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Taco, ma cherie

Paris Party Table
Earlier this June, we were invited to a friend’s surprise engagement party. It was beautifully decorated and Paris themed, and it was a great night full of good food, good drink, and good people. They told the couple that it was a going away party for one of our friends who was supposedly moving away to San Francisco. The look of surprise on their face when they were trying to figure out why we were shouting “Surprise!!!”, why their family was there, and why everyone was staring at the nondescript couple waltzing in late to the supposed going away party was unforgettable.

Taco Dip

 

I had wanted to do a French-inspired tarte tatine, but everyone wanted taco dip instead, and who is to blame them? I love making taco dip because it’s super easy, and super delicious. We ended up eating leftover taco dip for almost three days straight; it was awesome.

Bottom layer to top:

  • Refried beans mixed with pickled green chilies
  • Taco meat (ground beef mixed with taco seasoning)
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream mixed with taco seasoning
  • (This is where I would usually add guacamole but my avocados were too hard.)
  • Salsa – this one was from a jar to save time but I usually like to make it myself
  • More cheese
  • Pico de gallo – I use the Pioneer Women’s recipe
  • Lettuce
  • Top off with more pico de gallo, shredded cheese, and pickled jalapenos to make it look nice.

What happens when you’re shopping last minute is that you don’t can’t always account for the groceries not having what you need. In this case, there were no ripened avocados and only one jalapeno! I settled for pickled jalapenos on top and bought some other hot peppers to mix into it. Unfortunately, the peppers weren’t well labeled and I bought scotch bonnets instead of habaneros. I mixed the scotch bonnets into my pico de gallo in lieu of the jalapenos and it turned out great; it gave the dip a bit more of a kick than usual.  Serve with any corn chips you like. We tried the Tostitos lime chips and they were off the HOOK!

I found it surprising that within minutes of bringing the dip in, someone had eaten the “decorative” scotch bonnet on top, and I didn’t hear anything about it. These south Asians are terrifying with their spice tolerance.

Pickle Jalapeno Backs

Last year, I took almost the same group of people to Montreal for my birthday, where I introduced that to a drink I had found on my trip to New York — The Pickleback. It is a shot of house whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice; you can watch me do the shot here. The shot lined up above was purely spur of the moment when I realised that we had a bunch of whiskey and a whole empty jar of pickled jalapeno juice. So we poured them, and drank them, and they were delicious! I like alcohol when I can’t taste it. 🙂

There was so much food leftover and as usual when there is alcohol involved, the pictures get blurrier and blurrier as the night wears on.

A big congratulations to Hamsa and Jehan, both on your future life together and also the most beautiful proposal story I’ve ever heard (hello, he took her to Paris to propose. Excuse me while I swoon.) With an engagement party like that, I can’t wait till the wedding.

My Green Smoothie Variation!

Tired of my healthy blogs yet? Don’t worry, I’ve got a couple of restaurant food blogs coming up soon. My diet has loosened up considerably since I started, but I’ve lost a total of 10 pounds now! Yayyy.  It took me almost two months, but that’s because I pretty much stopped exercising about a month ago. I knoow, booo me. But, I have switched to a healthier (food) lifestyle. I don’t eat fast food anymore, and I’ve been drinking exclusively water for about two years now, save for the occasional tea or alcohol. But since moving away from Toronto, I don’t find myself drinking (alcohol) every weekend or every other weekend. I’m mostly a hermit.

I never thought I’d become one of those people, but I actually caught myself saying, “Ugh, is it organic though…?” the other day, and I found that weird. But I’ve been trying to buy organic food when my budget allows and when it’s available. I’m not too strict on it. I’ve heard people say that generally, the things where you don’t eat the peel (oranges, watermelon, etc) you don’t have to buy organic, but other things you should (lettuces, veggies, etc) or at least wash very very thoroughly before using.

So, in accordance with this healthy (food) lifestyle, I either have my oatmeal for breakfast or this smoothie that I’m going to share with you. For the last 2-3 weeks, I’ve been having this smoothie exclusively because it’s so darn tasty. This smoothie gives me tons of energy and usually keeps me full for 4-5 hours! I’ll have it in the morning before I go to work and then by the time my lunch break comes around, I’ll have just started to get hungry.

