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Vegan Cookie Pie

Recently I was looking for a nice dessert to make for my vegan friend – as well as one I could adapt for a friend with an even more restrictive diet (which I may post once I tweak and test it a little more). Normally I don’t like vegan desserts – I find they often leave a weird aftertaste in my mouth. However, I stumbled across this amazing blog with all sorts of healthy recipes – Chocolate Covered Katie – I highly recommend you check it out. I tried a recipe she developed – Vegan, Gluten Free Deep Dish Cookie Pie. It was fantastic. I tested it on my parents before telling them what was in it and they never would have guessed! You can find the link on her website here: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/05/31/deep-dish-cookie-pie/

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Deep Dish Cookie Pie

• 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed (500g total, once drained)
• 1 cup quick oats (or certified-gf quick oats)
• 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
• 3 tbsp oil (I used coconut)
• 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
• 1 cup chocolate chips

1. Blend everything (except the chips) very well in a strong food processor. Mix in chips, and pour into an oiled pan, I used a 10-inch springform pan. Cook at 350F for around 35-40 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

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St Patrick’s

Happy belated everyone-gets-to-be-Irish day!

st patty

I know this is late but we had a great St Patty’s day party at work which included a potluck and these were the cupcakes I made!

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Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F Grease 24-30 cupcake cups, or fill with paper liners.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the butter, Guinness, cocoa and brown sugar, whisking often, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Sift together salt, flour, white sugar and baking soda. Add the cooled Guinness mixture and beat for 1 minute. Add eggs and sour cream and beat for 2 minutes or until smooth.
  4. Divide the batter evenly amongst the cupcake cups. Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack until completely cooled.

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 4-6 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons Irish cream

Directions

  1. Cream butter until very light and fluffy. Add salt, and slowly add confectioners sugar. Add Bailey’s and milk until spreadable consistency is achieved.

Recipe adapted from one on food.com: http://www.food.com/recipe/guinness-cupcakes-with-baileys-frosting-360499/photo

 

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Thai Broiled Eggplant

This recipe I adapted from an old favoured cookbook of mine – Moosewood Lowfat Favourites. This recipe definitely does not taste ‘healthy’ and its delicious. It makes an excellent vegetarian main and normally I serve with with a rice pilaf or salad and some other vegetables or side. Its spicy and creamy and tastes very exotic!

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Thai Broiled Eggplant
  • 1lb eggplant, cut into lengthwise slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • juice from 1/2 of a lime, or a little more
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 of a chili pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  1. Preheat broiler. Score a diamond pattern into the eggplant, cutting about halfway through the slices.
  2. Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet. Press the garlic into the eggplant, and drizzle with the soy sauce. Broil for about 5 minutes on each side or until tender. The eggplant will be browned.
  3. Mix together remaining ingredients and drizzle over the eggplant before serving.

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Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins with Crumble Topping

I love banana muffins and I always find myself drawn back to experimenting with new banana recipes. What could be better than moist, chocolaty banana muffins with a buttery crumb topping? Absolutely nothing, that’s what! This particular recipe was adapted from my Betty Crocker cookbook.

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Banana muffins
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3-1/2 cup chocolate chips

Crumb topping:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper baking cups. 
  2. In a large bowl beat together milk, butter, egg and vanilla.  Add banana and mix well.  Stir in flour, sugar, cinnamon baking powder, and salt, just until mixed. Add chocolate chips.  
  3. Divide evenly among muffin cups.  To make crumb topping, cut butter into flour, cinnamon and sugar until crumbly. Sprinkle on batter.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. 

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North to Belfast: County Antrim Part 1

Janice and I headed north across the border into Northern Ireland and into the heart of Belfast city. It was pouring. We walked the 15 minutes to our hostel in the rain and were delighted to find a charming converted Georgian in the university district. The hostel definitely had a family feel – completely the opposite of the huge hostel were we stayed in Dublin. We stayed in a four bed dorm that was tiny and a bit eccentrically put together. Our roommates were a mother and son – in their sixties and forties respectively – who have been travelling the world for over a year vaguely searching for a new home. We had many discussions late into the night about travel and the world and for our five day stint they turned out to be excellent roommates. I love that while travelling you can find such fascinating people around you, if only you open your eyes. This is not a feature unique to travel by any means, but I think I (and surely others) are more conscious of those around them as well as more open to letting them in while on the road.

