking for a taxi outside of the Split airport

If you choose to sail in Croatia you will be leaving from a marina near Split, a city situated right on the Dalmatian coast. I chose to fly through Rome in order to reach Split airport, but I know that it’s possible to fly through other large European airports such as Frankfurt and Munich, it all really depends on your budget and timeline. I arrived with 3 of my girlfriends the night before (Friday, August 22nd) and would definitely recommend this as the day of is very hectic with grocery shopping and check in.

We easily found a cab that took us from the airport into our hostel in town where we met the rest of the girls. If you’re travelling to Split and need a hostel stay at Grand Hostel LerO. The owners were SO incredibly friendly and helpful – they actually greeted us with their garden grown watermelon and grapes alongside a platter of figs that I still dream of to this day. In addition to feeding us an assortment of mouth-watering fruit, they insisted on us drinking some of their homemade grappa. Coming from an area that is largely Italian back home, I was initially horrified as my first memory of grappa was quickly taking a few too many shots before a friend’s 17th birthday in a moment of sober desperation. I was actually pleasantly surprised at the fruity taste when I tried it with the girls at 11am (yes 11am, I was on vacation and it was considered celebratory – no judgment). The owners also helped to set us up with a shuttle to the marina in the morning (I told you they were the best) for around 10 EUR each.

All of us waiting outside the hostel - yes, that's me fixing my bralette.

All of us waiting outside the hostel for our shuttle – yes, that’s me fixing my bra, clearly not ready to be photographed.

There are a few different marinas in Split so make sure you check your itinerary on TYW booking to see which one you leave from. We were assigned to leave from Kastela Marina, which was around a 20-minute ride from central Split. These 20 minutes flew by thanks to our shuttle driver who was absolutely hilarious – he was an actor and actually sang to us the entire way while playing his Ukulele. If that’s not talent I’m not sure what is.

Waiting what seemed like eternity to board our yacht.

Waiting what seemed like eternity to board our yacht.

Once we arrived at Kastela we met a few of the crew members who handled the whole check-in process. Since our party was arriving at different times from the hostel (the shuttle couldn’t carry all of us at once) we decided to wait to check-in later and went grocery shopping! The closest grocery store to Kastela Marina is a Getro that is literally a 5-minute walk up the road – if you’re coming in from Split you’ll pass it on the way. The only unfortunate thing is that travelling back with groceries isn’t as easy – we had to take a cab that cost us 100 Kuna (I think it was equivalent to around $20CAD), which was obviously a complete rip off, but it was way too difficult to carry 4 jugs of water and all our groceries back. I’d say grocery prices at the Getro were comparable to those in Canada; they also had a small shop outside that had towels, water shoes, and floaties. If you’re going to buy something there buy water shoes! I think they were around 50 Kuna, but were completely worth it. I was very thankful I bought them when I climbed the Green Caves as the rocks heading up are extremely sharp (I also lost a chunk of my shin this day) and when I had to shower in some fairly gross public stalls. Buy floats if you can as well; they’re a lot of fun during the circle party that happens later in the week! Getro had a decent selection of produce, non-perishables, and most importantly – alcohol. If you’re lazy there was a small convenience store at the marina, but they jacked up the price of pretty much everything by 20-50 Kuna.

Now onto groceries – we just bought the essentials because we really didn’t plan on cooking all day. Here is our basic list:

1) Water (Buy double what you think you need – I would buy my own large bottle every time we docked because the thought of being hungover and dehydrated in the middle of the ocean was my absolute nightmare)

2) Pasta

3) Tomato sauce  – Be careful you aren’t buying the red pepper sauce – we, along with a bunch of crews made this mistake… luckily it tasted good as a sandwich condiment

4) Fruit – we bought peaches, apples, bananas and plums … it made an excellent breakfast/mid-day snack

5) Vegetables – avocados (we were craving some guac), onions, garlic, tomatoes, lettuce

6) Bread

7) Chips – Europeans seem to love their Pringles and so did we! We also bought some tortilla chips for our guac day

8) Peanut butter

9) Peanuts

10) Chase – Redbull, OJ, and Coke were necessary

11) Alcohol – buy a variety, I can tell you from experience you aren’t going to be able to drink the same thing for 7 days and nights straight. I ended up alternating between Somersby, Red Wine, Vodka, and Beer

12) Lunch meats – Sandwiches are generally a crowd-pleaser and make the best lunches when you’re sailing between ports

13) Olive oil

14) Balsamic vinegar

15) Plastic cups/paper plates – no one wants to do millions of dishes

16) Garbage bags (big ones) – So incredibly necessary for clean ups after parties

17) Salt and pepper

18) Shampoo/Conditioner/Body Wash – the majority of our showers happened off the back of our boat and in the ocean, so if you’re a princess this may not be the trip for you (think camping on a boat)

19) Toilet paper

20) Paper towels

This was just our first grocery trip, we ended up purchasing more food at each port depending on what we needed. Whenever we stopped on an island we found it easy enough to find a market so there is no need to buy supplies for the entire week – you don’t have enough room to store it all anyways!

