Creativity can be expressed in many different ways. Often, when we think of someone who is creative we have an image in our heads of someone painting, composing music, or writing poetry. Of course there are far more ways that we express our creativity. Preparing food, decorating, even applying make up may be considered creative. Personally, I have never been one for artistic ventures, including making food look pretty (for an example of my horrendous cake decorating skills, see my Flourless Raspberry Chocolate Cake recipe). The easiest way for me to express my creativity is through words. Not poetry, per se (I think I’ve written like one poem in my entire life – outside of school), but rather through prose. Which is why having a personal blog is so appealing to me. Especially one that allows me to post on such a broad range of topics.
… that is, if I had more time to post. Being in grad school is especially rough on one’s creativity. I even have a blog for my school assignments to which I am required to post weekly (If you’d like to check it out, Click Here). Truthfully, I use up so much of the creativity in my assignments, there’s often nothing left to post for pleasure.
I like to use the fountain example. Consider a fountain overflowing with creativity. Each time I need to write something for school, I need to take some water from the fountain. Taking a bit here and there is no problem, but if I take too much, the fountain is dry and needs some time to refill. Which is generally the weekly situation. By the time it’s refilled, there are assignments that need doing.
I will say that it is true, at least for me, that the more I write, the easier it comes. But the Library Science program is somewhat infamous for working its students into the ground with assignments. And to be fair, taking the maximum allotted classes doesn’t really do me any favours. Five classes keeps me busy, but this semester is even more work intensive than it was for the other two. What I mean is, for my first and second semester I had approximately 34 assignments to do in a 13 week period (nearly all in the form of writing), but this semester I have 49. BRUTAL.
But don’t worry, I’m not complaining. This is something I can totally do, because I’ve essentially become a library assignment machine. (For how long could I do it? I’m not sure if I could do an additional 12 months of this!) But I just wish to explain as to why things are so quiet on the blog.
I frequently have wonderful ideas (I keep a stickie on my desktop for them), but they must remain just as ideas. For Now.
Not only were most of the ingredients organic, they’re pretty much junk-free! Also, these were the freshest almonds I’ve ever eaten. All the flavours were really interesting. My favorite flavour? Probably HIRO, though the apples in DAVE were really flavourful. My least favorite flavour? PHAN. I think the citrus flavour from the lime just didn’t sit with my taste buds that well.
Awesome almonds from an awesome Canadian company. Check out the sustainability page for an interesting read about the Left Coast Naturals company.
Now to share with you the song that has been stuck in my head for a week now:
Isn’t it great? I like it better than the Taylor Swift version!
*Note: I received these samples free of charge from Left Coast Naturals, however, all of the opinions expressed are my own.
I hope everyone had a fab Christmas or at least had the opportunity to enjoy some time off! I always find the 24th, 25th, and 26th to be a complete whirlwind of activity that is here and gone before I have a chance to realize it. This year was no exception. I was fortunate enough to spend the three days with lots of family, friends, and delicious holiday eats. I even made out with a few fabulous gifts
Lucky for me, the celebration continues into the new year as Bartek and I gear up for a New Year’s Eve party in the mountains! NYE has such a great celebratory essence that I think it’s hard to ignore. Regardless of whether I’ve chosen to keep the NYE celebrations to a minimal or not, I always manage to enjoy myself. Whether you are celebrating with friends, family, or alone I have a great suggestion for a festive dish!
Holiday Quinoa Salad
The texture of this salad is wonderfully crunchy (from the pomegranates and almonds) but also soft and delicate (from the goat cheese and cranberries). The flavour is heavenly, combining all those flavours we so commonly associate with the season: cinnamon, cranberries, and almonds. I’ve brought this dish to two potlucks in the past month. I’ve made it a few hours ahead of time and served cold and I’ve also served it immediately, while the quinoa was still warm. Both were very well received. Eaten as leftovers, the salad maintains its delightful crisp.
The one criticism I’ve had about this salad is the goat cheese. Many people wouldn’t even try it because this dish contains it (which is crazy BTW! Goat cheese is so tasty), so if you are making this for some potential goat cheese haters, consider using a soft cow cheese. Or, make it with goat cheese and just don’t tell them! Personally, I cannot taste any “goat” flavour in this dish. It’s just straight up delightful.