The university

The university

We had a cup of tea and dried off a bit by the fire and then decided we couldn’t let the rest of the afternoon go to waste so we headed back out into the rain. As we wandered through the university district, heading towards the Ulster museum, we headed into the botanical gardens. Its a beautiful park and the Victorian greenhouse called the Palm House is one of the earliest examples of a glasshouse made from curved iron and glass. I love early greenhouses and the advances in technology that they represent. We also wandered into the Victorian Tropical Ravine which features a sunken plant-filled glen and contains some of the oldest seed plants in the UK. After the greenhouses we made it to the Ulster museum and spent our time learning about Irish history from the prehistoric to the modern times. The museum has a great exhibit on the Troubles (although at that point we were still a bit confused over which groups were which and who was on what side – the problems with complicated conflicts!) The gold collars and other artifacts from the Bronze age were beautiful and the information on the Spanish armada and its Irish connections was fascinating.

The Glasshouse

The Glasshouse

Inside the Glasshouse

Inside the Glasshouse

In the Tropical Ravine

In the Tropical Ravine

By this point the rain had let up a bit and we were famished, but we had a recommendation to eat at a very unique bar in the city centre, so off we went to the Crown Liquor Saloon – Belfast’s most famous bar! Its an absolutely outstanding example of a Victorian gin palace and while the lower floor remains a typical bar, the upper floor has been converted into a beautiful restaurant. Janice and I had a fantastic meal in an incredible environment. The tin ceiling was particularly spectacular and our Eton mess sundae for dessert was definitely the best I’ve ever had.

The Crown

The Crown

We intended to have an early night but we got talking to our new roommates and stayed up well into the night! The next morning we had breakfast at a fantastic café by our hostel and had a traditional Irish breakfast before heading out on a tour to the northern coast – our very own Giant’s Causeway experience! This was one of the central reasons for our trip and it didn’t disappoint. Our tour guide was funny and sweet – very willing to answer questions and share some interesting history but also allowed us enough freedom to do our own thing and explore. We began the day at Carrickfergus with a quick stop by the castle and the bay – a beautiful setting for a sunny morning. We then continued our scenic drive up the Irish coast on our way to Carnlough.

Our favourite breakfast place!

Our favourite breakfast place!

Carrickfergus

Carrickfergus

Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle

The Irish Coast

The Irish Coast

At Carnlough we had some time for a coffee break and to explore the main street of the town and the pretty little bay. Its an incredible postcard perfect town that looks exactly like you would imagine an Irish town should look.

Carnlough

Carnlough

North to the Glens

North to the Glens

We drove through some of the famous Glens of Antrim on our way to Carrick-a-rede and its famous wild coast and even wilder bridge! The weather was clouding over a bit but still beautiful and the wind picked up as we neared the coast. We decided to brave the rope bridge which dangles almost 100 feet above the rocks below and connects the tiny island of Carrickarede with the mainland. Its terrifying to cross – even though I’m not particularly afraid of heights. On the way over I almost lost my purse to the rocks and ocean below so on the way back I tied the purse to my scarf and secured it under my jacket. Janice and I tried to stop for pictures (like everybody else) in the middle of the bridge but with the wind blowing our photos turned out wacky at best!

One of the Glens

One of the Glens

At Carrick-a-rede

At Carrick-a-rede

The coastline

The coastline

Coastline

Coastline

Rope bridge

Rope bridge

On carrick-a-rede island

On carrick-a-rede island

The rope bridge

The rope bridge

After our adventures with bridges we continued north to Dunluce castle – the picturesque ruins of a medieval castle on the edge of an outcropping. The castle looks as though at any moment it could topple into the sea and I found its a pointed reminder of the passage of time. Then we had a quick stop at Bushmills distillery – one of the oldest in the country – before heading on to the main attraction!