I first heard about green smoothies from one of my favourite vloggers, itsjudytime, on her daily vlog channel called itsjudyslife. Her husband, Benji, does a green smoothie/juice recipe on his channel, BenjiManTV. I made up my recipe by watching them make their smoothies, as well as doing my research on green smoothies (it supposedly makes your skin glooooow), and adjusting it to my own taste preferences. So without further ado, here we go!

Alright! This is what I put into my smoothie on a pretty regular basis. Well, except for the mixer.. that’s just what I use to mix them all together… jeez.

So I start off with half a banana (~50 cal.), as much spinach as I can fit (~10 cal.), and some almond milk (~25 cal), just so it’s not too thick. You can adjust the amount of almond milk to how thick or thin you like your drink. You can also substitute for water if you want to lower calories, or coconut water for a delicious flavour. I actually added fresh coconut water with some coconut flesh the other day, and it tasted super fresh! As you can see, after blending, the drink is a wonderful bright and alien green.

Please forgive my typography here. Next, I put in one stalk of celery and a few slices of apple in there (~15 cal.). I like to mix my ingredients in batches because it doesn’t overwork my magic bullet. If you have a full-size blender, it can probably handle all the ingredients in there at once, but I like how I just have to wash the “cup” I use after I’m done with it instead of a whole different container (I hate dishes).

Now this is where it gets… sludgy looking. I add in 1/4 cup of my frozen berries (~40 cals.) and 1/4 cup of my frozen fruits (~40 cals depending on the kinds of fruits). You can easily do this with all berries, or even no berries at all. I had a berries and mango mixture going on for a while. Yum yum yum!

I add some more spinach for good measure. A cup of spinach is only 7 calories, people! And you can’t even taste the spinach. You can also add kale, which is a known superfood, but I’ve never had kale before. Once, my brother bought me a spinach blend instead of just spinach, and it had radicchio and arugula in it. Usually, I love arugula, but I found its flavour in a smoothie much too overpowering.

I only add half a scoop of whey protein in to save calories. Also, if you follow my vlog, you will have seen that the first time I ever made a smoothie, I added a whole scoop, and though it made me very very full, I really disliked the sickly sweet flavour. I use the vanilla flavour from Kaizen 100% Whey Protein. For more information about protein, what protein he uses, and for more health and fitness information, check out my friend Edmond’s blog. Boy is cut as heck!

Here’s the nutritional information for the protein that I use:

So, half a scoop of protein is about 75 calories. You can skip it, but I feel like this is the thing that really keeps me full throughout the day. Though it’s a lot of calories for one ingredient, it keeps me from eating more later on. I mix everything up after adding the whey protein.

Next step you don’t really have to add, but I like to put in a third to half a package of plain oatmeal (20-25 grams) which equals 65-95 calories. I would usually add just bulk oatmeal but I had some packages leftover. If you’re watching your calories, I would exclude it, but I wanted to have more fibre. That’s about 25% of the reason. The other 75% is because with the berries, there are those really annoying raspberry/strawberry seeds that are left and you have to chew and get stuck in your teeth. So I add in the oatmeal (and shake, not blend!) so that I have something that I can chew and distract from the annoying seeds because I added the oatmeal on purpose. Plus, I like chewing something substantial in my smoothie. The best way to add oatmeal in is if your smoothie is relatively thick. If it’s too juice-like, it’ll just sink to the bottom. Ew.

So in total, this smoothie comes up to about 330 calories. About 250 if you omit the oatmeal, and 175 if you omit the protein too. Anyway, I like it because it’s healthy, tastes good, and you don’t even have to add any sugars because the banana, berries, and protein add enough sweetness. You even get some veggies in there without having to taste them! I completely recommend you trying it out! 🙂

Homemade Super Awesome Oatmeal

So, if you follow my vlog or tweets or instagram (@Judskii), you might know that I’ve been trying out this whole oatmeal thing. And if you are aware of my presence at all, you’ll know that this is in an effort to not only lose weight, but also to lead a healthier lifestyle overall. I started off buying Nature’s Path organic oatmeal as a kick off point, as I was also tentatively avoiding wheat and wheat-based products. After much agonizing over the ingredients and nutritional information, I had chosen this brand because it had less sugars, calories, and no wheat products (excluding the Multigrain flavour). It cost about $5 and after running through the 8-pack box, my friend was telling me that I should just buy oatmeal at a bulk supply store and be done with it, since it’s so cheap.

