There’s No Place Like Home

DSCF0178“It‚Äôs a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what‚Äôs changed is you.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

My friend Grace shared this quote with me on a card before I left for my work term 8 months ago, and at the time I didn’t realize how true these words were to describing my feelings about coming home.¬†
Before flying home for vacation, I thought about all the things that could’ve changed since I left. How different my parents could’ve looked, how my friends could’ve changed, and even how Highway 7 might finally be finished construction… but once I got home, everyone and everything was pretty much unchanged. Parents looked the same, friends were not one bit different, and freaking Highway 7 was still under construction (Seriously?It’s been like 2 years…). But I couldn’t shake the feeling that things have changed. Didn’t realize until I looked up at Grace’s card pinned on my bulletin that I’m the one who’s gone through changes over the time I’ve been away.¬†
Living alone and away from home has changed me quite a bit. 8 months of solitude in a small town has allowed me to enjoy my alone time and meditate on all the thoughts I neglected when I was back home and preoccupied with the busy city-life. With all this time to yourself, you realize a lot of things about yourself; all the good and the bad. Certainly didn’t realize all the ugliness and bitterness I held onto until I had all this time to reflect, but also didn’t realize all the happiness and opportunities I’m blessed with every single day. I’m 21 now and I think this experience living away from home has definitely helped me finally grow up and realize that I’m not a kid anymore. It seriously still freaks me out to think that I’m an adult now…
It’s funny, isn’t it? How all the years up until19-21 you wish to be older and all grown up and once you reach that age, all you wish is to be a kid again and reminisce on the old days? Well, regardless of wherever I end up in the future, Toronto will always be home and the place that’ll always have my heart.
Okay, no more sentiment! Let me share with you of the highlights of my week back home:
DSCF0147JaBistro Modern Japanese
This was probably the best sushi I’ve ever had and coming from a sushi-crazed girl, that really means something! The fish was so fresh and the presentation of each dish was immaculate.
 Each dish was crafted so beautifully and every bite was bursting with flavour. Their modern twist on traditional Japanese cuisine is really unique and refreshing in this city filled with so many Japanese restaurants. 
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Grace and I shared the sushi bowl and platter and it was more than enough to fill the both of us. The sushi bowl was the chef’s choice of sashimi served over sushi rice and oh my goodness, it was the most mouth-watering, delicious thing ever! The chef selected a gorgeous variety of sashimi that was fresh, vibrant, sweet and succulent. Everything was served in little portions, so there wasn’t anything too overwhelming- all the bits just complimented one another and created a perfect medley of deliciousness in my mouth ūüôā
Their soy sauce and all other sauces was also house made! How great is that? If you are ever in downtown Toronto and are looking for some Japanese cuisine that’ll blow your mind, check out JaBistro.¬†
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5 Seconds of Summer at The Sound Academy 
Never did I think I’d enjoy listening to music from a teenage boy band from Australia, but I was proven wrong when I found 5SOS on Youtube last year. I can see how they draw inspiration from bands like Blink-182 and Good Charlotte (who I use to be OBSESSED with in the 5th grade), but yet have still developed their own unique sound and style. These 4 lads are tremendously talented and it’s incredible how popular¬†their music has gotten and how ridiculous their fan base has grown over the past 2 years!¬†
Though as much as I enjoy their catchy tunes and cheeky tweets on Twitter, attending their show¬†made me feel like an old lady in the midst of a sea of 13 year old fan girls. I was definitely¬†in that 1% of people at the show that were over the age of 18. I was looking forward to going to a show to dance and sing along to, but what I really got was trampled over by teeny boppers that revealed¬†far too much skin. Seriously, these girls were so vicious! But I mean, what teenager wouldn’t be crazy obsessed over a group of 4 very attractive boys with cute accents playing in a band together? Then again, I don’t think I was ever as crazy over any band when I was younger as these girls. But hey, music influences everyone differently.¬†
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Regardless of all the pushing and caddy attitudes, the boys played a great show and made many, many girls very happy. With so much talent and many more opportunities ahead, I’m excited to see 5SOS progress musically and develop into fine young men ūüôā
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I also had the amazing opportunity to watch game 2 between the Raptors and Nets. And oh man, it was so crazy! It was my first time ever watching a live NBA basketball game, and to have it be a playoff game was unforgettable. The ambience of being in a stadium filled with thousands cheering my city sent me chills! I watch basketball here and there but when it’s playoff season, I get hooked! Sadly, we lost the series today and I was for sure heartbroken because we were so close!!! In the end it was a one point game, and watching Pierce block Lowry was so crushing. But you know what, we had a great series and the Raptors gave it their all, so that’s what we should be celebrating. Raptors have all of Toronto’s support and we will be ready for next season!¬†
PS: That final series game between Houston and Portland? Bowing down to Damian Lillard. What a boss!
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The rest of my week at home consisted of lots of brunch/lunch/dinner dates with friends and family to catch each other up with our lives which I am very thankful for. But I wish I made more time for my parents… it was so hard to organize time to see everyone because of everyone’s work schedules. Nonetheless, my week home was spectacular and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.¬†
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Now back to the frigid north! Did some grocery shopping yesterday and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the beautiful produce. After all the eating out I did on vacation, it’s time to get back on track, eat right, and train hard to be summer body ready!
DSCF0381I hope you all have a delightful week! I’m going to brace myself for the spring allergies that are inevitably going to hit me any second now. Cheers to you, and I’ll talk to you soon.
Love,
Amy 

Breakfast Beauty.