As a potluck contribution, this recipe makes enough for a large party.
1 3/4 cups of quinoa, well rinsed
1 pomegranate, or approximately 2 cups of seeds
1 cup of cranberries
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1 cup cinnamon cranberry goat cheese, crumbled
Cranberry-orange salad dressing (optional: I used it with and without and both were good, though I thought the flavours we better tied together with the use of the dressing)
Prepare quinoa according to directions. Do this well in advance if you are not planning on serving the dish warm (to avoid melting the goat cheese)
If you need to remove the seeds from the pomegranate, do so now. You can find helpful instructions on how to easily do this on the POM website.
Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Add dressing to taste.
I’m sorry that the blog has been so quiet for the past couple of months. Trust me when I say that I have been crazy busy with library school! I counted, and it turns out that I wrote 34 “essays” since September. As you can imagine, that doesn’t leave much creativity for blog posting! I hope to give an update on my life in the next post, but for now, I want to extend a peace offering. Come over to my house for tea and cookies? Or, failing that, how about the recipe for my favorite (and incredibly easy to make) cheesecake tarts?
My sister and I got together to do some Christmas baking this week. We scoured the internet looking for some new recipes. I think we were pretty successful! Unfortunately, most of our baking is not gluten-free, so that limits how much of them we can enjoy. However, the cookies are for our friends and family, and we know that they’ll get plenty of enjoyment out of them!
I love making tarts for Christmas because they are ridiculously easy to make and are so delicious. I use pre-made tart shells in a 3″ size. The Lemon Meringue tarts were made using a Shirriff lemon pie kit.
Cherry Cheesecake Tarts
If you are looking for a quick and easy dessert which will be the hit wherever you bring it, this recipe is for you! I’m serious; these tarts take hardly any time to make and are big on flavour. They can be made ahead of time and frozen for a week; just ensure that the tarts are frozen in an airtight container. At Christmas I make these as tarts, but the recipe can just as easily be used to make a large cheesecake. See below for variation. Recipe makes 3 doz. 3″ tarts or 1 cheesecake.
3 dozen pre-made 3″ tart shells, baked until golden brown (following instructions on package)
1 package light cream cheese (I use Philadelphia)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup whipped topping (I use Cool Whip)
3-4 tbsp lemon juice
1 can (540 ml) of Cherry Pie Filling (or any other flavour you prefer)
Combine cream cheese, sugar, whipped topping, and lemon juice in a medium sized bowl.
Beat with egg beaters until no lumps remain.
Spoon 1 tbsp of cheesecake filling into each tart shell (make sure they’re cooled).
Top with 1 tbsp (approximately 2-3 cherries) of pie filling onto each cheesecake shell.
Serve immediately or chilled. Tarts must be kept chilled due to the dairy content.
Cherry Cheesecake variation: In lieu of tart shells, use either a pre-made graham cracker crust, or prepare one yourself by pressing a mixture of graham cracker crumbs and melted butter into a cheesecake pan and baking until golden brown.
The Winter Palace tells the story of a fictional young woman whose life becomes intricately tied to Catherine the Great and her fate. The book keeps its reader entranced page after page as Stachniak skillfully recreates eighteenth-century Russia.
The book follows Barbara (called Varvara in Russian) as she is faced with one obstacles after another, in her quest for security. She is given the opportunity to become a spy in the royal court, a position which she cautiously accepts. However, along the way she becomes intoxicated with the drama of the royal family and befriends the young Princess, future Catherine the Great. Her devotion to Catherine leads her down dangerous paths which could certainly be punishable by death if anyone were to find out. But in a court filled with spies, how can anyone keep a secret?
The story is rich with imagery which Stachniak skillfully paints for her reader. In beautiful prose, the places of Catherine the Great (including the Winter Palace) come alive with Stachniak’s words. Also skillfully created are the thought-provoking relations in which Barbara is a member. The one I found most interesting was Barbara’s position in Russian society as a Catholic Pole amidst devout Orthodox Russians.
This is historical fiction, so a reader may expect the author to be a bit lax on the historical accuracy. Any mistakes I found in this book did not seem to affect the overall flow of the story, and therefore, in this context, were quite inconsequential. In the middle of the story, there are a few moments when it seems to drag a bit, however the tale quickly recovers and re-engages the reader to the end.