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce

Dunluce

Bushmills

Bushmills

The Giant’s Causeway is an area of interlocking basalt columns created by a volcanic eruption and is a World Heritage Site. The Irish folk tradition has an interesting legend to explain the formation of the causeway. The warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill built a stone bridge to Scotland. After the bridge was completed, Fionn was challenged to a battle by a Scottish giant called Benandonner.  Fionn was a large warrior but he couldn’t fight Benandonner because of the difference in their size so he asked his wife, Oonagh, for help. She came up with the ingenious idea to disguise Fionn as a baby and put him in a cradle. When Benandonner came looking for him, Oonagh told him that Fionn was out, but he should be back soon. She showed him her baby (Fionn in disguise)  and when Benandonner saw the size of the baby, he had no desire to see the father so he fled home in terror. As he went he ripped up the bridge so that Fionn couldn’t follow him, forming the causeway as we know it!

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We had a couple hours to explore the Causeway and we used our time to the fullest – I love clambering around in places like this. The columns are really something, its hard to explain their bizarre-ness and their effect on the people who visit. I wish not so many people knew about this place, but its popularity is what makes it relatively easy to access. As the sun set we drove back to Belfast and had dinner before heading back to watch Red Dwarf and crash at our hostel.

Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Hall

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Dublin and Newgrange

Janice and I had been looking forward to taking another trip together and we settled on Ireland. I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland – beautiful country, Irish culture and some of my family roots. Janice has been to Ireland several times before and so we decided to explore areas she hadn’t seen before. The exception to the Janice-hasn’t-seen-it-rule was Dublin – all roads lead to Dublin – or more accurately our flights were in and out of Dublin. Since I’d never seen the city we decided to spend a couple days and explore – starting with a good Irish breakfast and a tour of the city. Our walking tour was fantastic and our guide was hilarious and friendly. We got along so well with him that the rest of our plans for the afternoon went out the window after he invited us to grab a pint. We ended up in a  pub for the rest of the day… While in Rom.. Dublin? That evening we walked along the river for awhile before having dinner and crashing after an extremely long day – we had gotten on a bus to the airport at 2am the previous morning.

Janice at Dublin Castle

Janice at Dublin Castle

Ha'penny Bridge

Ha’penny Bridge

Our friend Oscar Wilde

Our friend Oscar Wilde

The next morning we got up early to head back to Trinity College and see the Book of Kells and the Long Library. Unfortunately the Book of Kells was undergoing restoration but we did get to see some other manuscripts and hang out in the Long Library – I definitely could live there with the beautiful old books and the polished wood! Then we scurried over to catch the bus for our tour – we had decided we wanted to see some ancient Irish history and so our first stop was the Hill of Tara.  Despite the damp the majesty of the site  was evident through the fog. Tara is the ancient seat of the High King of Ireland and the place of rituals associated with the kingship and although only the earthworks remain, or perhaps because of that, its a powerful reminder of the loss of autonomy Ireland experienced.

Trinity College

Trinity College

Hill of Tara

Hill of Tara

Next our tour took us by the River Boyne where the Battle of the Boyne took place in 1690 between  two rivals for the English and Irish thrones – the Catholic King James and the Protestant King William.  The valley is beautiful – even in October – and has great archaeological and mythical significance. Along the way we passed the handsome Trim castle – the ruins of a Norman castle on the banks of the Boyne and all the while our guide chatted away about Irish history and myth. We were headed to Newgrange – otherwise known as Brú na Bóinne – a World Heritage Site in County Meath, Ireland.  It is the largest and one of the most important prehistoric megalithic sites in Europe. Archaeological research suggests that it is an ancient ritual centre and a Passage Tomb – one of several in the area. Newgrange is one of the most impressive and has a very unique feature – the structure is designed to be lit by the sun once a year as it rises on the winter solstice.  This impressive feat of design is clearly no accident and theories abound for why this is the case -some of the best theories suggest that throughout the year, the cremated remains of important individuals were placed in stone basins within the tomb but the burial ritual was not completed until the sun rose on winter solstice reaching into the depths of the tomb. The site – like other Neolithic sites – suggests that these were a people with complex religious practices and impressive building techniques.  The site itself was clearly well-planned and construction would have taken great resources over several generations. The site also has architectural links through stone and construction to the prehistoric populations in Portugal, Spain, Brittany and Denmark – suggesting that Neolithic peoples were much better traveled than modern perceptions might lead us to believe.

