Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Clean Your Routine!

Though it may not seem like it, thanks to these chilly temperatures and stubborn snow, Spring is here! Before you can even think of spring cleaning your closet (because let's face it, there's no point putting away those boots and winter coat quite yet) take the time to spring clean your routine! Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth, so what better time to take the opportunity to clean up your daily routine by introducing some positive changes that will leave you feeling spectacular inside and out!

1) Start each day with warm water with lemon & positive affirmations
Enjoying a mug of warm water with lemon every morning before your coffee or breakfast is a great way to boost your metabolism and flush toxins out of your system, not to mention kick start your hydration for the day. While you're waiting for the water to boil, make a point of looking in the mirror and talking to yourself (yup, I said talk to yourself!), look into your own face and remind yourself what you are grateful of about yourself and your life. Starting your day with positive affirmations will allow you to start your day on a positive note, and will help you keep that positive energy grooving through you all day long!

2) Resist technology
It's easy to get sucked into the vortex of emails and social media first thing in the morning, especially with so many of us using our phone as our alarm clock. I understand the feeling of wanting to get caught up with what is going on in the world right when you wake up, but this is also a way of stressing yourself out right smack at the start of your day. Resist. Allow yourself to enjoy the first half hour to an hour of your morning. Try starting your day with a few sun salutations, play music, sing (even if you fear driving your neighbors insane), think about what you are looking forward to about the day and not what you fear.

3) Go green
It's amazing how many vitamins and minerals are packed into dark green leafy vegetables, but with a busy and on-the-run schedule, it can sometimes be tricky to find a way to make those green wonders apart of your daily diet. To make sure that I am getting enough dark green leafy veg in my diet each day I always make sure to keep my fridge stocked with lots of fresh spinach, whatever berries I can get my hands on, and fresh or frozen bananas. Making a green smoothie is super quick, easy, and will leave you feeling energized and invigorated! No time to make one during your busy day? Whirr one up the evening before to have ready in the fridge before you head out the next morning. I like to make my green smoothies with one or two big handfuls of fresh spinach, one banana, 3-4 strawberries, a tablespoon of chia seeds, and about 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup orange juice or coconut milk. I promise, you will hardly taste the spinach but it will do wonders for your body!

4) Take time to write
Keeping a diary isn't just for schoolgirls with heart-wrenching crushes. Keeping a journal is a great way to get to know yourself, vent, keep your goals on track, and understand what the heck is going on in that complicated head of yours. Don't let yourself feel silly about writing in it, remember that this is just for you. It's about the process of writing not about re-reading past entries (which we all know can feel incredibly embarrassing). 

5) Sweat
Force yourself to get active in an activity that you enjoy. Dance, run, do yoga or pilates, take a kickboxing class, go cycling, hike, whatever! Just do something that you find fun and allows your body to move and sweat out the toxins trapped within it. Taking part in physical activity will not only help your overall body health, but the health of your mind as well, raising your endorphins and self confidence! How much activity is enough? For lower impact activity you will have to put in more time (60-minutes), for moderate activity you should be putting in anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, and for high impact activity you can do as little as 20 to 30 minutes. Make sure to get that 20-60 minutes in at least 3 times a week for the best inside and out results. 

6) Scrub-a-dub-dub 
With shorts, skirts, dresses, and bathing suits on the way you want your skin looking its best, so take the time once or twice a week to scrub your body to reveal silky and glowing skin. More and more research is coming to light about the positive effects of dry skin brushing such as its detoxifying effects, how it can help prevent and get rid of cellulite, stimulate your circulation, and more! So how does one skin brush? It's easy! Invest in an all-natural skin brush from a health store, and in the morning before you step into the shower lightly brush your dry skin in a circular motion, starting from your feet and moving all the way up to the top of your neck. If you're not into the idea of skin brushing, why not use an exfoliating scrub. My favourite is an all-natural Olive Wash & Exfoliant that I brought home with me on my trip to Israel a couple years ago. Though you can purchase this scrub online and have it delivered to your home, I bought mine in the olive oil mill where it is made. The scrub, which is made primarily from olive pulp, smells fresh and delicious, leaves my skin incredibly soft and glowing, and has also helped to get rid of my acne (yup, you can even use it on your face as this product is an exfoliant, cleanser, and toner all in one!). If you're on a budget, it's easy to make your very own customized scrub right at home! Simply combine coffee grinds, sea salt, coconut oil, brown sugar, and baking soda to scrub all over your skin while showering. 