We ended up boarding our yacht around 5PM which we initially weren’t very happy about, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise. There was a huge thunderstorm (something VERY uncharacteristic of Croatia in the summer) that we would have been sailing though if we had made it on earlier. There were only two yachts that left before the storm and passengers on both boats said they thought they weren’t going to make it!

I hope I gave you guys a little insight into what to expect before getting onto your yacht – if you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them :) My next few posts are going to focus mainly on what we did on each island and little tips on making the most out of the best week of your life!

xx R

The Yacht Week Croatia

10615366_10152288632807596_6465100857145736030_n

Hey guys,

Sorry for the huge gap between my posts – I’ve been in Europe for the past three and a half weeks! I actually planned on keeping a detailed journal of everything that happened during my trip so that I could write about it here, but there was always something to do that sounded more exciting that staying home and writing about my day! My resolution for my next trip (yes there is already one in the works) is to actually complete said journal on the daily.

This is most definitely going to turn into a series of posts just because I have too many things to say to get it all out at once. This first post is just going to be a general introduction to my experience booking and boarding our yacht. The next few posts will go into more detail about each destination, what I brought – including what I should of packed and what I wouldn’t next time, and a few tips on surviving YW!

When you watch the trailers for The Yacht Week you really can’t comprehend what they mean by “It’s nothing like the real world” until you’ve actually lived it. The trailer depicts young, attractive, carefree individuals who look like they’re having the time of their life and let me assure you, they are. I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced numerous wonderful vacations, but nothing will ever compare to the memories and friends that I made on YW.

Here’s the 2013 trailer in case you haven’t seen it.

The Yacht Week started in Croatia and now has routes in Italy, Greece, Thailand, and British Virgin Islands. We chose Croatia because it’s known to be the most party-centric route. They cater to the 20-35 year old demographic, as 22 & 23 year olds we were definitely one of the youngest crews – and trust me, this wasn’t a bad thing at all.

Let me just warn you, YW isn’t for those who want a relaxing travel experience in five star accommodations. I barely slept the entire week, most nights I crashed in our hammock or on the top deck of the boat, but I wouldn’t change a single second of it. If you’re doing YW it’s to experience the insane parties, meet amazing people from around the world, and see the coastline of a beautiful foreign country – NOT to lie in a bed and enjoy ideal sleeping conditions. Believe me most nights sleeping isn’t even an option until around 6am when the party settles down. This isn’t to say that you’re going to living in absolute squalor for a week, but it’s definitely more like living in residence first year-university that being put up in the Ritz. Be prepared to be woken up by people scrambling across your boat mid-morning trying to find their boat before their crew leaves to the next port or just by your own crew mates who insist that 9am is a perfectly acceptable time to start drinking (this may or may not have been me). Exploring the islands and sailing a little buzzed is half the fun anyway.

World Cup Fever

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, I’m sure you’re aware that the Fifa World Cup has been going on! I have such great memories of watching soccer with my family and friends growing up, so I always get really excited when it’s celebrated on a worldwide scale.

For the past few years I’ve cheered for Italy, mainly because the majority of my friends are Italian, but this year I’ve been rooting for Germany! I figured I’m a quarter German, so might as well be cheering for my own team!

In the spirit of the World Cup, I began looking for some cute German accessories to wear while I was out watching games, but couldn’t find ANYTHING! Of course this lead me to make a floral headband in traditional Deutschland colours – red, yellow, and black! My mom actually makes fun of me because I went through a definite Lana Del Ray-esque flower crown phase last year. In my defence, I made them to wear during music festivals, not everyday activities!

Here are some of those infamous “floral headdresses” as my mom would say…

photo-6     photo-7

I received lots of compliments at music festivals, but I don’t think they’re appropriate for a sports bar! I ended up heading to my favourite cheap craft supply place, Dollarama, for some DIY inspiration.

After perusing the aisles I ended up purchasing a plain black headband, a bouquet of artificial yellow flowers, and a set of hair pins that had a red flower attached. Of course you could tailor this to any specific teams colours, a baby blue and white arrangement would look great if you were cheering for Argentina!

image-2

Luckily, the red flower was only attached to the hair pin using glue, so I was able to carefully tugged it loose. I wanted the yellow flower to appear a bit fuller, so I removed the petals off several flowers and combined them onto one peg.

  image-3

After deciding on the flowers positioning I used a hot glue gun to attach them to the headband. Easy peasyyy. Just remember to be careful with the glue gun – I’ve singed a few fingers during craft time and believe me it isn’t fun. If you do burn yourself run it under cold water for at least 5 minutes – the issue with minor burns are that the upper layer of skin may feel OK after a quick cool down, but the lower layers of skin may still be retaining heat, which leads to further damage.

photo-8

ANYWAYS – this is the finished headband! Much less intricate than the crowns I made before, but I think it’s the perfect mix of girly and festive. If I didn’t look like such a dirt squirrel right now I’d post a picture of me wearing it, but I do so this will have to do!