But why stop there? Instead of just buying plain oatmeal, I set out on a quest to make my own super yummy deluxe health oatmeal mixture. I stopped at bulk barn on Wednesday (senior and student discount day!) to get all the things I needed. The whole thing cost me $10.78 altogether. Well, it would have been $11.05 without the discount, but still, what a great deal! It was nearly 2kg of oatmeal mix, compared to the 400g of the $5 pre-packaged oatmeal. The only real problem was if I could include as much nutrients and healthy things that Nature’s Path did. Scroll to the bottom for a video if you don’t want to read it all.

So here it is, my list of ingredients, along with their total combined nutritional information. The chart may be a little difficult to read, so don’t worry if you don’t look at it, I’ll explain fully below.

***Nutritional information is to serving size and not quantity***

Ingredients: Quick rolled oats, textured vegetable protein, chopped walnuts, steel cut oats, flaxseed, goji berries, craisins, chia seeds, and currants.

Before I go into each ingredient, here’s a breakdown of the nutritional information of the oatmeal per serving compared to Nature’s Path nutritional information.

Each serving is a level 1/2 cup. At a quick glance, my mixture (on the left) has more fibre, protein, vitamin A & C, calcium, and iron than the MultiGrain Raisin Spice Hot Oatmeal as well as less  carbs, and a lot less sugar and sodium (which is you’re worse enemy if you’re trying to lose weight because it makes your body retain water). I’m not too sure what’s causing the elevated levels of saturated fats but at only 7.2% of the recommended daily intake, it doesn’t look too troublesome.

The price difference between the two is not as large as you think it would be because I had added craisins (dried cranberries) that I had on hand, which weren’t calculated in the $10.78 bulk barn total purchase. The bag of craisins cost about $5 and I put 2/3 cup of the cranberries in. Without the cranberries, the price per serving drops to $0.368, less than half of the prepackaged oatmeal.

The following is a breakdown of the health benefits of each ingredient.

Quick Rolled Oats/Steel Cut Oats

I decided to pick up both of these because I didn’t really know what the difference was. They seem to both have the same nutritional information, but I knew that the quick rolled oats are what the instant oatmeal is made of (softens faster) and wasn’t sure about the steel cut oats, so I added them in for experimental purposes. Now, as everyone knows, oatmeal is marketed as a cholesterol lower..er. It’s rich in fibre, which in partnership with protein, keeps you full for a longer period of time. It also allows nutrients to be better absorbed into your body and helps with bowel movements that princesses dream of.

Textured Vegetable Protein

This is often used as a meat-substitute by vegetarians and vegans who don’t get enough protein in their diet. After my unfavourable experience with certain flavours of whey protein, I decided to try this out instead. It’s a great source of protein (obviously), fibre, calcium, and iron. It’s made out of defatted soybean flour, which comes during the process of making soybean oil. It actually comes out to being cheaper than whey protein (at 0.799 cents and 3-4 cents per gram of protein, respectively). The only drawback is that TVP has less bioavailability (thanks Edmond for teaching me that fancy new word) than whey protein, which basically means that the nutrients don’t get absorbed into the body as easily.

Chopped Walnuts

I added these in for a nice nutty flavour and a crunchy texture into the oatmeal, but walnuts are known to be very cardiovascular-friendly (good for your heart and blood system!) as well as being an anti-inflammatory. They’re a good source of fibre and vitamin E.

Flaxseed also called linseed

I picked these out because through ambient knowledge, I was minutely aware of it being touted as a healthy addition to your diet. However, upon further research, it seems that chia seeds (below) have got them beat in every aspect. I might omit them next time to save the calories (they seem to have a high caloric content), or I might leave them if I decide that the oatmeal just isn’t the same without flaxseed.

Goji Berries

Goji berries seemed to crop up everywhere a few years ago when they were introduced as the world’s newest “superfood.” It’s said that they help with your eyesight and ward off vision-related health issues as you age. They are nice and tart, and really take the oatmeal out of its bland stage. They are also very popular in salads, trail mix, and smoothies.

Craisins (Dried Cranberries)

I added these cranberries on a whim just because I had them on hand and thought the added berries would be great. When I make this oatmeal next time, I don’t think I would put the cranberries in because there are already goji berries and currants in it, and I always add banana into it anyway. The craisins don’t do much in terms of nutrients and only seem to add unnecessary sugars and carbs. If you like them for the flavour, it’s okay to keep them in because the end result is already very healthy.