There is some romance in the story (it would be impossible to have a book about Catherine the Great without romance), but overall it occurs more in the background of the tale. Overall, I feel this book is an excellent read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, although lovers of Imperial Russian history will especially enjoy it.
A great read! I recommend reading it while curling up with some tea and a pumpkin spice sweet. Yes, I’ve got pumpkin on the brain
I hope you get a chance to read it! Leave me a comment on what you thought about it if you do
*Please note that the link above directs you to my Amazon store. I do receive a very small percentage of any purchase made through it.
Although the leaves have just barely started changing color, there have been other indications that fall will soon be here.
First of all, Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice latte is now available. Each year I desperately want to try it, but the pumpkin spice mixture has dairy in it, so I wouldn’t be able to have it even if I got it made with soy. Last week, while feeling ambitious, I tried to make one of my own. Pumpkin Spice latte FAIL!
Next, the Christmas stuff is beginning to pop up in stores now. I know, it’s shocking to me too. I wonder if anyone actually buys Christmas stuff this early? (A worse thought: why would they take it out now if no one bought it?)
I discovered what is perhaps the greatest predictor when I needed some coconut oil to top my butternut squash. Taking it out of the cupboard, I discovered that it had hardened!!! All summer long my coconut oil was liquid and clear (due to the extreme heat in London; my coconut oil was always solid in Edmonton) but no longer.
So there you have it. I think we can comfortably say fall is in the air. Now, you may be curious as to how this is relevant. Simple, I feel like cooking more during the fall. I managed to stop at the Covent Garden Market on Saturday before the farmer’s market was over, and here’s the goodies I got!
Clockwise, starting in bottom left corner: Bounce ball (I’ve never tried before but it looks tasty), bag of mixed baby potatoes (including my favorite- purple!), Ginger Soother (to help with an upset stomach I’ve been battling), probiotics, pickled beets, zucchini, and mysterious summer squash. Ok, maybe not that mysterious but I can’t remember the name!
I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do with my vegetables, I’m thinking maybe a ratatouille or I might grill them. Either way, I know it’ll be delicious!
On my way home from the farmer’s market, I decided to stop at the Sweet Lemon Bakery. I came at the perfect time because there was a great variety of treats available. Mot importantly, there were still a couple of pumpkin spice whoopie pies left.
Clockwise, starting left corner: Pumpkin whoopie pie (!!!!), lime quinoa salad, tea biscuit, and calzone.
Yes, I smothered the tea biscuit in the pickled beets and horseradish. Amazing combination!
But let’s focus on the pumpkin whoopie pie for a sec. It was so delicious. The cake portion was moist and delectable with the perfect flavoring of pumpkin and spice, while the icing portion was a delicious buttercream. Sweet, yes! I am still surprised that the whoopie cakes (like everything in the bakery) are not only vegan, but also gluten free!!! This whoopie cake definitely made up for my Pumpkin Spice latte fail (and my pumpkin spice oatmeal fail of yesterday!)
Sometimes when Bartek and I are talking about life, I’ll exclaim, “I want to climb mountains!” Seeing the plans immediately forming in his eyes, I always make sure to clarify: “Metaphorical mountains, that is!”
I’m never afraid of challenges or grand schemes; when it comes to life, I’m always willing to work hard and take a risk (for better or for worse… I write this 3000 km away from my home). But what I am afraid of is mice. Following that, heights.
As one of B’s favorite pass times is climbing the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, I’ve had many invitations to face my fears. Thankfully, I’ve declined every one of them. That is, until Bartek suggested we climb Ha Ling Peak while in Canmore. I don’t know why, but I accepted.
Ha Ling Peak (2,407 m: 7,897 ft) is named for the first man to summit the mountain. I think the story goes that a bet was placed that no man (especially not Ha Ling) could climb it. Ha Ling quickly proved them wrong, though there was no evidence to support his claim. Eventually, to win the bet he had to return to the summit with the participants so they themselves could see what Ha Ling had done.
We started out nice and early, not because Ha Ling is a particularly long climb, but because it is one of the most popular mountains to climb, and we hoped to bypass some of the crowds. The reason for its popularity is that it’s actually an easy scramble. For minimal effort (compared to most other mountains) and minimal time, you can reach the summit and enjoy views that are normally only accessible through considerably more strife. Sounds like a good deal, right?
