Friday, February 3, 2017

Nicaragua




I know right? Nicaragua is simply beautiful and I miss it everyday. But first, sorry for being on a 2 year long hiatus. I haven’t been motivated nor inspired to update this blog. I haven’t even baked as much because I’m just not in the mood. So if you’re still reading this, thank you for sticking around.

This post is long overdue, but I wanted to share with you my backpacking trip through Nicaragua last year. I went solo because I couldn’t find friends to go with me and I was impatient and didn’t want to wait around for travel companions. I couldn’t have been more terrified to go days before my departure, but when I arrived in the capital, Managua, I was overcome with excitement, shock and a big sense of achievement, that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach disappeared.


On my way to my first pueblo, Leon, I took in the sights and smells of the country, there was an old man sitting on a plastic chair in the middle of a the busy street watching the traffic zip by, there were people crammed into local school buses chugging along the highway. The majestic sight of Momotobo, solidified that I was for sure in Central America, miles from home. As I watched the view change from city to farmland, all I could think was I made it, I was here, alone, with nothing more than a backpack and my camera.

The main thing I wanted to do in Leon was volcano boarding. I did this through my hostel,
Big Foot. You hike an hour up Cerro Negro carrying a wooden board, enduring strong winds that grew stronger the higher up we climbed. I tried not to think about being blow away like a kite and just focused on getting to the top. The view though, was spectacular. Seeing miles of greenery plus more volcanoes in the distance with clouds floating by was simply beautiful.

 

As we got ready to descent, you put on these sexy jumpsuits that make you look like you just escaped prison, cover up your face, strap on googles, so now you look like a mad scientist prisoner escaper bandit. Sit snuggly on the board, hold onto the straps and shivy your bum to the top of the volcano, count to 3 and pray that you don’t fall off your board or tumble sideways. 

I zoomed down the volcano barely able to see anything through my scratched up googles, but whoa, what a rush! I made it down 38km/h and there I was thinking I was going twice as fast. I didn’t fall nor scratch up my face so I was elated. We watched the rest of the group zip/tumble down the volcano in pairs, it was a fun day and kick started my trip perfectly. I spent the rest of my days in Leon exploring the town, hanging out at this cathedral for hours, soaking up the sun and people watching.



My second stop was Ometepe. I had friends raving about the volcano island so I put this place on my itinerary. Let’s just say Ometepe took my breath away, from the moment the ferry left the dock and Volcano Concepcion slowly grew closer, I was taken aback by its imposing grace. Volcano Maderas on the other side was equally stunning, covered by thick forest and clouds drifting by like something out of a postcard. 

I stayed at Finca Mystica and I highly recommend staying there if you can. There’s something truly special about it. The owners and moved there from the States a decade ago, building private cabins and a large dorm, hiring locals to work in the kitchen and around the farm, and the food and drinks are always delicious and fresh.


I bonded with a few other travelers (Canadians too!) and went on adventures together everyday, like hiking Maderas which took a total of 7 hours (no big deal, just equivalent to an average work day!), renting scooters to explore the island, and dive bombing into Ojo de Agua (a mineral pool). At dinner, we feasted on big plates of chicken skewers, quesadillas or fresh sole. We drank our weight in cocktails (the passionfruit juices blended with ice and rum are to die for) and had the best time talking while watching the sun set over the lake.

 


My third stop was San Juan del Sur, I had high expectations but my experience was disappointing. It was too touristy, expensive and too much of a party scene for me. I had dinner with a friend I met in Costa Rica then moved on to a pueblo a few hours away.  I heard from locals that playa Popoyo was beautiful and if I had time, I should go. So after a little research, I hopped on the bus and found my way to this small beach town north of San Juan. This beach still remains one of my fondest memories of this trip, it was spontaneous (which I’m not usually during travel), the hostel I stayed at was super chill, the beach was peaceful and offered stunning views of the sunset, plus I had the coolest surf teacher ever.

I took 4 surf classes and on my last day graduated from a long board to a smaller board. Surfing is no easy sport, I had some bad wipe outs plus skin rashes and scrapes to prove it but I love a good challenge and being in the ocean with my teacher while we waited for a wave was both exhilarating and chill at the same time. It’s hard to describe it but surfing gives me this feeling that I don't have anywhere else. 



When I’m at work daydreaming about Nicaragua, my mind often wanders to this beach and the brief time I spent there. I don’t usually travel the same country more than once, but I would visit Nicaragua again and definitely spend more time in Popoyo surfing and just chilling on the beach.

To say this trip was life changing sounds like an exaggeration, perhaps, but it’s definitely changed how I see myself, how I behave, how I want to spend my money (travel more!), and it’s helped me reconsider my life goals. Again, sorry for being away for so long! 





Recipe here!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Coconut Dream Bars




With the warmer weather upon us, all I can think about is kicking back with an icy pina colada on a beach. I can almost feel the salty air whipping through my hair, the sand rubbing between my bare toes, and the ice cubes clinking against the glass in my cocktail...I've been playing a lot of tennis outside and there's nothing more refreshing than a cold drink after a sweaty match.

The scent of coconut brings me back to lazy summer days. These bars make great treats to bring to a picnic with your friends, to a barbeque, or why not take them to that dreamy beach with a pina colada in hand? 