Newgrange

Newgrange

Janice with Neolithic Carvings

Janice with Neolithic Carvings

The River Boyne

The River Boyne

That evening when we arrived back in Dublin we happened to stumble across the Garden of Remembrance – a park dedicated to all those who have given their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom. As it began to rain we took refuge in a teashop for some hot chocolate before setting out to explore Dublin’s historic Georgian neighbourhood with the ultimate goal of getting across the city to a Nepali restaurant for dinner – an ambitious goal requiring another several hours of walking.

Garden of Remembrance

Garden of Remembrance

Georgian Houses with Ivy

Georgian Houses with Ivy

Along the way we stumbled on the Department of Education with its hilarious hand statue – perfect for climbing! We then walked along the river stopping to admire the Jeanie Johnston – the old famine ship – before crossing the Samuel Beckett Bridge. On the other side of the Lifey then we passed Merrion Square Park, the National Gallery and Natural History Museum as well as the beautiful Government buildings before reaching out destination. We both chose Nepali specialties at the restaurant and while I cannot remember my food I do recall the very unique and tasty dumplings Janice chose – apparently the more memorable of our dishes! Dublin is certainly a place to eat well.

Department of Education

Department of Education

The Jeanie Johnston

The Jeanie Johnston

Samuel Beckett Bridge

Samuel Beckett Bridge

The Liffey

The Liffey

Government buildings at twilight

Government buildings at twilight

Next we traveled the rainy, rainy road to Belfast – closer to my ancestral roots and back into the United Kingdom. Adventures to follow!

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Hello?

I apologize dear readers. For, you know, slipping of the face of the earth. I have no good excuse. Actually I have a million good excuses. Maybe just one. My computer broke. As in it lost the ability to turn on. Its still like that and most of my photos are stuck in its hard drive. Locked away for now (hopefully safe!). So there you have it. One excuse.

Christmas lights in Nottingham

Christmas lights in Nottingham

But I have missed this ritual writing and recording of my projects and travels. I’ve decided that since I now have access to a computer I can resume my blogging. I will be catching up with my travel blogging from my copious notes – I still have trips to Scotland, France, Ireland and Spain to write about – as well as several day trips I did while living in Nottingham. Speaking of – I no longer live in Nottingham! Since it is the New Year I thought I would share my latest projects and undertakings. I currently am back with my parents (thank you thank you thank you) who have graciously taken me back as I sort out the next stages in my life. Currently those involve starting a college program to become a qualified ESL teacher. Ultimately I hope this will lead me back overseas to teach but that will be at least a year away with all these classes!

My first Timmies back in Canada!

My first Timmies back in Canada!

I’m also currently undergoing a major downsizing of stuff. I have too much of it. And its poorly organised. Most of that I’ve fixed already so I can move on to the fun part of that project – creative time! I have boxes and boxes of photographs to organise, scan and put in albums, scrapbooks or in frames. I’ve also signed up to take a short photography workshop to hopefully pick up some new tips and ideas – I like the idea of brushing up on these things and I’ve stolen my brother’s big fancy camera so I can play!

I’m currently looking for new volunteer opportunities in the city to expand my skills and give back – the plan is to keep busy to quell my itchy feet! On the travel horizon I do have some plans for trips slowly coming out of the woodwork for next spring and summer – mostly nearby to Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa to visit friends – but also to British Columbia and maybe Nova Scotia.

I’ve been playing with so many new fancy recipes and ideas in my head so there’ll be lots of food blogging – for now some catch up from over the last month (including some holiday baking)! Since I’m home now I can try out all the new ideas for vegetarian dishes I’ve had swirling about my head the last few months!

And last but not least – I have started on my annual New Years book list and so far I’ve complete three of the titles, namely: Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith, John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk and Vagina by Naomi Wolf – three very different books. I’ll be updating with my thoughts on these books and others as I go!

Wishing everyone a productive and happy 2013!

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