We hiked and enjoyed the forest for some time. I loved the peace and quiet of the morning, as well as the cool temperatures. We met a man who told us that it was his birthday; Bartek and I both agreed that to start your birthday off with a mountain hike is sublime.
Continuing on, we finally reached the treeline. The forest cleared and what remained were a few shrubs and many rocks. In the distance I could see the imposing peak. Taking a small lunch break, I was eager to continue as the wind was picking up and becoming quite gusty. However, we had to stop and admire the views. We could see the mountains surrounding us and they looked amazing! When we continued out ascension, the trail became more and more steep.
At the final push, merely metres to the summit, I was terrified. Not only had the trail become scree (loose little rocks), but the height was making me very uncomfortable. In other words, I was convinced I would slip on the rocks and fall all the way down into oblivion. Bartek told me I was being silly.
Silly or not, I told him to finish the last 10 minutes on his own. I parked my bum down between the only tree and shrub on the top. I wedged my foot in so I wouldn’t slide and then I got out the chocolate. Desperate times….
I really don’t regret not going all the way to the summit. For me, I was really already on the top. Plus, I got to enjoy the amazing views. Sights that overwhelming take a few minutes to settle in. Or maybe I had to overcome the vertigo.
Here’s a video Bartek filmed from the top:
I really enjoyed the hiking and would do it again in a heart beat. I even told Bartek that I’d be willing to accompany him on another mountain trip. But, I added as his eyes lit up, only to the tree line.
If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you may know that I love the mountains. In fact, the Rocky Mountains are probably my favorite place in the entire world! I try to visit as often as possible, however as I’m now living in Ontario, it’s impossible to head there for the weekend.
But when I came home for a few weeks, I knew I had to fit a visit to the mountains in my schedule. I managed to squeeze in a 2 night visit. Bartek and I spent our time in Canmore and enjoyed every minute of it!
What makes Canmore fantastic is that it’s made up of a great mixture of outdoor activities + eco-consciousness +bustling food scene. I guess you can tell what I like about it
I want to share with you two of the restaurants we visited. If you ever get the chance to visit, I hope you’ll check them out
This restaurant boasts of using local ingredients with everything made in-house (aka pesto not shipped pre-made). In addition, there’s an optional 1% carbon tax added to each bill. The company also makes frozen versions of their favorite pizzas which are available in some grocery stores (though, I’m not sure that they freeze gluten free versions).
I ordered a dairy-free Apple Chicken Harvest (apples, chicken, red onions, tomatoes, three herb pesto) on Gluten free Crust.
I loved the toppings on my pizza! They were so flavourful and fresh! However, I wasn’t as crazy about the crust. I thought it was fine, but there was definitely room for improvement. Bartek ordered the Naturally Meaty (beef, italian sausage, tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, asiago cheese, and fresh herbs) on the traditional crust.
I’ve mentioned the Communitea Cafe before. I’ve been drinking their tea for the past year (Divine Temple- AMAZING!), but I never had the opportunity to visit until most recently.
Bartek and I climbed a mountain while we were in Canmore (details coming up in my next post!!), and afterwards we were craving something light and fresh, yet substantial. Communitea answered our call.
First of all, the atmosphere of the cafe is so peaceful. It’s really open, bright, and sunny; the perfect place to spend an afternoon drinking tea (of which they have so many different varieties).
Like the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company, their food is all locally grown and offers vegan and gluten free options. After a lengthy decision process, we placed our orders. Although we were looking forward to our food, we had no idea just how much we would love what came to us!
I ordered the Mega Fresh Bowl which was a huge composition of spinach, shredded carrot, shredded beets, sprouts, cucumbers, quinoa salad, red pepper, purple cabbage, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and hummus. I chose a garlic tahini sauce as my dressing. This dish was beyond words. It was so fresh and filling (enough for two portions!); it was exactly what I had been craving. I want to recreate this at home as soon as I get the chance! I would go to Canmore for this meal alone!!!!
This picture doesn’t do justice to just how big this bowl was.