IMG_4772Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how attractive my breakfast looked this morning. Blackberries, bananas, almonds, almond-hazelnut butter, rolled oats with vanilla soy milk. I think I’m in love.

Eating a well-balanced breakfast will help you recharge your brain and make it easier for you to maintain a healthy weight, so I urge you all to never ever skip breakfast! If you’re a busy body and don’t have enough time in the mornings (Which I don’t believe by the way. You always can make time to nourish your body with good foods!), try baking these healthy cookies¬†on a Sunday night and store them in a bag to grab-n-go throughout the week. ‘Cookies for breakfast? No way!’¬†Yes, friends, dreams do come true.

Hope you all have a lovely Sunday!

Love,

Amy

7 Ingredient Cacao-Banana-Nut Butter-Oatmeal Cookies.

Alone, banana and chocolate are superb. But, when paired together, it’s like the interlocking of fingers between two soul mates… in food form.

IMG_4740Today I made these chocolate-banana-peanut butter-gluten free-oatmeal cookies. I know, quite a mouthful to say, but ridiculously simple to make and undeniably delicious. I seriously can’t believe I made these using only 7 ingredients! None of which, might I add, are butter, sugar, or eggs! The absence of refined sugars and reduction of saturated fats in these nutritious cookies makes me feel less guilty indulging in more than just one.

IMG_4714I initially didn’t know what I was going to make; it could’ve been bread, scones, granola… I really just wanted to bake something using the ingredients I had on hand. Little did I know that I was going to make some super delicious, moist mini cookies! This just goes to show how flexible baking can be and it also reminds us to be creative and willing¬†to experiment with recipes.

IMG_4754IMG_4758Sure, these might not look like your traditional cookie, but I can vouch that they are equally as delicious as any chocolatey, sugary, buttery cookie out there! The texture of these are very reminiscent of banana bread. The outer shell is firm and the insides are plush, moist, and bursting with flavour.

IMG_4727As always, I used dates as my sweetener instead of refined sugar. I cannot stress how great incorporating dates into your recipes is. Per 100 grams, dates have 105 less calories, 8% less carbs, and 32% more dietary fibre than white sugar. If that’s not reason enough to switch to using dates instead of refined sugars, I don’t know what is!

IMG_4721Rather than my usual almond butter, I grabbed the almond-hazelnut butter last week at the grocery store and my oh my, this stuff is life-changing. I kid you not, almond-hazelnut butter tastes like liquified Ferrero Rocher!!! Though, I guess it makes sense since Ferrero Rocher is a hazelnut cream-filled chocolate. But you guys need to try it! It adds something different to the cookie rather than just strictly using peanut butter.

Ingredients:

(Yields ~ 40 cookies)

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup almond-hazelnut butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350¬ļF
  2. Place oats in a blender and pulse until milled into a fine, flour-like texture. It’s perfectly fine if there are a few larger pieces of unground oats- it will give the cookies more texture. Place ground oats in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Soak dates in 1/2 cup of warm water. After 5 minutes of soaking, transfer the dates with the water to the blender and blend until the no large chunks of date are visible and the consistency of the mixture is like a thick paste. Transfer paste into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Peel the bananas and mash them in the bowl with the date paste. Keep mashing until no large chunks of banana are visible.
  5. Add the peanut butter and almond-hazelnut butter into the banana-date mixture. If you can’t get your hands on hazelnut-almond butter, feel free to substitute with equal parts of almond butter or more peanut butter. Once the nut butters are added, mix until everything is well incorporated.
  6. Add the cacao powder and baking powder to the mixture and slowly add the ground oats. Keep mixing and adding more oats a little at a time until all the oats are incorporated and everything is well mixed.
  7. Spoon the cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. These cookies don’t spread out as they bake, so you can get away with arranging the cookies closer together/fitting more into one baking sheet.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Once they’re finished baking, let them cool for 5-10 minutes, then they’re ready to enjoy!

IMG_4766¬†I couldn’t be more happy about the way these turned out. I even put them to the test with my anti-health food friends (friends who think anything I make is made out of grass) and they really enjoyed them! They were surprised at how sweet they were despite not using any sugar. They also made a note that these would make a great on-the-go breakfast. The nut butters definitely gives you the protein you need and the oatmeal provides the bulk that’ll make you feel full!

IMG_4733Baking these was such a great way to spend my Saturday evening! I hope you guys give these a try and please let me know if you do! Anyway, hope you’re making the best of your weekend and I’ll talk to you soon!

Love,

Amy

 

Always Look Forward to Weekend Lunches.