Listening To:
Broken Bells - Holding On For Life

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rose's Roundup - Memories Of Perfect Breakfasts & Exploring German Cuisine

Waffle Eggs Bennie - There's only so many times that my chef school teacher can tell us that "Hollandaise is the most difficult sauce to master" before I get off my tush and prove that lil' ol' me can master the famously tricky sauce. I have made hollandaise in the past and it came out marvelously! I must say that my marvelous hollandaise sauce results were thanks to a trick I learned from my celebrity chef hero Ina Garten, who taught me (and I suppose the rest of the Food Network-watching world) how easy hollandaise sauce can be when armed with a trusty blender. No, it's certainly not the traditional arm workout over a bain-marie method, but if the results are just as silky, tangy, and voluminous then who cares? But hearing Chef Frank repeatedly tell us how famously difficult it is,  made me second guess my hollandaise making skills.

It was the morning before our class on sauces (where I knew Chef Frank would be striking hollandaise fear into our heads once again) that I decided to remind myself that Ina's blender trick would defy the hollandaise success odds. It was a delivery of my Oma's famous (in our family at least) German waffles  that struck the match of inspiration, sending me on an eggs benedict mission. I knew Oma's waffles would be the perfect bed for a mess of poached eggs, crispy prosciutto (no bacon? no problem!), fresh chives, and of course a blanket of lemony hollandaise. It took all of 3-minutes (no exaggeration!) to make Ina's perfect hollandaise sauce in a blender, and all of 10-minutes to savour each and every bite of sweet and salty goodness. I couldn't help but walk into class that night with my head held high, a smirk on my face, knowing that I defied hollandaise success odds that morning. 
Chicken Crepes - My love/hate relationship with chicken crepes started years ago at BOOM Breakfast Co. We shared an intimate morning together as I dug into it's soft exterior to reveal its savory, cheesy insides, and swooned over the rich and creamy sauce that soaked up each bite. Love at first bite. Our love affair continued as I ordered those sinful chicken crepes each and every time I went to BOOM, not once regretting never having tried any other dish on their generous menu. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. My dear, beautiful chicken crepes did the unthinkable and skipped town on me. Vanished without a trace. Gone, never to be seen again! I remember turning the newly laminated menu over and over in my clammy hands, baffled and heartbroken that my appetite could be betrayed in such a way! They had changed their menu, and the crepes were gone. After a brief mourning period that included salty-tear-garnished eggs benedict, I shook myself off and proclaimed that I would replicate my dear chicken crepes, making them even better than before! 

I won't share with you my agony at attempting to recreate the crepes that I loved so dearly, because, quite frankly, it would bore you to the same tears that I shed at each failed chicken crepe attempt. It wasn't until last semester in Chef Skills 1 where I learned the basics of sauce making, producing with care the five mother sauces, that I understood how I could bring my long gone chicken crepes back to life. By using a simple chicken velouté recipe I was finally able to reclaim the most true-to-the-original chicken crepe sauce as of yet. Though I had finally created a recipe for chicken crepes that wouldn't leave me feeling dejected, and though I went back for seconds, truly enjoying each bite, my crepes are not perfect yet (key word!). So I will refrain from posting the recipe for you until I am sure that it will incite the same lust that I felt with that first bite of chicken crepes from BOOM
Ina's Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin - In a fit of jealousy, thanks to the famously fickle Taylor Swift's Instagram photo, of her in my future-best-friend Ina Garten's Hampton kitchen, I scoured the web for an Ina recipe that would maybe, just maybe, bring us closer together. Of course such nonsense would only make sense to a lunatic red head with her head in the clouds (and my clouds are made of burrata cheese, by the way), but in my strange red head, carefully crafting an Ina recipe would mean pushing miss Swift aside (does she even cook?!) and leave room for moi. 

With a fridge full of options and a seemingly endless string of Ina recipes, it took longer than normal to settle on a dinner choice. Perhaps it was because I just couldn't envision little country croonin' Swift digging into a big chunk of pork, that had me finally decide on making Ina's Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin. More than that, the recipe sounded fast, simple, required no grocery shopping, and was sure to be delicious. Even though Ina's Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin likely didn't help to advance my friendship with Ina in any way, it was a wonderfully comforting way to end a chilly late winter day, and I recommend you give it a try. Ina, if you're out there, I'm a great listener, I'm a hoot be around, and will shower you with love and compliments. Let's be friends. Just say the word and I'll book my Porter flight for a visit. 
The Musket Jaeger Schnitzel - Essays and exams can be excruciating, but nothing, no nothing, comes close to being as painful as doing group assignments. The major final assignment for my Food Theory 1 class was to make a presentation and tasting about a country of our choice. With many members of our group having ties to the beer-guzzling, schnitzel-eating European country Germany, it was easy to decide on Deutschland as our country of choice. It took all of two weeks to discover that my group work fears were thankfully misguided, with a group of seven who were not only willing to share the workload, but were also interesting, smart, and great fun to be around. 