Chia Seeds

They are no longer just being used to grow hairy clay animals! Even Dr. Oz endorses chia seeds. They are supposed to be able to absorb 12 times its own weight, which helps you keep full for extended periods of time. They’re also a great source of protein and calcium, which means their good for your bones, hair, and nails!

Currants

I grabbed these just because my coworker and I were talking about them a few days earlier. I wanted to go with a berry themed oatmeal, so I thought these would be perfect. They’ve got good fibre, and they’re also a good source of iron, potassium, and all those lovely B vitamins.

Sorry, I don’t have the measurements in cups/spoon measurements, but below there will be a video in which you can eyeball how much ingredients I added. Though I have exactly what I used in the video here, next time I’ll probably omit cranberries and flaxseed, and add more chia seeds and goji berries/currants. The oatmeal was not too carefully planned, so don’t feel like you have to stick exactly to the recipe. Feel free to adjust it to your liking.

Recipe/ingredients list:

This makes almost 2 kg of dry oatmeal, and at 1/2 cup servings, which the above nutritional information is for, should last you about a month. For 1/2 cup, combine with about 2/3 cup of boiled water, depending on how thick or watery you like your oatmeal.

  • Quick rolled oats – 1,090 g
  • Textured vegetable protein – 170 g
  • Chopped walnuts – 185 g
  • Steel cut oats – 135 g
  • Flaxseed – 115 g
  • Goji berries – 85 g
  • Craisins – 80 g
  • Chia seeds – 60 g
  • Currants – 40 g

Some might like the overall flavour a little sweeter, so you can add brown sugar, honey, or even maple syrup. After adding hot water I like to add a tiny bit of brown sugar, and some (calorie-less <3) cinnamon. I also add half a banana (50 calories), my calories per serving jumps to 309. Although it makes me worry when I add extra calories, I don’t worry too much because this oatmeal keeps you full for a long time and gives you tons of energy.

And that, my friends, is my long-winded explanation of my daily breakfast food. Here’s the YouTube video that shows what the quantity of ingredients looks like:

Scallion Pancakes

I decided to make scallion pancakes after reading an article about it on Serious Eats, where they really broke down the science of flaky foods, and how they get to be all flaky and whatnot. They also provided a recipe, so I figured, why not have a go. I like pancakes (I lied, I don’t, but I do like fried dough), and I like green onions, so I went ahead and made them. It was actually kind of difficult, and my end result may only get a 65% passing rate.

I don’t have a food processor so I went super asian style and just mixed it by hand. I started off with a 2:1 ratio of flour to hot water and mixed it together until I got most of the flour mixed into the dough. It looked a little like soft mutated popcorn kernels.

I then poured it out onto my lightly floured ghetto working space (parchment paper taped onto the wooden desk) and worked the dough into one integrated piece of dough. I tried to get it as smooth as possible, but I think I put too much flour into it.

Into a bowl, and covered with a damp cloth to rest for 30 minutes, which actually turned into an hour and a half because I left the house.

After dividing the ball into fourths, I got rid of my parchment thing because it got too difficult to roll out the dough. Don’t worry, my table was actually clean, I just didn’t want to make a mess. So, I rolled out the dough, and spread some sesame oil onto it. It was then that I realized how long I’d gone loving sesame oil without realizing what it was. The smell is so aromatic, but after a few hours of the scent I felt a little ill. But I still love it.

Roll it up.

Twirl it up.

I then flattened it out, added more sesame oil and then chopped green onions on top of it. After which, you roll it up, and twirl it up again.

And then once you flatten it, it kind of looks like this. Yes, I realize its shape is a little bit wonky.

Frying it up.

The dipping sauce was a mixture of ginger, green onions, rice wine vinegar, soya sauce, and a bit of sugar.

And then only thing to do after was to sit down, eat, and enjoy my shows.

The scallion pancakes were not as good as I thought they’d be. They weren’t half-bad though. It’s something I’ll probably crave in a few month’s time. A little doughy, maybe not salty enough. But then again, that’s because I didn’t add salt on after like the recipe said. The dipping sauce was really good though.

I think I didn’t fry the pancakes up long enough because they weren’t as dark as the Serious Eats photos. I still have one raw dough one left in the fridge though that I’ll fry up and make it more well done, you know, for science.

**UPDATE**

Fried up some more, this time, I left it in for longer, and is most definitely more flaky. Very delicious! I am pleased.

Shitty pictures abound.

It's difficult to see, but if you look really hard, you can see the layers.

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