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This was lunch today- baked lemon ginger salmon with balsamic vinegar salad and a side of guacamole. It was freaking fantastic; just thinking about it now makes me smile, haha.

Monday to Friday lunches usually consist of a salad and sweet potato, which I enjoy very much, but I do like to switch it up on the weekends to make sure my tastebuds don’t get bored.

Salmon is packed full of Omega-3 fatty acids, which has been proven to reduce risk of coronary heart disease, and tastes great, so I try to add it into my meals on the weekends! It’s also super simple to prepare- I just marinate the salmon with the juice of a lemon, 1tbsp of grated ginger, cilantro, 3 cloves of garlic, 2tbsp of olive oil, and some salt & pepper in a Ziplock bag for an hour in the fridge then bake it in the oven at 350¬įF for 30 minutes and voila! Your perfectly cooked, flakey, moist, flavourful salmon is ready to eat.

If you’re in a diet rut and are looking to add something new to your meals, give salmon a try. Many people shy away from fish because they think it’s difficult to prepare and whatnot, but I promise you, it’s easier than you think! There are plenty of amazing salmon recipes out there and I urge you to try them out! Incorporating this healthy fish into your diet will ¬†provide you with a plethora of nutrition without sacrificing taste/flavour.

To anyone who actually reads this, I hope you’re having a lovely Saturday and enjoy the rest of your weekend! And go eat some salmon!!!

Love,

Amy

Lazy Saturday Guacamole

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I find that on the weekends when I have nothing pressing to do and nowhere important to be, I eat more than the average person should. Seriously, I can’t stop eating! Every hour or so I find myself stalking my fridge and pantry and rummaging for something to eat. It’s not even that I’m hungry… I think I’m just bored. I’m not the only one, right? Please tell me I’m not alone when I say eating is one of my favourite recreational activities!

But even though I’m eating often, I try to nourish my body with clean, healthy, nutritious foods that won’t make me feel sluggish throughout the day. Today, I had a sudden craving for guacamole. Actually I’ve been craving it all week and I finally had the time to make it today. It’s really strange- I really don’t like eating avocados in any form except for in guacamole. On its own, eating avocados, to me, tastes like eating a slab of butter (yuck). But in guacamole, the tang of the lime and crunch of the onion really make avocado something I really enjoy.

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Guacamole is simple, quick, and so versatile. You can use it as a dip for your crackers/chips/carrots/celery, put it in your burritos/tacos, or even just eat it on its own as a side to your meal. Yes, avocados are high in fat, but it’s the healthy unsaturated kind that is proven to help lower cholesterol levels. Also, the buttery green fruit is high in fibre and has more potassium than a banana, so all the more reason to make guacamole!

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Look at that beautiful colour- Isn’t it pretty?¬†

There isn’t anything special about my recipe- it’s just a combination of simple, fresh ingredients that blend perfectly together, and I really wanted to share it! Everyone should be allowed to indulge in this healthy, delicious snack! So here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1 roma tomato
  • 1/4 of a red onion
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 a jalape√Īo pepper
  • 10 springs of cilantro
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Remove the avocado flesh from the skin and mash together in a bowl using a fork. Keep mashing until no large chunks are longer visible.
  2. Squeeze the juice of the lime into the avocado and mix well. The lime gives a great tang to the dish and prevents the avocado from browning as quickly.
  3. Dice the tomato into small cubes and add it to the mixture.
  4. Finely dice the onion and add it to the mixture. Make sure the chunks aren’t too big, or else you will be experiencing some serious onion breath after eating this!
  5. Remove the stem of the¬†¬†jalape√Īo pepper and vertically slice it in half. Be sure to remove all the seeds inside. Dice the pepper into tiny tiny cubes and add it to the mixture. You can add as much or as little as you like (Personally I think half a pepper gives you the perfect amount of kick).
  6. Roughly chop the cilantro and add it to the mixture.
  7. Mix everything up well, making sure each ingredient is evenly distributed, and add salt and pepper to taste.

And that’s it! It’s pretty much just cutting everything up and mixing it in a big bowl, haha. Regardless of its simplicity, the end result is still spectacular. I enjoyed my guacamole today with celery sticks, baby carrots and a few rosemary olive oil Triscuits- It was such a spectacular afternoon snack!

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So, next time you’re bored on a lazy Saturday and want to snack on something great, give guacamole a try. I promise you, you won’t regret it!

Love,

Amy

A Jurassic Snack, Perhaps?

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Slight resemblance of a stegosaurus? I think so. (Though totally unintended!)

Today‚Äôs late afternoon snack. The beauty of fresh, sweet, succulent fruit will always make me smile. They finally have a greater variety of fruits available at Extra Foods. The last few months I spent eating mediocre, dull apples are finally over! Spring is slowly (Very, very, VERY slowly) on its way, so hopefully more fresh produce will be appearing in the grocery store! You know you’re slightly strange when you get really, really excited about fresh produce at the supermarket… sigh.

Anyways, happy Friday!

Love,

Amy