With part of our assignment requiring us to visit an authentic German restaurant, we carpooled over to The Musket in Etobicoke, where chef Richard Esner serves up an array of authentic German dishes. Lucky for our group, almost all of us had different tastes, allowing us to get a sight of many of the specialties offered on the large menu. It was the savory mushroom sauce that left me salivating like Pavlov's dog, that made me order the Jaeger Schnizle, a thin and tender piece of pork, swimming in a full-flavoured mushroom sauce, alongside tangy purple cabbage, and simple roasted potatoes. If the image alone doesn't have you throwing your coat and shoes on to head out to Etobicoke, let me tell you, that Jaeger Schnitzel was like biting into a piece of German heaven. I think I could have very well slurped a whole bowl of that mushroom sauce all by itself, it was so tasty! All around, the whole meal was a wonderful success, with each group member devouring every bite of their appropriately massive portion. We cheers-ed our Hacker-Pschorre Weisse to a fantastic meal and what was sure to be a wonderful presentation! 
Oma's Cabbage Rolls - My Food Theory 1 project on Germany has been such wonderful fun, allowing us to visit a German restaurant, market, and learn the history behind the western-central country's rich history of food and drink, but nothing for this project has been such a delight as getting to go into my Oma's kitchen to learn how to make her dance-in-your-chair delectable German Cabbage Rolls. I had always assumed that Oma's cabbage rolls were an endeavor that would require your full attention all day, with so many different parts that make up the final dish. Surely her cabbage rolls must mean a laborious all-day process of first making the filling, then making the sauce, then carefully forming the cabbage bundles by hand, and cooking them off.

With the camera rolling in order to capture Oma's charm and every step of her recipe, as European grandmothers never seem to measure anything, Oma answered my question of "do cabbage rolls take very long to make?" with a head tilt and "mmm, not really." Liar, I thought! There was no way those tasty little bundles of beef, pork, and rice could mmm, not really take long. As she loves to do, Oma proved me wrong. Maybe it was because I was having so much fun by my Oma's side that made time fly, or maybe Oma was right, but the cabbage rolls seemed to be coming out of the oven in a tangle of steam and fragrant gravy in next to no time. I'm so glad that I finally learned how to make Oma's remarkably simple cabbage rolls, but more than anything I am so happy to have a video of my spunky, adorable Oma doing what she does best in the kitchen, that I will cherish forever. Watch my Oma in action here.
Fresh Pasta with Bolognese Sauce - Sunday night is family night in my family, meaning myself and sometimes my sister and her live-in boyfriend enjoying a large meal, lovingly prepared by my mom. There once was a time when I would eagerly take part in preparing our Sunday evening feast, a time before I lost myself in the sticky, beer-covered bar that I called my job for the past two years, where the Sunday brunch shift was mine. The Sunday brunch shift not only meant early endings on Saturday nights, due to early wake-ups on Sunday mornings, but also not being able to return home until just before whatever roast, stew, or slow-cooked creation was to be plated. For the past two years I missed being able to provide my family with a meal full of love on Sunday nights. So on my very first Sunday evening free from the bar, I decided to take the time to make ribbons of homemade pasta enveloped in a hearty beef and pork bolognese. 

This was my second attempt at making bolognese, having first made it as a teamwork dinner with my boyfriend Chris a few months ago. Our attempt at making fresh pasta and bolognese was a fantastic success minus one little misstep. The al dente pasta noodles that Chris masterfully made were wonderful, but my bolognese, though delicious, was thrown off ever so slightly by the addition of smoked pancetta. Though pancetta most certainly adds a great deal of depth of flavour to a bolognese sauce, the smokiness was a little too overpowering for our taste buds. With that in mind, I chose to use regular pancetta this time around, sure that that would result in a perfectly meaty bolognese. Though my sauce was once again very tasty and was enjoyed by all present, I now found that the sauce seemed to be missing something. Although I would not use all smoked pancetta in my sauce, I believe that a combo of both regular and smoked pancetta would send this comforting dish to new heights. Here's to round three! 

On My Mind:
This gorgeous Victorian London home for sale is right up my alley thanks to it's beautiful backyard, classic detailing, and spaceship attic...yup, you hear right, spaceship attic. 

I like to be prepared in case of an emergency, so if ever I need to spring myself free of zip ties entrapping my wrists in their constricting grip, I now feel adequately prepared.

There's nothing like adding another novel to your favourite book list. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami was an absolute pleasure to read, without question making it into my favourite book list.

Ever wonder what flying is like from the perspective of a pelican?

Only Bowie could get me so excited about a video game

Nice aim there, Kessel.

Why my meal at Yours Truly was one of my most memorable to date. True culinary art at its best.

Me, as a child in a nutshell...or should I say, in a church. I could swear this was me.

So much wanderlust right now thanks to talented photographer Vanessa Paxton's stunningly exquisite video of her experience traveling through Thailand. 

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Listening To:
Spoon - Don't You Evah