These bars smelled remarkably good, I replaced some of the all-purpose flour in the original recipe with coconut flour. When I mixed the batter, I couldn't get over how aromatic the coconut flour was.  Coconut flour is also gluten-free for those looking for avoiding gluten in their diet and it's higher in fibre than all-purpose flour (for more info on coconut flour and it's benefits, visit Nuts.com)

The bottom layer of these bars is a shortbread topped with a sticky coconut mixture. These bars are best the day they are made, the next day I found the shortbread had absorbed the moisture from the top layer and didn't retain its crisp texture anymore. Regardless, the filling is not too sweet, it's chewy and marries well with the buttery shortbread. 




Recipe here!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Momofuku's Blueberry and Cream Cookies


About a month ago I went to Momofuku's Daisho on University Avenue here in Toronto. My bestie and I had made reservations weeks before, talking on the phone about what we would order and how excited we were and again. Sadly, after our meal, we decided it didn't meet our expectations and agreed the food was overpriced. On the plus side, we still had a great time together.

We didn't visit the Milk Bar, though I've read plenty about it and have bookmarked recipes for the popular Compost Cookies and Crack Pie. I did however, make these blueberry and cream cookies. Isn't that fun to say aloud? Blueberry and cream cookies. Its name practically beckons for you to try them. 




They are buttery, chewy and crispy cookies dotted with dried blueberries and "milk crumbs". I just happen to have an old bag of dried blueberries kicking around in my pantry, I rarely use them because they taste are too sweet, almost medicinal if you eat them alone. But thrown into the cookie batter and left in the fridge overnight for the flavours to meld, the butter sort of tames the sweetness. 

The "cream" component of the cookies are homemade milk crumbs, a combination of milk powder, butter, salt and flour. I love this concoction, it's addictive and any leftover crumbs could be sprinkled on top of ice cream. These are best fresh out of the oven, the edges are crisp and the middle has that chewy denseness that I really enjoy. I saved some for a friend who ate three in one sitting, the best nonverbal compliment any baker could receive.

Recipe here!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Chocolate Buckwheat Granola


There is a story from my childhood my parents love to retell over and over again. I don't mind hearing it, I always end up laughing at my childish behaviours anyway. So I used to take gymnastic classes when I was around 4-5 years old. Back then, we didn't have a car yet and it was our first winter in Canada as new immigrants from Hong Kong. You can imagine how much of an adjustment it is to go from a humid city to a place that gets walloped with snow and polar vortex and whatever the cruel Canadian winters can throw on you.

Based on my parents' account, they carried me from home to the community centre in the cold, hiking through thick snow as more of the white stuff continued to fall. They remember it was like -15 degrees, despite being bundled up in layers of clothing, it was cold enough to feel your bones hurt. When we finally made it to the gym, I refused to take my class. I didn't have a legitmate excuse, I was just being a stubborn brat and threw a tandrum, bawling when they tried to take off my puffy coat and coaxing me to go play. I relented and continued to cry. They were pissed. They didn't walk all this way in the brutal cold for nothing.




I find this story hilarious, I really was that stubborn (and still am sometimes). This year has been a harsh winter and I've been thinking about this story a lot. I was in Costa Rica for 9 days. It took me almost just as long to get over my stomach flu when I got back. But rejoice! I have my appetite again and have been eating my favourite foods again, including this granola. I eat it almost everyday with plain yogurt. It's crunchy, nutty and the addition of chocolate makes it even better.

It's full of rolled oats, buckwheat, sunflower and chia seeds, shredded coconut, and chocolate and peanut butter. I do prefer another granola I've made before, likening the sweetness. Still, this granola makes for a quick breakfast or snack and also gifts if you're the giving away type of person.


Recipe here!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Costa Rica

 

To say Costa Rica was the best trip of my life is a superlative, and it comes close. In many ways, it was a very enriching and fulfilling experience. What made it so fun and memorable were  the activities, the people I met, sharing these moments with my best friend, and finally, what I learned. I did a lot of things that I wasn’t planning to do, like whitewater rafting (I nearly drowned), bungee jumping (just testing my luck ykno), and though surfing was on my bucket list, I didn’t expect to ride the waves and manage to make a few turns. It was spectacular.


I’m lucky enough to have been able to travel at least once a year, but this trip was unlike my other trips because of the endless discoveries. Since I’ve been back home, I keep daydreaming of visiting Central America again, meeting fellow travelers who have an equal thirst of adventure. I yearn to share a few beers with the locals and broaden my Spanglish to more than just No hablo espanol! Pura vida! Gracias! I want to hike mountains, swim in waterfalls, eat the freshest tomatoes I’ve had in years. This trip made me realize how much I love adventure, it stretched my comfort level and I can’t wait to push more personal boundaries.


My best friend, Hayley and I make excellent travelling buddies. We’ve been to Cali last year and knew we would get along on this trip. Visiting Costa Rica with her definitely made the trip ten times better. We went to La Fortuna, Monteverde and then Santa Teresa for 9 days and wish we could have stayed longer.




We keep talking about returning to Santa Teresa. The beautiful sandy beach, the warm salty water, not to mention the ubiquitous tanned and hot men practically begs for another trip south. The beach has such a chill vibe, it was hard to leave. It doesn’t hurt that we also had some of the best meals ever there. I didn’t carry my camera with me when we went out to eat, but Burger Rancho, Habernero, Pizza Tomate, just to name a few, were a few of the most delicious restaurants we went to.

I'd go back in a heartbeat. What a beautiful country. For more pictures, click here.
Recipe here!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Apple Pound Cake


I must have a thing for pound cakes. I've made this this and this and they always come out divine. I could live off the scent of butter and sugar working it's magic in the oven, the comingling of different ingredients. I made this weeks ago but never got around to posting it, so here it is. Happy holidays and happy new year friends!




Recipe here!