Bartek was equally impressed with his selection. He ordered the Chicken Pad Thai. I stole a few bites; the peanut sauce was so good that there were tears in my eyes!
No picture, but I finished off the meal with a GF coconut macaroon! All in all, our stomachs definitely enjoyed the trip!
Next post will be about our mountain climb AKA my realization that my fear of heights hasn’t gone away!!
My sister, Jeani, deals with the problem that all people face: she’s hungry but she’s out of ideas for what to make.
Now, for most people this isn’t a problem of availability; in the end, they may simply opt for a quick meal-to-go. Even for those trying to follow a healthy lifestyle, most grocery stores offer quick meal options that are relatively good for you (never mind those restaurants that offer ‘clean’ take out). But my sister is somewhat different. Not only is she gluten and lactose intolerant, but she has a whole bunch of other food related allergies including nuts.
So before I left for Edmonton, I wanted to make something for her which she could eat on the run. Between school and work, she’s pretty busy. I know she loves yogurt, so I figured, why don’t I make her some granola? Although she loves Enjoy Life’s granola (which meets her dietary restrictions), I thought she might appreciate something a bit different, something a bit more Miranda. This recipe is born out of that.
I have a different granola recipe, Clean Out Your Pantry Granola, which is still very Miranda, but it does contain nuts. Normally I love nuts in everything, but this recipe is so extra delicious that you don’t even notice the lack of nuts. Seriously, I think I ate a cup of it, waiting for it to cool!
Granola for Jeani
As mentioned above, this is gluten-free, dairy free, and nut free. To make vegan, I would substitute honey for agave nectar or omit altogether (the recipe would likely be sweet enough without it). In an airtight container, this granola will stay fresh for a month…. but like it’ll last that long. Makes 8-9 cups of granola.
2 cup gluten free oats
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/3 cup shredded coconut (this is how much I added, Jeani said she would have liked more)
2/3 cup m&m (or chocolate chips)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Combine oats, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds together. This is your dry mixture. Set aside.
Combine coconut oil, maple syrup, and honey together. Mix until well incorporated. This is your wet mixture.
Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture. Stir until dry mixture is coated.
Spread evenly on a medium ungreased cookie sheet. Cook for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Granola is done when oats are golden brown.
Once the granola is done cooking, you’ll want to mix in the dried fruit and coconut. I recommend transferring the granola to a mixing bowl, adding the dried fruit and coconut, stirring well, and then returning the mixture to the pan to cool.
After 15-25 minutes, add the chocolate. If you add it too soon, it will melt and you will have clumps of chocolate granola (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!). I would add it using the same method as you used to add the fruit. Once it is mixed, the granola is finished! I recommend serving it with yogurt and berries, or almond milk!
The granola was a success! My sister loved it! I may have to make her some more at X-mas….
Anyways, I’m back from Edmonton now, and will be posting some brief recaps of my visit! It was a great time and I can’t wait to share it with all of you. In addition, classes started today and I’m bracing myself for another busy semester
What have I learned about London after living here for nearly 4 months?
Well, despite being ridiculously hot in summer, it has a certain charm. London is called the Forest City and I can understand why, it really has so many gorgeous trees!
And what’s wonderful is that there are so many different types of trees! At the university, there are plaques on many of the trees identifying the type. I really appreciate this, because I’m always curious which type is which. Coming from a place where thee quarters of the trees are poplar or birch, it’s amazing to be in this sea of varying shades of green .
Aside from the trees, there’s also some really beautiful architecture.
Perhaps one of the most popular treasures of London is the Convent Garden Market. It’s this huge indoor market packed full of vendors, and also hosts a farmer’s market on Saturdays (and Thursdays).
I’ve been there a few times now, but every time I’m inside I still feel a bit overwhelmed!
Whatever you’re craving, the market probably has a way to satisfy it! From cupcakes to sushi, I even found a Polish deli counter which sold all the food Bartek had been missing from home!
I’m really looking forward to discovering more of London’s (and even Ontario’s) treasures while I’m here!
Time to fly! I have lots to do and I leave tomorrow for Edmonton!
Hello! Welcome to Miranda's Munchies. This is where I post about my journey towards achieving a healthy lifestyle, composed of good food, challenging fitness, and a positive mentality. The journey is a long and hard one, but so important! Why don't you join in?